real estate

Would you feel OK living in an HOA?

Amenities can be a selling point for some buyers and can add value to a community even if not all residents use them.

HOA rules

While some buyers view HOA rules negatively, others say the regulations protect home values and the community for everyone.

"Most HOA rules are what I consider 'good neighbor rules' that help make everyone safe and comfortable," Shiffman says. "Most people want to know about pet restrictions. Typically, pets are allowed or they are restricted just to a certain size or type to avoid having animals that are known to be aggressive."

Bilgi says that rules sometimes restrict homeowners' individuality, limiting their ability to make changes to their property or even to display their loyalty to their favorite sports team with a banner.

"If you are not a team player, you are likely to find living in an HOA annoying," Bilgi says.

Beyond annoyances are rules that restrict the ability of residents to earn a living. Many HOAs have rules against home-based businesses and on parking commercial vehicles.

"It's important to realize that anything that will impact your community, such as extra cars or noise generated by teaching piano lessons or parking an unsightly contractor van, can be prohibited by the HOA rules," Shiffman says. "Buyers should not be lazy. They should read the documents before they buy so they know what they are getting into."

Bilgi says people often skim over the fine print and then find out later that they cannot have the pet they want, cannot entertain after a certain time of night or establish a business. At that point the option is to give up on individual preferences or move.

Adjusting to an HOA

Severa recommends that homeowners get involved with their HOA on a committee that interests them or on the board of directors so they will have a voice in future decisions.

"Getting involved and finding neighbors who support your point of view can sometimes result in a reversal of a decision," Severa says.

Bilgi says that homeowners can request a modification or amendment of rules, but that in many places they are unsuccessful.

"An HOA has power over residents to impose rules and collect fees," Bilgi says. "That's why it is so important to make sure you understand the rules and regulations before you buy."

"The biggest consideration when it comes to choosing a home is whether you can live with someone else having certain controls over your property," Severa says. "For some people the benefits of maintaining the look of the community and the amenities outweigh any drawbacks to living in an HOA."

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