Home Buying 101: Understanding the Homeowners Association

Brandon Cornett

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When buying a home in a planned community or new subdivision, you may be buying into a homeowners association. The association of homeowners (the collective owners of all the units in the subdivision or development) will likely have significant control over what a homeowner can and cannot do with certain aspects of their home.

Homeowners associations (or HOAs) usually place their restrictions in the deeds of all of the units. These restrictions indicate that the property is subject to the rules and regulations of the homeowners association. Everyone buying into the development becomes subject to the rules of the association.

Protecting Home Values
The vast majority of the rules for an association are created to protect the value of all the homes in the community. These rules may include limiting the colors you can paint the exterior of your house, or limiting what shingles can and cannot be used on your home.

Some homeowners find these kinds of rules invasive, so it's important to know in advance what the rules are in a particular association - prior to signing a contract. When questioning the rules of a particular HOA, ask yourself if the rule is in place to keep property values at their highest levels, or if it's just a silly rule. More often than not, you'll find the rules have some bearing in protecting property values.

Paying Your HOA Dues
Homeowners associations generally have maintenance fees (commonly known as HOA dues) which are paid monthly. These fees are used to maintain certain aspects of the subdivision. You will want to know in advance how much these fees are. You should also find out how often they've been raised or how often there have been assessments (assessments are increases in fees owed for particular reasons, which may include unanticipated major repairs or upgrades to the development).

Commonly Covered Items
Here is a more complete list of the things homeowners associations may regulate: There may be rules about landscaping, exterior signage, exterior lighting, and anything else visible from the street.

* Color of the exterior of your home (paint or shingles)
* Height and style of fences and/or bushes/hedges
* Look and maintenance of landscaping (lawns, flowers, trees, etc. )
* Pools, swing sets, basketball hoops, etc.
* Garages, gazebos, sheds
* Mailboxes
* Garbage cans, recycle cans, clotheslines
* Outdoor lighting, TV antennas, satellite dishes
* Window coverings and exterior ornamentation
* Exterior signage
* Home businesses
* Pets
* Noise pollution and view obstruction

If one or more of these factors concern you, it's important that you find out the rules and regulations of the homeowners association early on in the buying process.

* Copyright 2006, Brandon Cornett. You may republish this article if you keep the byline and author's note, and also leave the hyperlinks active.

About the Author
Brandon Cornett is publisher of Home Buying Institute, the Internet's largest library of home buying advice. You can learn more about the home buying process at http://www.homebuyinginstitute.com


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