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Old 07-25-2015, 03:30 PM   #1
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My husband had cancer years ago, and is in total remission. The bad news is that he has some residual cognitive and physical issues from the chemo. His balance is bad enough that he sold his motorcycle and wants to move from our two story house to something pretty much all on one level since he's almost had a couple of mishaps on the three sets of stairs we have.

So, our house is listed, and we found another we really like. There are HOA fees, and it includes lawn moving, sprinkler maintenance, all trimming, fertilizing and snow removal. This obviously appeals to him, since we now pay someone to mow our enormous yard. I like it, because even though he may be able to do it now since it's a smaller yard, I'm not sure what the future holds. So, to me, this is kind of an insurance policy so I won't have to deal with all this because I know I'm eventually going to be a caretaker. And pushing a lawnmower is something I don't relish even on a good day.

We've never lived in a neighborhood with one, so this is all new to us. We have a copy of the covenant, and it doesn't seem overly draconian. Our current neighborhood is pretty mixed, and our city property codes are so lax that there's little you can do when someone decides to turn their back yard into a junk yard. We kind of think it would be nice to have some higher standards, even if we have to abide by them too.

I'd like to hear good and bad HOA experiences. No idea what to expect!

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Old 07-25-2015, 03:49 PM   #2
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My experience with HOA's is generally positive and fairly broad (4 HOAs). There is a certain degree of conformity required, and in exchange all homeowners are required to meet standards that benefit you. It is not for the "live and let live" crowd.

A few things well worth your time. Find out who the property manager is and contact them. Ask for minutes from past board meetings, just to get a sense of what the board has been focusing on, and audited financial statements (a must do). The HOA must have a reserve large enough to cover large unplanned expenses. Look at all the common property - gardens, clubhouse, etc. How much of the assessment directly benefits your home there and how much goes to shared facilities? Finally, ask if there are any projects or expenses being discussed or considered.

Drive around the entire association, see how well maintained all the properties are, also how uniform they are in appearance. A good HOA is always on top of those two things.

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Old 07-25-2015, 04:08 PM   #3
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I think the key is to read the CC&R's, understand all the rules, and be willing to abide by them. The HOA where I live (18 years) is not as strict as most and our cost is only $120/year so there is nothing extra that comes with it like yard service, pools, or activity centers. Someone from the HOA management company comes by every couple of months to check the neighborhood out and sends out notices if required. A friend who lives in a 55+ community has much stricter rules (like how long your garage door can stay open) and they do get enforced, he claims his neighborhood gets policed daily for violations by bored retirees.
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Old 07-25-2015, 04:56 PM   #4
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One other thing to check when speaking with the HOA administrator is how many / what % of home owners are delinquent with their dues.

During the housing bust, there were some condos near us that had a large % of foreclosures and delinquent dues. Potentially, those still around could be liable to pick up the slack and could get a higher bill for the dues.
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Old 07-25-2015, 05:08 PM   #5
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We've only lived with one HOA and it is a positive experience so far. No complaints from us, but like MichaelB said it is not for the "live and let live" crowd. Where we live there is no zoning so an HOA is the only way to prevent someone from making their back yard into a junkyard or worse.

The only thing I can think of to add is knock on a few doors and ask the residents what they think of the HOA, how well (or even if) the covenants are enforced and how well they are enforced. That may or may not matter to you.

You read the horror stories about the "HOA Nazis" but bear in mind those are by far the exception and not the rule or the neighbors would go after those board members with torches and pitchforks. And of course, if you want to paint your shutters purple then you need to think about a different neighborhood....
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Old 07-25-2015, 05:10 PM   #6
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Good people, good HOAs. Not so good and they become places for little Napoleons, cliques, and worse. Which you'll get is difficult to know in advance.
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Old 07-25-2015, 05:16 PM   #7
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I have not heard of one that does lawn etc...

The other thing that can be a nuisance is some mgmt companies want to show how good they are by issuing many code violations (I think they must have been paid by how many they issued)....

So, in my last neighborhood (which is worse than the one I live in now)... I was cited for a 'dirty' driveway... Now, my driveway looked like almost all the other driveways out there... and better than many... I had zero oil on it... and back then parked my cars in the garage... they kept pushing this one on me and I kept telling them I was not going to do anything unless they cite every house on the street....

Another citation was that I had too big of a gap between my fence and house.....WHAT Someone came on my property and measured!!! Now, the rules were 3 inches... I think mine was 3.5 inches, but it was done before I bought it and by the time I got the citation I had lived there 15 years.... so for 20 years nobody cared about it.... so, I throw up another board and then get a citation for the fence being 'too high'.... I had a picket that was larger than the rest that matched the other side of the house... it was about a foot taller...

This mgmt company was thrown out and things got back to normal... where people did not mow their lawns... tried to paint their house a color that was not approved or parking their 18 wheel cab in the neighborhood...

Glad I left as it was getting way to 'red neck' for me... when the crisis hit, lots of people who could barely afford to buy was moving in and did not take care of their house.... went downhill quickly...

Oh.... edit to add... you really need one here since there are no zoning laws and it helps prevent some really bad things happening around you....
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Old 07-25-2015, 05:17 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Walt34 View Post
... if you want to paint your shutters purple then you need to think about a different neighborhood....
No, purple shutters definitely not allowed. Not even if you adorn them with pretty flowers. You may have to go to Europe for colorful shutters, I am afraid (photo linked from the Web).

It could be because they don't call this color purple, but violet or lavender. That lessens the "crime".

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Old 07-25-2015, 05:27 PM   #9
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Wise guy!
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Old 07-25-2015, 09:08 PM   #10
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I lived in a community with an HOA . We did make fun of the rules but they kept they neighborhood looking good . I loved having the lawn & sprinkler system taken care of & I also loved the community pool and clubhouse .
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Old 07-25-2015, 09:28 PM   #11
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We did. The HOA part was just fine. The insane people in the association were quite another matter. We quickly learned to stay away from the ones that wanted to play politics games. Just pay the dues and enjoy.
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Old 07-25-2015, 09:51 PM   #12
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As someone mentioned, check the reserve fund, as there should be a large reserve to cover various repairs of community property. Otherwise you will get a special assessment (extra fee).

You might want to check on the snow removal, by asking specifics because one I know of they plow the driveway and shovel the walkway. Another one plows just the street, so you have to do your own driveway and walkway.
Yet both say snow removal is part of the monthly fee.
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Old 07-26-2015, 06:24 AM   #13
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I have lived in two HOA communities and no problem with either. We do seem to have some issues getting people to serve as board members and officers though. Most people with any sense just want to pay their dues and see the rules enforced.
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Old 07-26-2015, 08:51 AM   #14
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As others have said, the reserve fund is a major item. Furthermore, elevators are always a big whammie waiting in the wings. Are there any elevators? Replacing just one old one can easily run $50k-$100k! Even if they have a reserve fund, sometimes they don't budget or realize how expensive it is to replace one (or multiple) elevators. Check their income statements/balance sheets to see what they have allocated.

A good management would show a depreciation amount each year in the revenue/expense statement allocated to major items like "roof replacement" and "elevator replacement" and "replacing streets/driveways", with that cost amount being added to a bank account to steadily grow and be there to fund a majority of the cost when it needs to be replaced.

You might see a lump sum bank account balance of $75k for "capital improvements and major projects" and that may sound like a lot - but if it's supposed to be there for all of the above major items, it may barely fund just one item (like roof replacement), and not have anything left for major other major long-term expense items. Ideally they would show how much of the $ in the bank account is allocated for replacement of all major cost items so you can see how much is available for each item.
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Old 07-26-2015, 12:18 PM   #15
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What state do you live? Some state have licensing requirements for HOA's or related management companies. A state board office could tell you if there are any problems that have been reported in the past.
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Old 07-26-2015, 02:49 PM   #16
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I'm 3 years into a HOA (townhome) after a few decades in a single family house without HOA. It's going well so far. Although there is some political drama, the units are in good shape. We've got some maintenance issues, but no show-stoppers, especially given that the units were built in the 1960's. I don't miss the heavy yard work and exterior issues at all. Before moving in, I was fortunate to have known about this specific townhouse complex for 20 years, so I had reasonable confidence moving in.

One of the bigger unknowns pertains to "special assessments". These can be painful. In our area (expensive Midwest city/suburb), this can range from $5K to 15K, although one friend just got hit with one for $30K. Sometimes stuff just falls apart and the inevitable wasn't properly budgeted. Other times folks get an edifice complex and push needless upgrades on everyone. Fortunately, these special assessments seem rather rare, perhaps once every 10 or 20+ yrs.

Don't forget that you still have to budget to internal repairs. The central heat & AC are the biggest risk, $4K or more if you need to replace them. You may also responsible for windows, doors and patio/deck.

Aside: I'm a musician, so I now have to be more mindful of my good neighbors. Now it's not a problem since I ER's and can play in the middle of the day when folks don't mind.

Bottom line: loving it so far. We can take off on vacation and not have to worry about the lawn or snow removal.
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Old 07-28-2015, 09:17 AM   #17
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If you can talk to a few folks under the HOA you might get the "low down" on how things are going. Our HOA seems to be run fairly well and there are relatively few (not zero) nuisance complaints against individuals. (We left a hand cart in our parking space for an hour while we were taking items to Goodwill. We got a "verbal" warning from the resident manager who apologized for being forced to do it.)

Financial soundness and political busybodies are the two things I would investigate about any particular HOAs. If there are few problems in either area, I would not be concerned about being in an HOA. YMMV
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Old 07-28-2015, 09:52 AM   #18
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I prefer living in a town with zoning that protects the value of my investment but without a HOA that can sometimes be hi-jacked by pompous, anal do-gooders who need to get a life. No doubt, some HOA's do a good job. But I think there is more risk of running into an out of control HOA than an out of control set of zoning regulations.
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Old 07-28-2015, 09:55 AM   #19
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No problems with previous HOA. I wasn't active in it but they did their thing, we paid our dues, all was well.

Our new home is in a lake community. Very small lake- less than a mile long. As soon as we got serious about a house in that area I called the HOA president. She was friendly and responsive and had all the right answers (no powercraft on the lake, they do have an Architectural Review Committee but they're pretty laid-back about exterior improvements as long as they blend in well). They sent me minutes of previous HOA meetings and there are some delinquencies but not many. There was a recent assessment of $750 for improvements to the spillway and some are delinquent on that. She said some assessments of that magnitude come up every 5 years or so.

Now that we're moved in I went to a HOA Board meeting; biggest concern (which I'd already heard form a neighbor who saw me kayaking) was one new owner who put up an above-ground pool (forbidden) and a wall around the property (also forbidden, but probably logical once the pool was up). They've put a lien on his house. I told them we plan to enclose our back deck and it sounds like the Architectural Review Committee will have no problem with it.

So, it seems well-run and I could even see myself getting involved in it. The situation with the people with the above-ground pool looks pretty ugly, though. I hope they can resolve it.
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Old 07-28-2015, 10:16 AM   #20
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HOA's are to maintain consistency in a community in order to keep up property values. Some provide maintenance for grass and assess charges to maintain swimming pools, etc.

At my last house, the HOA fees were expensive, and it was the upkeep on the 4 tennis courts that ate our pocketbooks alive. Very few used the courts. But the neighborhood pool was used a lot by the neighborhood swim team.

I personally prefer no HOA's, as I have too many boats, campers and cars--toys--that are not allowed. But we moved to a town with minimum 2 acre yards.

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