I grew up on a 5-acre property in the “middle of nowhere” North-Central Florida. Paved roads ended about a mile from my home and you had to know how to drive on dirt just to make it out there. The nearest towns were a good 20-minute drive.
Needless to say, there weren’t a lot of rules out there. And having moved from the rapidly developing New Jersey suburbs of the early 1980s, that’s probably exactly what my parents had wanted. Well, exactly what my Dad wanted, anyway. If he woke up one morning and felt like building a barn or chicken coop, putting in an above-ground pool or doing a little shotgun target practice, there was literally no one around to tell him no.
Here in South Florida, with more than 6 million of us populating three highly developed counties, there is a much greater density of people. Here, condo/co-op buildings, townhome communities and some single-family home neighborhoods are organized into Homeowners Associations, otherwise known as HOAs. If you’ve been renting in an apartment building or from a landlord whose neighborhood is not part of an HOA, or if you just moved to the area, you may be oblivious to the concept, but when it comes time to sell, buy or even lease a home that is part of an HOA, the association adds another layer of complexity to your sale or purchase. Here’s what you need to know.
Why do associations exist?
Buildings or communities that have organized into an association have common areas and amenities which could be anything from a community pool or playground to the lobby of a condo building, and someone has to pay to keep those areas maintained. As an owner in that community, that someone is (partially) you, through your monthly or quarterly HOA dues. Not only do these items need to be paid for, someone has to make the decisions related to how that maintenance will happen. Which vendors will do the maintenance and when? How much will it cost? To handle these considerations, owners in a community come together to elect HOA board members. These board members are property owners who volunteer to act on behalf of the entire community to handle some or all of these decisions themselves, and in turn hire an association management company to handle some or all of the day-to-day operations of the community. In addition to maintaining common areas, HOAs can impose various rules on owners and residents of a community for various reasons, including property appearance and proper utilization of community amenities. HOAs can also impose special assessments on owners to pay for things that need to be maintained but have not been budgeted for, like replacing balconies or windows on an older building.
What are the benefits?
If the above sounds like enough to make you want to channel your inner Tom Gunther, get out your shotgun and do a little backwoods target practice, a home in an HOA might not be for you. But, if you enjoy benefits such as having access to a pool, a yard and landscaping you don’t have to personally maintain, and a guarantee that your neighbors can’t park a dilapidated boat in their driveway, HOA life might be for you. What can seem like annoying rules to be tolerated can actually help create an environment that contributes to rapidly rising property values. For example, I have no idea which candidates my neighbors are voting for, because signs are not allowed. It’s not something I have to think about on a daily basis and that’s kind of nice.
How does the HOA impact your sale/purchase/lease?
Often the first introduction people have to HOAs is when they are looking to buy or lease in a community and learn they have to be approved to do so. That’s right, HOAs have the power to approve or reject potential owners or renters. Whoa. I have had clients say they felt like they were applying for a job with the CIA, because the application is so detailed. If you’re selling or leasing out your home, that means you should be careful to only accept an offer from someone who is likely to be approved according to the rules of the HOA. Approval can take up to a month or more and might include an in-person interview with members of the board, which can impact the timing of your transaction. Before you put a home on the market to sell or lease, you should make yourself aware of any changes to the bylaws or actions taken recently by the HOA that could impact your sale. It also never hurts to have a friend or two on the board so you can keep abreast of the status of your prospective buyer’s approval.
I could go on and on and on about the pros, cons and quirks of HOAs, but at the end of the day it’s a personal decision whether or not you want to own or rent a home that is part of an association. Some associations are low-key and others are literally and figuratively high-maintenance. I’m here to help with your sale, purchase or lease. Let’s chat and determine what’s best for you: 954-224-2825 or firstname.lastname@example.org.