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Published: September 23, 2019

HOA or not?

When you start looking for a home, you’re usually on one side of the fence or the other. Either you love what a homeowner’s association takes care of regarding home ownership, or you don’t. Your preference may have to do with your age, your experience with owning homes, or your preference for doing whatever you please with and on your own property. Make no mistake about it, though. Either decision is something you have to live with if you plan to stay long term.

If you’re on the fence, or just don't know enough about homeowner associations (HOAs), here is a short overview. Why do you need this? Because if you are considering purchasing a property that is governed by an HOA, it’s best to understand how it all works before you buy. An HOA can affect not just your finances, but also your quality of life.

A Realtor.com article put this way: “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. That means you pay a fee every month for the HOA to maintain those common areas.” Some neighborhoods that have an HOA in Colorado Springs are Banning Lewis Ranch, Meridian Ranch, Bridle Pass, Knob Hill, Patty Jewett and many more.

An association can regulate what a homeowner’s yard can look like, how loud they can be, how many dogs they can own (and the maximum size of each), how many guests they can have and how long those guests can take up a parking space. They can dictate the color of a home’s exterior, the types of trees you can plant, nix the idea of a storage shed in your yard, and even tell you how many hours per week you are permitted to wash your car on your driveway, if there is one. They may also dictate whether you can run a business out of your home — especially one where patrons flit in and out of the neighborhood.

So why do some people PREFER to buy a home in a neighborhood governed by an HOA? Because if some or all of those intrusions or oversights mean their home values are protected, it’s a good trade-off. Some of these HOA-friendly individuals have also had it with unregulated neighborhoods and will never go back to the unmitigated freedom their neighbors had and may have abused. There may have been nothing they could do about perennially barking dogs, 8 cars crowding the outside of their neighbor’s property, loud outdoor karaoke parties that never seemed to end, or an old, ripped-up couch sitting on a front porch across the street from them.

HOAs also mean less work on behalf of homeowners, making their lives easier. The monthly fee may include front yard landscape maintenance and even pay for security (roving patrols, a security guard or gate-guarded entrance, or a high wall around the neighborhood). It may mean your roof and exterior paint will always be taken care of, along with water and garbage fees. But homeowners must also keep a close eye on how their funds are being used and check for pending lawsuits against the HOA before investing and always, always know that the monthly fees can go up.

Sometimes the codes that govern an HOA can cause controversy and frustration when people refuse to take down an American flag or their kids’ play structures and they're hit with a penalty. If American life is all about freedom, then freedom can mean more than one thing. It’s the freedom to live a lifestyle that is regulated by a set of rules everyone abides by or the freedom to do whatever you want, including having pet pigs graze in your backyard.

Some of these preferences are overwhelmingly generational. Baby boomers are the most likely to say they love their HOA, while Gen Xers run in the opposite direction. What’s interesting about the studies that have been done on HOAs is that it’s millennials who are most likely to complain about loud music. Gen Xers are 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,” said one study.

Some of the craziest stories to come out of these studies are told by those attending homeowners’ meetings. These include a homeowner who brought in all the dog poop his neighbor’s dog had deposited on his grass, just to make a point. Another homeowner protested the rules about public/private nudity by taking off all her clothes in front of everyone. Yet another complained about male members of an active adult community who used the swimming pool for their daily bath and shave because it saved them money on hot water bills.

The American Dream is, of course, different for everyone. It’s just always best to go into the purchase of a home (whether it’s in an HOA neighborhood or not) with both eyes open.

Source: Insurancequotes, Realtor, TBWS

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