I recently drove up to a listed property to meet a client who wanted to tour it. The home was located in a nice suburb with manicured lawns and a price point north of a half million. The house next door to the listed property had a chain link fence in the front yard. It was out of place and unattractive. My first thought was “Why hasn’t the Homeowners Association dealt with that? “ My Buyer decided against pursuing the home I was showing him in no small part because of the neighboring home. Further investigation revealed that there were no deed restrictions in that community. It was an “anything goes” environment which allowed for a chain link fence in the front yard (or bright purple paint or an 11-foot concrete bird feeder on the front lawn or anything else the owner deemed attractive.) Score one for homeowners associations. (HOA’s)
Here is another example, personal to the author of this blog. I lived in a condo association (COA) and worked from home. One of the by-laws in the condominium declarations prohibited a garage door from being left open. I lead a team of agents. I kept the real estate signs for our listings in my garage. When an agent needed a sign he/she would text me as they were approaching my condo, I would open the garage door to allow them to retrieve the sign. Then I would close it when they left. Rarely more than five minutes open. I received a notice from the President of the Association with a listing of specific dates and times my garage door was open over a period 60 days. The notice read, for example, Saturday, July 11 opened at 11:05, left open for 4 minutes. This notation over a dozen times over 60 days. This kind of oversight creeps into the “Mrs. Kravitz” realm. For those of you in my generation you remember the “Bewitched” television series in which nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz peered from her window to keep tabs on Darrin and Samantha Stephens. This kind of overbearing interference in the personal details of life is what most people want to avoid when they request a home without a homeowners association (HOA.)
So what is the balance? Generally HOA/COA’s are good things. They protect the value of the home by setting uniform aesthetic standards of the home and lawn. They put legal leverage behind taming loud parties and that neighbor who keeps a broken down car in front of their home. The more active associations promote social events and neighborliness by organizing block parties and holiday gatherings. When the Association overreaches it is usually the act of a person or persons, not the fault of simply having rules.
Avoiding HOA/COA’s is increasingly difficult. The rules are automatic if you are buying a condo as your ownership is limited to the inside space of your home. Most communities built after 2000 have professionally managed HOA’s as they are seen as necessary to maintain the value, aesthetic and peace of neighborhood. To avoid an HOA you are often limited to older homes or rural homes not in a planned community.
As a Buyer the review of the rules of an HOA and COA is essential. By buying a home in an HOA managed community you are agreeing to the rules (even if you didn’t read them.) The By-Laws are laws. They have the same enforcement power as speed limits on the interstate. If the Deed Restrictions say “no sheds” you can be forced to remove your shed even if it’s a pretty one. You will also be charged a fee for the privilege of the oversight. This fee is usually monthly for a condo and annually for homes. This, too, is not voluntary. If you don’t pay a lien will be put on your property.
A good Realtor® will provide a copy of the Deed Restrictions to review prior to purchasing and many purchase contracts include a contingency to allow you to read and review the rules you are buying into. Do your due diligence before buying to make sure that fence your dog needs is allowed in the home you are buying. (Or the dog is allowed in the condo your are buying. )
House Call is a blog written by Kathy Chiero, Licensed Realtor and Team Leader of The Kathy Chiero Group of Keller Williams Greater Columbus. Find Kathy and her team at www.OurOhioHome.com