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Homeowner Associations and Homes for Sale … What Buyers Need to Know

We all have heard of both good and bad opinions about homeowner associations (HOAs) from the people who have to deal with them as a resident right down to newspaper articles.

One case in Jupiter, Florida, between resident George Andres and his development’s HOA went to Appeals Court over his having a flagpole and flag in his front yard. An ex-marine and right after the violent 9-11 attack, he erected a 13-foot flagpole in his front yard. Unfortunately, the HOA had changed the rules before 9-11 and the flagpole and flag were in violation. The patriotic resident lost his case in lower court and appealed. The HOA even attempted a forced foreclosure on his home in 2005 in order to pay for more than ,000 in attorney fees, but the Appeals Court ruled against them, according to The Sun Sentinel. The case brought so much attention that the Florida legislature passed a law to allow residents to fly their flags, regardless of HOA rules.

Reading about such a case is enough to make you cringe over even considering homes for sale in a development with an HOA. Yet, an HOA can be the best thing for buyers of homes for sale. HOA’s can ensure that the value of your home and the ambience of its environment are maintained, and can provide much desired services to buyers of homes for sale governed by HOAs.

Since the late 1990s, 80 percent of the homes for sale built are part of an HOA. During the building of a residential housing development, developers are responsible for the exterior upkeep to ensure the development attracts new buyers for the homes for sale. Otherwise, they could lose money on their investment.

When it is time to turn responsibility for the exterior upkeep over to the residents, the developer and his/her attorney draw up the organization for an HOA. The developer appoints the first HOA president, vice president, secretary and treasurer, looking for a representative cross-section of resident volunteers. In practice, it is often those residents that have the time and volunteer for the positions, rather than those with actual management and/or people skills. After the first appointments by the developer, the HOA membership vote on all subsequent board members.

Board members oversee the HOA, while a management company handles the day-to-day operations. It is the board, however, that rules on violation fines, can bring a court case, or generally make your life in the development either a great one or a miserable one.

In most HOA developments, membership generally is not an option; so, buyers of homes for sale should know as much about the HOA as possible before making a purchase. Homes for sale sellers are required by law to disclose this information to potential homes for sale buyers.

Here are some things for which to look for and investigate before buying the HOA homes for sale:

• What does the HOA do for you, the soon-to-be owner. In their development?

It is important to read all of the rules/covenants governing homes for sale before buying. — do not accept a seller’s explanation. Go to the HOA office and ask for a copy of their membership contract. Have your attorney review the contract, and make your offer on any home for sale contingent upon your acceptance of the HOA membership.

What HOAs cover for the exterior differs widely between associations. Some maintain only the streets and common grounds areas. Some insure the roof, windows, siding, gates and fences of resident homes — some only under certain storm conditions.

Not only do you need to know what the HOA will do for the homes for sale, the homeowner insurance carrier will need to know, as well. If you need to insure only from the walls in of any homes for sale, with the siding out being insured by the HOA, your premiums and responsibilities will be much less.

• Second, you need to know your responsibilities as a member of the HOA. What rules will govern (and possibly restrict) your lifestyle and comfortable living in this home for sale?

Imagine purchasing one of any homes for sale, where it s strictly forbidden to park on the street. If this home had only two parking spaces that were being used by yours and your spouse’s cars, what room might be left for visitors? This happen to one individual. He had to park in an overflow area. The problem was that the overflow parking was several blocks away from his unit and had only a couple spaces. The large overflow parking area was in driving (not walking) distance. Throwing a party in their home was out of the question; even a big family get-together could not be held there. They eventually sold the home for one in a more accommodating development — similar rules but closer and larger overflow parking areas.

It is important to have the value of your home and its surrounding ambience protected; however, buyers of homes for sale need to ensure their lifestyles will not be overly restricted by HOA rules.

• Other items to know before buying —
o How much are the membership dues?
o How often does the HOA meet and where?
o What is the length of board members’ tenure?
o What can be done to remove a board member and for what reasons?
o How are the rules/covenants changed and how often has this occurred?
o Have court cases been brought by the HOA or residents against the HOA? If yes, what were the issues and their resolutions?

Most HOAs are a welcome feature for buyers of a homes for sale. Those buyers who most desire an HOA, are people who travel, single people, those wishing to keep the current exterior standard of ambience and their homes value in tact, and those who seek outside amenities with little-to-no maintenance or upkeep.

So, when looking at homes for sales in HOA developments, be a smart buyer. Know what information you want from the HOA ahead of time, involve your attorney, and make your offer for any of the homes for sale contingent upon your acceptance of the HOA membership.

About the Author: John Harris is an expert researcher and writer on real estate topics such as economics, credit improvement tips, home selling advice and home buying preparations. For more on San Diego Homes for Sale visit

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