Monday, 19 November 2018
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This Old House - Do-it-Yourself

The Inside Scoop on HOAs

Written by Jaymi Naciri Posted On Monday, 05 November 2018 05:00

Last week we asked: To PMI or not to PMI? This week we tackle another of real estate’s burning questions: To HOA or not to HOA?

It’s not an easy question to answer because everyone has an opinion, and it turns out those opinions are colored by all kinds of stuff, like age, gender, and previous experience with Homeowners Associations. You’ll probably form your opinion in much the same way, if you haven’t already. If you’re on the fence, or just don't know enough about HOAs, learning the particulars is step No. 1.

“If you are considering purchasing a property that is governed by an HOA, you should thoroughly understand how these associations work before you buy,” said Investopedia. “HOAs can affect not just your finances, but also your quality of life.”

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To put it in the most general terms, “If you're buying a condo, townhouse, or freestanding home in a neighborhood with shared common areas—such as a swimming pool, parking garage, or even just the security gates and sidewalks in front of each residence—odds are these areas are maintained by a homeowners association, or HOA,” said Realtor.com. That means you pay a fee every month for the HOA to maintain those common areas.

That’s a big downside for many people, as is the idea that an association can mandate what a homeowner’s yard can look like, how loud they can be, or even how many guests they can have. The average person may excuse what seems like an intrusion or an overstep by their HOA if it means their home values are protected. But, for some people, being told what to do with their home is just too much to bear.

Once you know the broad ideas, digging in to the details can further inform your choices. A new survey from insurancequotes.com that “set out to gauge how much homeowners associations help or hinder neighborhood residents” and which elicited 649 responses can help.

“Homeowners associations (or HOAs) are supposed to exist to make our lives easier. Don’t want to mow your lawn or deal with noisy neighbors? Typically for a monthly fee, HOAs provide property maintenance and a code of rules meant to provide a uniform look and feel to a community,” they said. “Sometimes, though, these codes can cause controversy and frustration, such as when an HOA fined a military veteran for displaying an American flag or told a family to take down their daughter’s playground.

Recent studies show Americans still believe homeownership is the key to the American Dream, but even more Americans say the American Dream is tied to freedom of choice in how they live. It can, therefore, feel personal when an HOA says your cherished lawn gnome or jam-packed flower bed is against the rules. But beyond the rules and regulations, how do homeowners really feel about their HOAs? We Surveying over 600 people from various demographics, we asked about the value of HOA fees, the most annoying HOA policies, and the craziest stories from HOA meetings.”

Who likes HOAs and who doesn’t

The way people feel about their HOA largely depends on what generation they belong to. “Overwhelmingly, baby boomers were the most likely to say they loved their HOA. As baby boomers reach retirement age, they might be more interested in housing communities that create a peaceful, well-maintained environment. Conversely, Gen Xers were the most likely to hate their HOA.

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What’s the problem?

Would you be surprised to hear that loud music is the top complaint made to HOAs? Probably not. How about if we told you that it’s millennials who are most likely to complain about said loud music. “This jives with recent data that show millennials make the most sensitive neighbors,” they said. “Gen Xers were much more concerned with the appearance of landscaping on their neighbors’ properties. Baby boomers, however, seemed to be on poop patrol, as they were overwhelmingly most likely to call their HOA if they found their neighbors’ pet waste in their yards.”

The rest of the top complaints are below, separated by generational group.

Why aren’t you attending meetings?

While we can certainly understand why people opt not to go to meetings, we suspect some may reconsider after hearing some of the things that go on there. “The majority of homeowners, no matter their property type, reported witnessing arguments at an HOA board meeting,” they said. “Seventy-three percent of condo owners reported seeing an argument at their meetings. Among town house owners, 12 percent said they saw someone get physically aggressive at an HOA meeting. While throwing a punch is a rarity, it’s interesting to see just how often a meeting ends in argument.”

Want even more drama? Check out a few of these crazy HOA stories:

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