HOA: Friend or Foe?

In the market to buy a new home or rent a home in a managed neighborhood? You may have to deal with a Home Owner’s Association and their fees.  What exactly does the HOA do and where does your money go on a monthly, quarterly or bi-annual basis?

In my humble opinion, the HOA bi-laws serve to enforce that the grass is cut, the neighborhood flowers are seasonally cared for at the entrance to the neighborhood and to keep the couch off the neighbors’ lawn. Everyone has that one neighbor. The one that doesn’t cut the grass until everyone on the block has already done so, and only does so because the HOA does a drive-by and sends a “friendly reminder” urging said neighbor to get off their ass and mow their lawn.

If you’re that neighbor, well, an HOA may not be for you. First of all, the fees can seem pretty steep, if you aren’t concerned with a manicured lawn, or that Ford Pinto in your driveway that you are going to get running again when you aren’t relaxing with a Natty Light and a Newport after a hard day at Jiffy Lube. It’s just money going out the window.

In all seriousness, I was peeved when we built our first house and had to pay $150 per year for HOA dues. Where was the money going? When we built our second house, the dues were $35 per month. I now see where it goes. Every day I enjoy pulling in to my neighborhood, greeted by seasonal flowers, fresh mulch, manicured greenways (the dues help pay for a sprinkler system for those greenways), and a walking trail which leads to a pagoda on top of the hill.  

So, HOA’s don’t sound so bad, right? There are two sides to every story: the mandates. One I’ve already mentioned, the lawn care. After a long week of work, the last thing a person wants to do is mow the lawn. So, you can suck it up and spend most of Saturday cutting the grass, ask the wife to do it (good luck), or shell out more money for a lawn care service. Another may be something as simple as the color of your fence, if you choose to put one up. In my case, it has to be a six foot wooden privacy fence stained in a color that doesn’t even have a name; it has a number, which is on file with a local paint store that has ties with our HOA. If you veer from this drab color, they will let you know and force you, by fining, to stain it in aforementioned stain code.

Basically, HOA’s keep the riffraff out of your neighborhood. If they somehow sneak in, you have someone to call and complain to. They will gladly send a letter to the offender, and if the offender doesn’t heed the first warning, trust me, the HOA doesn’t relent. This goes for running behind on your dues also. Happy house hunting!

Guest submission from Heather Byrd / @Fstop1214 / [email protected]

Image from www.imagechef.com

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  1. […] need to account for homeowners association (HOA) dues as well. Make sure you ask your agent about HOA fees, and ask your lender to do a calculation including everything you will pay on a monthly […]

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