If you’re considering a home in a planned community, then you’re probably wondering, “What is an HOA exactly?” A homeowners association (HOA) is an organization that sets and enforces rules for its shared property and residents. HOAs are found in common interest developments such as condos, townhouses, and single-family homes within a development.

Let’s take a closer look at what it means to purchase a home in an HOA-governed community. We’ll explain typical HOA rules, agreements, benefits, and homeowner dues, so you can make an informed decision before you buy.

How does an HOA work?

The purpose of a homeowners association is to uphold the rules of the community, maintain common areas, and address resident issues. Like any nonprofit organization, HOAs have bylaws that govern their activities.

The general membership elects a volunteer board of directors. These individuals are responsible for collecting HOA dues and using them in the community’s best interests. In some cases, the board will outsource responsibilities like accounting and maintenance to a property management company.

Members can attend HOA meetings to stay informed and vote on important decisions.

HOA Agreements

The HOA agreement outlines the regulations and responsibilities of the community, often referred to as Covenants, Codes, and Restrictions (CCRs). The seller must disclose these HOA rules upon request, so buyers know whether they can (or want to) abide by them before they make an offer. The HOA agreement will also describe what the HOA fee includes, what constitutes a violation, and any fines for noncompliance. The buyer will sign the HOA agreement at closing.

HOA Rules

So, what are typical HOA rules? Every community is different, but they’re usually focused on resident behaviors and each home’s physical appearance. Here are a few categories of common homeowners association rules.

Pet Regulations

Due to the possibility of noise or property damage, some HOAs prohibit pets or certain kinds of pets. Although they don’t have the authority to enter your home and take your pet, they do have a legal right to demand their removal.

Rental Guidelines

If you’re planning to rent or sublet your home, make sure this is permitted. Certain HOA agreements specify that the units be owner-occupied.

Noise Considerations

HOA rules could include limits on noise levels, which might feel restrictive. Check to see what’s permitted and if you anticipate a problem.

Business Restrictions

If you operate your business from home, ask questions to be clear on HOA rules regarding commercial activity in the community.

Physical Appearance

Typical HOA rules include provisions about clearing clutter, keeping up with landscaping, and generally maintaining the exterior of your home.

Safety Rules

When an HOA manages a shared area like a swimming pool, they usually have regulations about when you can use the facility and how to keep it safe for everyone.

What are HOA fees?

If you purchase a home with an HOA, you’ll be charged a fee (paid monthly or annually) to manage the upkeep of common areas, cover the cost of any amenities and insurance.

How much are HOA fees? On average, homeowners pay approximately $250 per month. However, this can vary widely based on the size and location of your community, the number and quality of amenities, and (for condominiums) the age of the building.

Buyers should factor HOA fees into their budget when evaluating how much house they can afford.

What is included in an HOA fee?

The purpose of the HOA fee often depends on what kind of common interest development you choose (condo vs townhouse vs single-family home). But in general, here are some examples of what the HOA fee includes:

  • City Services – Basic utilities like water, gas, trash, sewer, and recycling
  • Repairs and Maintenance of Common Areas – Snow removal, lawn care, and landscaping, parking lot or pavement repairs, lobby or elevator maintenance
  • Management of Amenities – Swimming pool, clubhouse, tennis court, or fitness center

It’s important to note that while HOAs have insurance policies, they only cover shared areas. You’ll still need to pay for a policy to protect your individual property. Some condominiums include all insurance in the HOA, but this is the exception.

Do you have to join an HOA?

When you purchase a home that’s governed by an HOA, membership is mandatory. That’s why it’s critical to read and understand the HOA agreement before you move forward.

There are many benefits to having a homeowners association. You have access to amenities, reduced maintenance, and high community standards – just to name a few. However, each buyer must decide if the cost is worth what the HOA has to offer.

So, let’s recap: what is an HOA? It could be exactly what you always wanted or a deal-breaker! As you can see, it’s important to do your research before purchasing a home within an HOA-managed community. Figure out how much freedom you need and then read the HOA agreement closely before making any decisions.

Find an Agent

Need an agent to help you start the home-buying process? Have more questions about HOAs? Contact BHHS Fox & Roach realtors for expert advice and guidance.