Should You Buy a Home That isn't in a Homeowner's Association?
Homeowner's Associations sometimes get negative reviews. Ever had to pay a fine for something trivial? Did you leave a garage door open? Let the wind blow your empty garbage can down the street? If you answered you may not be a fan of HOAs. Some HOAs are lenient. Others will fine you the minute they spot a dead leaf in the landscaping.
The goal of most HOAs is to preserve and maintain property values. If you live in a well run HOA, most of your neighbors will maintain their homes. You are less likely to have neighbors with a collection of junky cars in front of their house. Top Massachusetts Realtor Bill Gassett posted "How To Deal With Bad Neighbors When Selling a Home". If you live in an HOA, it will be easier to deal with bad neighbors.
If you live in an HOA, it's easy to call them on a neighbor with over-grown landscaping or other issues. Of course, the neighbors can also call the HOA if you don't keep things up to par. If you don't live in an HOA, you'll need to follow Gassett's suggestions to deal with bad neighbors.
Not having an HOA brings a certain amount of freedom. No rules telling you what colors you can paint your home. No one to say you can't leave the garage door open while you work on the front lawn. No one to say you can't let the teen-agers park their broken down car on the street. Earlier this year, we looked at Homeowner's Associations - What You Should Know. Now it's time to look at options for those who don't have an HOA.
Why Should You Buy a Home That Isn't in an HOA?
Do you own an RV? Finding a Homeowner's Association that allows RV Parking is challenging. In the Las Vegas area, the challenge is compounded by homes that have small lots. Buyers who need space for RV parking can find some communities with both the space and the flexability to allow RV parking. Many of the HOAs that allow RV parking, place restrictions on it. Some require that the RV be behind a gate and concealed from view. This can be done with landscaping or may require the homeowner building a separate RV garage.
Even when an HOA allows RV parking, the Board of Directors may be able to change the rules. We have one client who has issues with their HOA. When he bought the home from the developer, RV parking was one of the selling points. A few years later, someone was elected to the board with an attitude about RVs. Our client has fought them when they wanted to change the rules. He has to make sure that he parks the RV far enough behind the gate or he will receive a warning letter.
Do you drive a commercial vehicle that you park at your home? HOAs may have rules prohibiting vehicles with signs from parking overnight. If the commercial vehicle doesn't fit in the garage, you could have a problem. Some HOAs don't want commercial vehicles entering on certain days. A few of our guard-gated communities will not allow commercial vehicles on Sundays. If you own a plumbing company, you won't be able to go in and out with your van on those days. If you do, you will be fined.
Have boats, ATVs or other toys? This is similar to RV parking. Many communities don't allow them. The ones that do will have rules about where and when they can be parked. You may have to rent a storage space for boats and toys that aren't allowed in the community.
Large or exotic pets or livestock? Some HOAs place limits on the size and quantity of dogs you can own. Others may have noise rules that can be an issue if you have a Macaw or other feathered friend that squawks. We have a lot of horse lovers in Las Vegas. There are areas, even close to the Strip where homeowners can have a horse. Most of the zoning limits the homeowner to 3 livestock animals on a half acre.
Work at home? Home based businesses are allowed in some but not all HOAs. If you telecommute and don't have a lot of co-workers coming and going, you may have no problems with the HOA. If you set up a manufacturing facility in your garage or back yard, you probably should avoid buying a home in an HOA. The mechanic who works on cars at home should also avoid HOAs.
If you buy a home without an HOA, how do you deal with bad neighbors? Most cities have zoning rules that give some protection to residential areas. We live in an area that is zoned equestrian. A few neighbors who have an acre or more do keep horses.
A neighbor down the street built a shed to provide shade for a couple of horses. The problem was, he only had half an acre of land. Part of that was taken up by a pool and his trailers. The one or two horses he kept didn't have a lot of room to roam. One of the neighbors found out he didn't own the horses. He was boarding them. They complained to the City and now he doesn't keep horses. If you have a neighbor who is running a business out of their home, you should verify that it's permitted under your local zoning laws.
Things You Should Know if You Buy a Home That Isn't in a Homeowner's Association
Owning a home that isn't governed by a Homeowner's Association can be a great sense of freedom. You can paint it pink, fly a flag, run a business out of it or park that big Diesel Pusher next to it. Not having a Homeowner's Association works best if you can get along with your neighbors. Remember, all the freedoms you enjoy are freedoms they will want to enjoy. Be prepared to look the other way if they paint their home a color that's somewhat hideous to you.
If you opt to buy a home that isn't in a Homeowner's Association, take a close look at the surrounding homes. Are they being fairly well maintained? How much is the neighbor's house worth? Remember their home values will influence your home's value. What you want to see is that the other homes are of similar or greater value to your home. If the neighbors have a home that has equity, they will be more likely to maintain their home to preserve their equity.
Other suggested reading material regarding HOAs:
Karen Highland's "Is Condominium Living Right For You?"
Bill Gassett's "Tips For Dealing With a Homeowner's Association"
Bill Gassett's "What To Know About Buying a Home in an HOA"
Our new house in Fountain Hills AZ (outside Phoenix) has something in between. It's a neighborhood HOA with rules about the house, other structures and landscaping visible from the road. They describe it as "... an Arizona Nonprofit Corporation with authority to enforce deed restrictions". I like the concept but we don't have much HOA experience - we laughed when they changed our condo in FL to 55+ and we were in our mid '40s, having bought the place for my in-laws.
We plan to build an observatory in our backyard, and I think it's fair to have rules to follow so it's done in an aesthetically pleasing way.
Oh, my. I couldn't imagine having the condo changed into something that made it unusable for my age Tina Gleisner. Good thing it wasn't your primary.
The HOAs in Las Vegas vary from very strict to lax. I haven't quite encountered the "in between" you describe. There are a few areas in town where we have little cul de sacs with only 3 or 4 homes on the cul de sac. They will sometimes have an HOA, especially in the few parts of town where the homes are still on well water and/or septic. Those tend to have only a couple of pages in their CC&Rs. If there is a well involved it will cover how the homes that share the well pay for maintenance/service. You'll have to keep us updated on your new home when you start dealing with the HOA.
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