Welcome to your new home! Now please pay the treasurer your $1200 dues for the year and don’t even think about painting your front door without permission. Welcome to the Home Owners Association.
Homeowners Associations (HOAs) aren’t common in all cities and states, but they are prevalent here in Eastern North Carolina. A whopping 43% of North Carolina homes are in HOA neighborhoods. It’s good to get familiar with what an HOA is, and what it’s not, since it’s likely that the home of your dreams here is in a neighborhood with an HOA.
What’s an HOA?
An homeowners association is a planned community in a subdivision or condominium. The HOA makes and enforces rules for the properties within its jurisdiction. If you buy a home within the HOA’s jurisdiction, you become members of the HOA. There is not a choice to abstain from the HOA. You must pay the determined annual or monthly dues, called HOA fees.
The variance in dues reflects the different levels of expectations each HOA has. When the dues is greater, it could be because there are more amenities (pool, clubhouse, park, boat ramps, etc.) or because that HOA maintains a large cash reserve, in preparation for costs that may arise. These include legal costs, maintenance, electricity, road repair, and more.
Some HOAs have low fees, but they have to raise money from within the neighborhood when special needs arise. The national monthly average is somewhere between $120 and $330. The numbers vary from report to report as they don’t have to be published, making it difficult to track.
The dues cover different fees. It’s almost always includes the maintenance of shared spaces, but it can also include the maintenance of your front yard, trash pickup, internet, or more.
HOA rules can be extremely complex. They are legal, binding rules that you must adhere to or you can face consequences. Covenants, conditions, and restrictions make up the rules for residents.
Neighborhoods vary in how much they enforce the rules and how many rules they have. Before you purchase home, ask your real estate agent to obtain a copy of the HOA bylaws and read them carefully. Depending on how involved you want your neighborhood to be, it could determine whether or not that neighborhood is right for you.
There are no rules!
Ah, yes. There are actually rules. And so many of them! HOA rules vary greatly from neighborhood to neighborhood. Here’s an example of some HOA rules you may expect to find.
- You have to get permission to:
- Put up a fence, shed, large tree, hedges, fountains, or swimming pool.
- Paint your front door.
- Change your mailbox.
- Have chickens, multiple dogs, or other pet rules.
- You may get written warnings or even fines for:
- Parking on the street
- Letting your grass get too long
- Not putting a privacy screen in front of your AC and trash cans
- Having a trampoline without a fence
- Changing your well cover to a style that’s different from the rest of the neighborhood
- Parking your boat/camper/RV or too many cars in your driveway overnight
Amenities like clubhouses, swimming pools, weight rooms, parks, boat storage, and boat ramps all come with their own sets of enforced rules through the HOA.
HOAs can set the speed limits, erect stop signs, and add speed bumps and other signage. Most HOAs are responsible for maintaining their own roading, which can be an incredibly expensive cost.
Minutes from Meetings
HOA’s are required to take notes (minutes) at each meeting. Before you purchase a property in a neighborhood with an HOA, request the minutes from the last few meetings. It should give you a good insight into conflicts and problems you might face in the that community.
One of the perks of an HOA, is that your voice matters. Your vote makes a difference and you can run for a seat on the board. HOAs can change shape through the years, so sometimes the best thing to do, is to get involved and effect change from the inside.