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Homeowners Associations—Blessing or Curse?

Key Takeaways:

  • Living in an HOA community comes with many pros and cons.
  • Associations have control over much of the community.
  • Contact Gayle Blonar to learn more about HOA communities
homeowners association document

Specializing in the sale of townhouses, condos, and patio homes, we sell a lot of properties that are located in communities with homeowners associations (HOAs). And while some of our clients are very content; we’ve heard more and more complaints recently about living in an HOA community. Ideally, an HOA gives residents the opportunity to live in an organized, well-run community that is managed by a committee of residents and/or a professional management company. There are rules and regulations under which all residents agree to abide. Many of those rules and regulations were initiated by the developer of the plan when homes were first built and sold. Over the years, homeowners may have amended the rules. 

Here are some pros and cons of an HOA community.

Pros of Living in an HOA Community

homeowners association on laptop

Your neighborhood will be well maintained

With a consistent set of rules for how each home should look on the exterior and with professional lawn care, landscaping, and maintenance of common areas – the community should look good. If pets are allowed, there may be rules about size, weight, and breed. Most HOAs don’t allow boats or recreational vehicles to be parked in driveways or on the street. 

You will have access to community amenities and social activities

Many patio home and townhouse plans have community pools, playgrounds, fitness centers, party rooms, and more. If you are a social person, you might enjoy bridge nights, wine tastings, community barbecues, holiday celebrations, and more. 

The HOA pays for some expenses and sometimes covers utilities

Typically included items are maintenance of common areas, landscaping, lawn care, snow removal, pest treatments, trash removal, and sometimes the exterior of the buildings, including the roof and siding. Driveways and decks are rarely included. In a condo building, water and sewage bills are often paid by the HOA. And in larger high-rise buildings like Gateway Towers – there are paid staff members, including security, maintenance, and administration on site—obviously, the more amenities, the higher the monthly fees. 

The HOA is an impartial party for disputes

The HOA can get involved in neighbor disputes, especially those involving a violation of the rules and regulations. Examples: loud barking dog, loud party, too many relatives using the pool, etc. 

Cons of Living in an HOA Community

post-it with HOA bylaws written on it

If you don’t pay your dues, they are lien able against the property

In some states, foreclosure proceedings may begin. I’ve never heard of that in Pennsylvania, but we often see unpaid HOA fees that must be paid at closing, or the home can’t be sold. 

Your dues will go up – that’s guaranteed

A lot will depend on the age of the homes, how many large repair items are needed, how much money is in the HOA account, who is managing the funds, etc. There could be special assessments. I’ve seen special assessments for roof replacements, street repairs, and elevator replacements. Each homeowner may be assessed several thousand dollars to pay for these larger updates. 

There will be less freedom due to the rules and restrictions

You can’t paint your front door red, you can’t put up a fence for your dog, and you might not even be able to hang a flag or plant your favorite perennial. You may also not be able to operate a home business or rent your home. Right now, Airbnbs are a very popular investment strategy that has gotten bad press and some HOAs are now adding amendments to their rules and regulations that specifically disallow Airbnb rentals. 

Who’s running the show? Bad or no HOA community leadership goes on the con side

Just like in high school, people can be cliquey and unfair. Rules may apply to some and not to others. Example: the HOA President’s sister, who lives in the plan, owns several pit bulls, a breed specifically outlawed by the rules/regulations. Another example: there are no volunteers to accept positions on the HOA board. Not everyone wants this type of responsibility and hiring a management company can be expensive.

If you are thinking about buying a condo, townhouse, or patio home—we’ll be sharing some advice about how to navigate the process of joining an HOA community in our next blog

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