These days, new condominiums seem to be popping up everywhere you look, especially in urban areas—and Boston is no exception. You may be tempted to purchase a newer home that’s part of a larger development, but before doing so, make sure you understand the benefits and potential pitfalls of joining the homeowners’ associations that typically govern these types of properties.
The Essentials of HOAs
So what exactly is a homeowners’ association (HOA), anyway? Though they are, in most cases, technically non-profit corporations, a homeowner’s association is really a governing body that exists to maintain a development, ensuring that the properties are kept up by owners, that the neighborhood retains certain characteristics, and that property values are maximized.
Usually an HOA is first put incorporated by the developers, then handed over to the homeowners. They’re most commonly seen in common-interest developments (CIDs)—a fast-growing category of properties common in urban parts of America (including Boston) that includes condos and homes in planned developments.
Pros and Cons for New Buyers
The most important thing to understand about purchasing a property that’s already subject to a homeowners’ association, or part of a CID, is that you’ll immediately be subject to the fees and rules of the HOA when you move in. Generally speaking, the HOA will enforce what are called covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs).
These CC&Rs determine the fees that homeowners must pay toward maintenance of the development, including roads and shared amenities. But they’ll also set forth community rules for homeowners, which can range from the general to the very specific, governing everything from renovations to acceptable noise levels. If you don’t abide by the rules, you could be fined by the HOA.
For some homeowners, the rules are advantageous, as they preserve the neighborhood’s aesthetic and may even boost property values. For other owners, they can seem like obnoxious, intrusive, and even arbitrary restrictions that defeat the purpose of owning property.
What to Consider Before Buying
To begin with, it’s important to understand that HOAs are very common, and the majority of homeowners living in CIDs seem to appreciate or at least tolerate them. Though you may have heard horror stories of meddling HOAs fining individual homeowners for minuscule infractions, this is certainly not the norm.
You best option is to educate yourself before buying a property that’s subject to a homeowners’ association. Study the fees and rules that you’ll be agreeing to before purchasing, and make sure that you won’t be violating them from the get-go.
More than anything, it’s essential that you understand your own needs and goals. If you know from day one that you want to paint your home in bright colors, host loud parties, or fill your lawn with abstract sculptures, then the HOA lifestyle probably isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you’re enticed by the idea of a well-maintained, peaceful community, you may actually prefer living under the governance of an association.