Questions to Ask Before Buying a Property with a Homeowners Association (HOA)
Homeowners associations (HOAs) can factor into various property purchases, from small, four-unit condo buildings to sprawling, gated golf communities. If you’re considering purchasing a home with an HOA, you’ll want to evaluate all the potential benefits and drawbacks.
One of the primary advantages of HOAs is that buyers may gain access to community amenities while enjoying fewer homeownership responsibilities. Considerations include:
Do residents share access to a pool, fitness center, clubhouse, or other recreational facilities like tennis and pickleball courts or a golf course? Are there green spaces for walking, playgrounds, etc.?
Do HOA dues cover mowing, snow removal, and street cleaning? Does it manage pest control, and how is this done?
Repairs and Improvements
What repairs and routine maintenance are performed? To what extent does the HOA maintain the roads, sidewalks, and shared facilities?
2. Potential Restrictions
HOAs can provide substantial benefits but also impose various rules, typically outlined in the association’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions (often called “CC&Rs”). So it’s essential to consider how an HOA may limit your lifestyle. Of course, if you agree with an association’s policies, an HOA provides a helpful buffer, ensuring that other residents abide by the rules.
Most HOAs require board approval for any exterior remodeling projects, but many communities also have rules concerning interior projects. For example, it may be OK to paint your walls or replace the carpeting without running your plans by the board, but you may need a sign-off on any plumbing or electrical changes.
Like exterior remodeling, HOAs may restrict the types of trees, plants, and shrubs allowed. Also, there are usually standards for keeping your yard looking nice—weeding, pruning, collecting stray trash, etc.
Can you use your home as a rental property, if desired? Some communities don’t allow short-term rentals, for example, or require a certain percentage of units to be owner-occupied. If you’d like to rent your property, you should also check on any standards or procedures for approving tenants.
Pets are integral members of many homeowners’ families, and HOAs may restrict the number of pets allowed, their weight, or their breed. Dog owners must comply with any waste cleanup rules and may need to leash their dogs on walks—although some communities provide off-leash dog parks, an attractive feature for many pet parents.
Most CR&Rs that prohibit home-based commercial enterprises were written long before it became common for people to work from home. Still, if you have a small, home-based business, you might want to investigate this restriction before purchasing a home in the community.
Are there adequate parking spaces? If spaces are assigned, can you transfer yours to a renter? Where can visitors park? Some HOAs don’t allow overnight parking by non-residents.
Trash and Recycling
Are trash and recycling collected outside your door or at a collection area? Will you need to pre-sort recycled items? Must boxes be broken down? What are the rules concerning large item disposal?
Where will you be able to store a bicycle or other large items? Some HOAs won’t let you keep things outside, in other residents’ view. They may also impose limitations on adding exterior storage units.
3. HOA Management
In addition to considering the potential benefits and drawbacks, evaluating an HOA's management is essential, too. Who serves on the board, and does it rely on professional management for some aspects of its operation?
Before buying, request and review at least one year of board minutes and financial statements. What projects are in the pipeline? What are the financial reserves? How often has the board raised dues or imposed special assessments?
These and other questions can help you feel comfortable that the association is well managed—or spot any potential red flags before you buy.
If you’re interested in purchasing a home governed by an HOA, be sure to work with an Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®). Real estate agents who have earned the ABR® designation have completed specialized training in assisting buyers with every aspect of their transactions.