Home Owners Associations. They have increased as part of the growing trend in “common interest communities”  from 1 percent in 1970 to 40 percent in 2015. Community associations are a growing share of the residential real estate market, but many home owners have little understanding of the rights and responsibilities they are buying into when they purchase in these communities. This leads them down the road of dissatisfaction and disillusionment with the HOA concept in general. Many owners do not recognize that the benefits of shared ownership involves relinquishing some of  your independent living. That’s the root of so many of the HOA horror stories we’ve all heard, as owners normally do not realize that their agreement to live in and abide by the covenants and restrictions of their new community is held in serious check!

HOA living is not suited for those unwilling to cooperate with the community. The many critics of HOAs are actually opposed to the concept of living in a “common interest community”. This is a hard position to take, particularly as society continues to urbanize and affordable land is increasingly scarce. Basically, people who want a home that is their castle and theirs alone should not live in HOAs.

HOAs operate under governing documents called covenants, bylaws, and operating rules. Although they can greatly affect the homeowner or tenant of the property, many consider these documents unimportant, treating them as if they were an appliance owner’s manual — to review only after buying and beginning to use the product. Governing documents may limit leasing, pets, parking, type of flooring, garage usage, and many other “rules”. Here in this area there are some communities who restrict what your exterior paint colors can be.

People who live in condominiums and town homes often are confused about what is “theirs” and what is considered “common area”.  Balconies, patios, and porches are frequently believed to be areas where the HOA has no authority to govern its use. But in condominiums, these areas usually are exclusive use common areas; That is, they are controlled by the HOA but used by the individual owner or tenant.

None of this is to say that buying in an HOA community is a bad deal. Some home owners will enjoy having some order that instills harmony in a neighborhood by regulating its appearance and use for everyone’s quality of living. But in order to ensure that every owner gets the most out of their HOA, they must be educated about them. That, of course, starts with a knowledgeable real estate professional and/or property manager.