HOA OR NOT TO HOA? That is the question…
So you’re in the market for a home? Good luck finding a home that isn’t in a neighborhood, that doesn’t require HOA dues. What are HOA dues you ask, they are Homeowner Association fees that are required when you move into an established neighborhood. More and more, neighborhoods are popping up with beautiful amenities like golf courses, beautifully manicured medians, eye catching fountains, and community swimming pools, which have these dues. All of these things cost money, and the costs are passed onto the home buyer/resident. In some cases, builders and developers create these neighborhoods with neighborhood membership and HOA dues. In order to live in these neighborhoods, you literally have to “pay” into them with those HOA dues. So, is it really a negative thing to have HOA dues? I’ll discuss some of the pros and cons of buying a home in a HOA neighborhood with dues, and also give some of my personal experiences as a homeowner that pays HOA dues.
Many modern day home neighborhoods are popping up requiring HOA dues. I personally live in a new neighborhood that consists of eighty or so townhomes. I’ll admit when I saw the price of my HOA dues, $150 a month on my mortgage, I cringed. Granted, my HOA dues are one of the cheapest I have heard of in the area. HOA dues can range from anywhere to $100 a month to $300 a month depending on the responsibilities that the neighborhood wants caretakers of the property to have. In my mind when I saw the fee, I thought, “There goes that extra car payment I was making to get rid of that annoying car bill. And there goes the extra money to pay for concert tickets to see Carrie Underwood.” I literally saw the bills in my wallet starting to grow wings and fly out of it! How would I find an extra $1800 in my budget a year? What about HOA due increases over the years; How steep would those increases become? Besides the superficial and materialistic aspects of the payment cost; I could not find many other cons associated with HOA dues.
What I found with HOA dues was a lot more value than just “money.” Granted, we have a neighborhood manager for our HOA fund. Her salary is minimal, as she manages several neighborhood properties. I think in some neighborhoods if some of the members of the community step up, that salary could be eliminated or minimized. The manager is responsible for the communication within the neighborhood, and responsible for hiring landscaping and other workers to fulfill maintenance requests. Our neighborhood also appointed three home-owning representatives within the community, to go to quarterly meetings a year. These representatives make important decisions regarding the each property and the entire community. A community that has involved homeowners will be a safe, beautiful, and happy community. I have lived in this neighborhood six years, and have never had a problem. Some of the HOA dues go towards a quarterly update newsletter in which the manager and representatives point out things that will be done, or have been done to make the community more beautiful. The newsletter also informs the community of any dangers. Several months ago, we had a newsletter come out that stated two copperhead snakes were killed in the neighborhood, and to be on guard for any other sightings. I don’t know about you, but if I get a warning about snakes in the neighborhood; I plan on keeping my eyes open especially if they are poisonous. Overall, the HOA dues in my community go towards trash pickup, snow removal, maintenance and cleaning of our water fountain, ground maintenance including replacing rotten plants/trees and cutting grass, placing grass seed and aeration, pet trash bag boxes to assist and ease pet waste removal, pest control (i.e.: spraying for termites, mosquitoes, etc.) , placement of new flowers during the season changes, leaf removal, any exterior repairs needed from damage. Funds from the dues also go towards insurance to safeguard against a catastrophic event or persons that would want to sue the neighborhood. The dues not used within the year are put into a “rainy day” account to be used for replacement of roofing or other aesthetic needs that would need to be fulfilled later. As these duties designated to HOA dues are for my neighborhood, other neighborhoods can delegate more or less duties. One has to realize, the more responsibility of the HOA, the more expensive your dues could get over the years. Our HOA dues increase about five to ten dollars annually.
Some people would consider HOA dues a waste of money. After living in my neighborhood for at least six years, I have found that paying to have these services, pays me in other ways. I suffer from allergies like most Virginians, and to have to get outside on a day off or a weekend to manicure the trees and cut the lawn on a weekly basis, would not help, but exacerbate my hay fever. As a result, from not being exposed to those allergens, it saves me from becoming sick and losing time at work. In one instance three years ago, a yellow jacket nest, unbeknownst to me was growing under the small crate myrtle in the front of my lawn. I noticed over time I was seeing more yellow jackets, and finally discovered the location of the nest. I simply called the neighborhood manager, and she sen
t out the grounds keeper to eliminate the nest and replant a new tree. Who wants to deal with a yellow jacket nest? I sure didn’t want to, and thanks to my HOA and the dues I paid monthly, I did not have to worry about taking care of it. Having a well run HOA has been found to maintain the beauty of the neighborhood, and increase home equity. The structures and homes are well kept and they hold their value, which in turn is returned to the homebuyer when they try to sell their property. I believe HOA dues, in the long term, pay for themselves because the neighborhood is not allowed to become dilapidated. One long term benefit of having HOA dues can build a community of unity.
One would conclude that it is a smart move to buy into a home with a neighborhood that has an active HOA, with HOA dues. There is a warning to be had over the dues. In some neighborhoods, if a homeowner is found to be negligent on payment of their dues, their home can be foreclosed on and seized by the HOA. Depending on the HOA contract, some fees could allow this foreclosure to happen on as little as $800. This is something that is not to be tak
en lightly. When one is buying into a property with an HOA, they must make sure that their mortgage payment and the HOA dues are something that they could easily pay for in efforts to prevent foreclosure of their property. Foreclosures, as we know, depreciate the value of the neighborhood and the value of the home. Not to mention, foreclosures severely affect ones credit.
So what is your stance, To HOA or not to HOA? Do your pay your neighbor’s son to mow the lawn for $40 a week, and buy an above ground pool, or purchase a home with those amenities in the neighborhoods that are “taken care of” by HOA dues? Do you pay for that yearly membership to the country club ten miles down the street, instead of buying into a neighborhood that has one, which will appreciate your home value? It’s your time to shop and decide.