(Published on - 9/9/2016 3:57:18 PM)
Is an HOA Worth the Hassle?
There has been a lot of press lately about Home Owner's Associations and by far, the press has been negative. Just a few examples from our Kansas City Star:
Olathe Man's War with HOA over Landscaping
Angry Residents Dig for Truth...
HOAs From Hell:....
A common thread from these articles is that they are all written by the same person. Draw your own conclusions from that...I am not going there.
Where I am going is that home owners and buyers need to be aware of HOA rules, procedures and practices before committing to abide by them, which you do when you purchase a home in an area with a Home Owners Association.
If you are attracted to a housing area because of conforming architecture, a pleasing color palette, and streets that are unclogged by vehicles, you can bet there is a governing body that is ensuring that those qualities continue. If you are not willing to participate in keeping those standards where they are, then this place might not be the right place for you.
HOAs are not interested in your freedom to choose or even what you may define as your "needs". They are interested in preserving the atmosphere that they currently offer to all the other residents that have chosen this sanctuary as a place to live.
As a Realtor, my clients often direct me that they want to live in an area without an HOA. I appreciate that they narrow the scope significantly for me from the get-go, but I always ask a the follow-up questions, "Why? What is it about HOAs that you object to? What things in your lifestyle do you think will cause conflict with an HOA?" Now, I am not one to push anyone into a neighborhood where they do not want to be, but I think there is a lot of misunderstanding out there about the pros and cons of Home Owners Associations.
Rule #1: Know the rules before you buy. Ask your Realtor for a copy of the HOA Covenants. They are often available online or can be obtained directly from the Association. TRUST ME: They want you to know the rules before you move in.
Asking for the covenants is not enough. You have to READ them. If you find something in the HOA rules that you cannot live with, DON'T MAKE AN OFFER ON THE HOME.
Some rules are vague and say something along the lines of "landscape changes must be approved by the architectural committee prior to installation". Do not take that to mean that if you ask for permission, it will be granted. Do you see other 12x12 four foot raised beds full of tomatoes in any other front yards? You are not likely to get approval for that either.
Rule #2: Do a thorough home inspection. If your HOA is responsible for some of the maintenance on your home, hire a professional to make sure it has been done correctly.
Rule #3: Do not expect the HOA to change for you. They won't. It's not worth the battle. Even if you get on the board and try to make changes, a vote of the entire association is still necessary to make the change. Didn't you learn this basic principle when you were looking for a spouse? Same applies.
Rule #4: Be ready to move again if you have to. If your living situation changes, you may actually have to relocate. If you move in to an age-restricted community that allows only one person under the age of 55 to live in dwelling and you end up adopting 3 grandchildren, you are going to have to find another place to live. Hopefully, your super-strict HOA has kept the living standards up and you will be able to sell quickly to someone who was once just like you.
Sometimes it is not just about the rules. Sometimes it is the management of the HOA that is problematic. Ask to see financial statements. All HOAs have them. Then, as one final check, if you are really concerned about renegade and oppressive HOAs, check your county court filings. If you find your HOA involved repeatedly as either Plaintiff or Defendant, there might be a problem. Use discretion because one cranky resident who does not want to follow the rules can produce a boatload of lawsuits. This could cause the Association to have some hefty legal bills, but doesn’t necessarily mean that they are a problem for all residents.
Most importantly, take responsibility for yourself. Do not put yourself in a situation that is ripe for conflict. You know what kind of person you are. Don't give yourself more than you can handle.
I love to talk about real estate and welcome the opportunity to help people find their dream home. Please contact me to learn more.