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HOA Hell or Heaven? Determine your home ownership style before buying!

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By : Carolyn Capalbo    99 or more times read
Google "homeowners association" and you'll find plenty of information on HOAs - and plenty of gripes as well. To prevent the problems you read about from becoming your own, carefully determine what your home ownership style is before investing in a HOA-controlled property.

If you like to do your own thing, are planning to decorate in an avant garde fashion, or don't see the problem with having your garbage cans within view of the street, think twice about investing in a HOA property. Some people can't abide rules and regulations, even if they are not planning on letting weeds take over the lawn or keep 12 junked cars in their driveway. It's the principle of the thing - while they are as house-proud as the next person, they don't like being told what to do. Some people intend to paint their house a non-traditional color and don't see why other people should care, as long as the house and property are neat and clean.

HOAs are all about conformity and order. If you don't read the CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions) of an association, you have no one to blame but yourself if you buy a house with HOA rules you cannot abide. If you are unsure of what a rule means, get a full explanation - in writing, and attached to your copy of the CC&Rs- of it. Obtaining the services of an attorney to explain the CC&Rs to you may be a good investment, especially when you are talking about thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in a home.

Conversely, if you like living in an area where you are virtually guaranteed to have no problems with derelict properties, neighbors that have unsightly lawns and activities that interfere with your peaceful enjoyment of your property, you may love living in a HOA neighborhood. HOA homes are generally in neighborhoods that enforce proper upkeep of the houses and properties. Home values in a HOA neighborhood can appreciate greatly in value due to the care that the neighborhood takes to keep the area clean and attractive.

If you don't like dealing with a board of people when you want to change an aspect of your home or property, you may not wish to live in an HOA property. Many HOAs control changes to a person's property to the point where they can't have a certain color of railing. In order to avoid fines, liens and lawsuits, one must go to the board to get permission for any proposed change. This can be annoying and time consuming. There is always the chance the board will say, "No!" because of, to you, a petty reason. If you aren't prepared to argue your case for every change you want to make to a HOA regulated feature, stay away from a HOA.

However, it's comforting for some to know that their neighbor cannot put in, say, a swimming pool or a twelve-foot-high fence without some kind of approval. This can mean that one can have a say in what their neighbors are allowed to do. If they have a barking dog, the police aren't your only avenue of getting them to address the issue; you can also appeal to the condo board that can then levy fines for their raucous Rover. If their children are running amok among your dahlias, you may have additional protections in case they shudder of telling their little darlings, "No".

HOAs can also mean that you have semi-private amenities like a neighborhood swimming pool or an area for meetings and parties. They also mean that you often don't have to do work yourself; you can let the board take care of hiring gardeners and lawn care people. There may also be reserves to help you keep your home looking the way the HOA wants it to look, all paid for with your dues.

If you think that you can live by the rules of a particular HOA, home ownership in this kind of neighborhood may be for you. If you think that having to ask a board every time you want to buy a flowerpot or repaint your mailbox is too onerous, you might want to give HOA home ownership a miss. It all really depends on your perspective and how much autonomy you want over your home.
Carolyn Capalbo is an expert military relocation specialist and real estate agent serving Northern Virginia real estate. Visit to find updated market information about areas in Prince William, including Chantilly VA real estate.

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