When searching for a new home, usually your primary objectives are to consider location, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, size of the lot, school district, taxes and of course, a property that fits both your style and budget.
What many buyers don’t throw into that equation on the front end is the homeowner’s or condominium association, if there is one. Often the terms can be interchangeable, although the scope of management and fees are quite different for condominium associations as the underlying management of the land, exterior, and common ground take on a more intensive role.
To keep things basic, we will group the two forms under one umbrella. A homeowner’s association, referred to as an HOA, can carry monthly, quarterly or yearly dues, has a set of rules and restrictions, and often some services that are provided with the fee. Technically, the HOA is a corporation set up by the original developer to organize the development and sale of the properties. The eventual management of the HOA, once the development is complete can be handled a number of ways. State and municipal jurisdictions most often do not oversee the rules of the HOA.
The rules of the HOA are governed by the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions, also known as the CC&R’s. These CC&R’s will be provided to you upon contact for review. The hardest part is they often can be a very long tedious read filled with legal jargon.
The best way to approach the CC&R’s is to come with a list of what you are looking for, and review with your real estate professional to ensure you have the correct answers.
Here are a few questions to start with:
- What are the dues? How frequently are they paid? What do the dues cover? Make sure these fees are factored into your mortgage prequalification.
- Are there any restrictions on future structural changes? This can range from additions to pools, hot tubs, decks, and patios, to the color or paint on the house or shutters.
- What are the land restrictions? For example, are you allowed to put up a shed in the back? A fence enclosing the property? Is there any required landscaping?
- What are the property restrictions? Can you rent out your property? Can it be rented nightly? Are there restrictions for using the home for business?
- Do the CC&R’s restrict parking in any way? If you have a boat, camper, or several vehicles that must be parked outside check all rules regarding this. It is not uncommon to find very specific instructions or limitations.
- What is the annual budget and reserve? Are there any large capital expenditures that they are discussing, and is there any possibility for a special assessment in the coming years?
- Who manages the HOA? Is it the owners, a governing board, an outside corporation? Understand the workings of the HOA.
These are just a few considerations to take into account when buying a home or condo. In the end, the role of the HOA is to serve the residents for the common good of the development. If your individual interests to use the property are not in alignment with the restrictions of the HOA, then it’s best to establish this before you make the investment.
Still have questions? The experts at Vial Fotheringham, LLP specialize in HOA law for Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, and Colorado. Their website provides a plethora of educational information to help you make an informed decision on your next home purchase.