Common costs of joining an HOA

Row of houses

The following is presented for informational purposes only.

Thinking of buying a new home? Great! Is that home in a neighborhood with a Homeowner’s Association (HOA)? There are some things you need to think about.

First, what is an HOA and why do some neighborhoods have them?

Many planned subdivisions, gated communities, and condominiums have an HOA. Having an HOA not only improves the neighborhood, it can improve the property values.

An HOA is a governing board, usually made up of people in the community, that create and enforce neighborhood rules and regulations. Because your neighborhood has rules to follow, it means there won’t be any rusted-out cars sitting in driveways or homes with overgrown lawns.

The HOA inspects the neighborhood on a regular basis and sends citations to any home not in compliance. The homeowner will be assessed a fee if the home is not brought up to regulations within a set period of time.

The HOA can also cover costs that ensure the neighborhood is visually appealing. This can include hiring landscapers to cut grass and maintain flower beds in common areas. If your neighborhood has common areas for a pool, fitness room, tennis court, and/or boat dock, fees cover the maintenance and upkeep of these areas as well.

What are the costs involved in an HOA?

The fees vary based on the neighborhood and its needs. They can run anywhere from $50 a month to thousands of dollars a year. When shopping for a new home, be sure to ask if the neighborhood has an HOA and what the fees are.

Some HOA’s charge monthly, others quarterly, and still others annually. It all depends on how your neighborhood set up the HOA structure.

Not paying your fees if you live in a community that has an HOA is not an option. If you move into that neighborhood, you are agreeing to the fees. If you lose your job or have trouble paying, try to work something out with the HOA board. Otherwise, you could find yourself neck-deep in fines and additional fees. Worse-case-scenario, the HOA can work to have you evicted.

What do you need to know when moving into an area with an HOA?

First and foremost, make sure the home you plan to purchase is already compliant with the HOA. Otherwise you can find yourself hit with citations and heavy fines almost as soon as you move in. Keep in mind that the HOA focuses on the outside of your property so have your home’s exterior thoroughly inspected. Examine the roof, siding, shingles, trim, windows, porch, banisters, and everything else on the exterior of your home.

Also, ask for a history of your community’s HOA fees. The HOA can raise fees based on the rising cost of maintenance and upkeep. They also have the ability to charge an additional fee, above and beyond your regular fee, if their funds are low and they need to replenish. Knowing how your HOA has managed its funds in the past and how often the fees are increased will help you make a decision about buying in that neighborhood.

Lastly, get a copy of the HOA’s rules and regulations for the neighborhood. You don’t want any surprises about what your financial responsibilities are to the HOA or the upkeep of your home.

If you’re just about ready to purchase your first home, consider homebuyer counseling and education services from MMI. Avoid unpleasant surprises and make sure you’re fully prepared for everything that comes with homeownership!

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