Thursday, March 3, 2011

Home Owner Associations....Love them or Leave them

In the Northern Virginia area you'll find that most planned communities have Home Owner Associations. It may be a house, condo or townhouse but everyone is subject to rules and regulations. Home Owner Association covenants and restrictions are designed to protect property values by maintaining appearance and order in a community. HOAs have their pros and cons and you might not always agree with some of the restrictions.

HOA pros:
  • All Owners are kept to the same maintenance standards. Every year and sometimes twice a year committees are sent out to inspect common areas and homes for damage and in need of repair items. 
  • By enforcing rules and regulations the HOA helps maintain or improve property values.
  • Many communities have shared pools, playgrounds, tennis courts, walking trails and clubhouses that are maintained with the dues that are paid.
  • Dues often include community snow removal and trash pick up. 
  • Disputes between neighbors often can be mediated by the HOA 
  • HOAs arrange neighborhood events or parties. 

HOA cons:

  • Poorly managed Home Owner Associations can be a turn off. Most Board Members are homeowners in the community with day jobs and they don't have the time needed to support an HOA.
  • If a budget is not maintained appropriately it can lead to due increases or "lump sum" payments needed for budget shortfalls.
  • Certain restrictions might detract new buyers from purchasing a home in your neighborhood if they feel the regulations are too restricting. For example no renters, no home businesses or only dogs under 50 lbs.
  • Dues might deter people from buying into the community. This fee is looked at as another cost to owning a home in the community.
  • HOA can put a lien on your home if you fall into arrears and can't pay. Fines can be levied on repairs that are not fulfilled.

With the downward financial market the HOA fees are usually the first bill not to be paid. HOAs are forced to put a lien on the property and sometimes foreclose on properties if fees are not paid. In my community of Countryside they were offering a one time reprieve from past due fees.


If you are looking to own or rent in a community that has a Home Owner Association, ask to look at the rules, regulations and bylaws before you sign a contract or renter's agreement. This way you understand what is being asked of you by the Home Owners Association. Also if you look at the budget and financial statements you might understand how well the Association is run and if this is the community for you.

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