Prospective buyers often have strong feelings about whether their next home must or must not include a homeowners’ association (HOA). However, the majority of people who live in managed subdivisions and developments are happy with their associations. According to the Community Associations Institute (CAI), 64% of Americans who reside in community associations rate their experience positively.
Whether you’re ready to sell your home and need some answers, or unsure about buying a home in an HOA community, here are some tips on how best to manage your relationship:
Know your rights
Familiarize yourself with the property laws of your state or province that govern your homeowners’ association. Find out what you’re entitled to and what procedures your HOA should be following so that you can comfortably exercise your rights should the need arise. For example, in California HOAs are legally required to respond to homeowner inquiries unless they are “ludicrous or threatening.” So if a resident doesn’t hear back from the HOA after multiple attempts to communicate, escalating the issue is well within their rights.
Do your research
Get organized, identify what you’ll need and write down any questions or concerns you may have.
According to home purchase experts Guaranteed Rate, “Buying a home involves a variety of parts; many people, documents and tasks are needed in order to make your purchase go smoothly. It’s better to get organized as soon as possible.”
Be prepared so that when you approach the HOA you can optimize your time with them and avoid having to go back and forth. This can be especially useful if your HOA has requested that you take a specific action concerning your property, since many of these requests have deadlines associated with them.
Enlist the help of your neighbors
If you’re selling your house or condo, ask your neighbors or other members of your community about their dealings with the HOA. Have them walk you through the process from start to finish so you can see how they got through it successfully and identify any potential roadblocks. They may have some tips and useful information for you, or even a recommendation on who within the HOA you should work with.
For sellers this is also a good time to review your account and make sure you’re up-to-date on all HOA fees and payments. If your account is delinquent this could cause roadblocks as you move forward with your real estate transaction.
Find an ally in the HOA
If your HOA isn’t run by a property management company with a community manager or a specific point of contact, identify the best person on the board for you to work with directly and develop a rapport with them. Having someone specific go to when you have questions or need paperwork will make the process easier.
Make a point of establishing a good relationship with board members prior to listing your home. Go to meetings or seek them out at social gatherings with the goal of fostering a relationship. This way when it comes time to sell, you’ll already have your foot in the door.
Establish a clear channel of communication
“There is no substitution for communication between the association and the residents,” says Frank Rathbun, vice president of communications for the CAI.
Find out the best way to communicate with the HOA. Ask them what they prefer or whether they have any requirements and be sure to employ that method. For example, if all requests need to be put in writing, complying is the best way to get what you need.
Lean on your real estate agent
Your real estate agent is an area expert who probably has experience working with specific communities and properties, so don’t be afraid to tap into this resource.
“Realtors might not know everything, but they make it their mission to know just about everyone who can possibly help in the process of buying or selling a home,” says Realtor.com Editor Rachel Stutls.
Check in with your agent if you hit any roadblocks or need help working with an association. They’ll probably be happy to leverage their relationships and let their expertise go to work for you.