A common interest community is also known as a condominium association, a co-op, or an HOA. Approximately 25 percent of existing homes are in planned communities. So, when you start your search, you will probably come across them. When you’re deciding whether or not to buy a home in a planned community, there are several things to consider.

Joining the Association is Mandatory

When it comes to association membership, you don’t have a choice. If you’re buying a home in a planned community, you are automatically a member of the community. You must pay the dues and obey the rules and regulations.

Compliance with Association Rules and Regulations

The rules and regulations span many different areas. Common ones include:

  • Color themes. You can only paint shutters and doors certain colors.
  • Pet size and number of pets.
  • Trash can positioning.
  • Vehicle parking. Most communities do not allow RV or boat parking.

These are some of the things to think about because the rules are non-negotiable. Ask for a copy of the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) before you buy. You’ll also want to see a copy of the bylaws and the master documents.

If you’re buying a bank-owned home, check with the property management company to find out if there are any compliance issues with the home. Sometimes, the owners will install irrigation systems in the common areas or have fences outside their boundary lines. These things may be costly down the road, so make sure the home you’re purchasing is in compliance.

Environmental Practices and Restrictions

Find out what the environmental practices of the community are. If you’re not interested in having fertilizers and pesticides near your home, you’ll want to know if they’re used outdoors in the community. Many owners are disappointed to learn they cannot plant a garden if they’re buying in an association. There are restrictions about flower gardens and vegetable gardens.

Consider Your Own Temperament

If you don’t like to be told what to do, you may not enjoy living in planned community. Some people find it frustrating. But, if you like driving down your street and everything is orderly and uniform, you might like community living. Often, when you have a problem with a neighbor or an issue, you have someone to help with that. That’s one reason it’s nice to be in a community.

Consider Association Fees

It’s important that you understand the HOA fee structure. They are charged annually, quarterly, or monthly. Find out the history of the fees, how often they have been increased over the years, and what they cover. You’ll want to know how special assessments work and what they pay for. These costs will impact you financially. Some fees are just $100 a year and others are thousands of dollars a year.

Ask to see a copy of past minutes from previous board meetings. This will give you insight into how the board handles maintenance, and what kinds of projects have been completed and are coming up. Find out if there are delinquencies to be concerned about. Many HOAs and condo associations are facing bankruptcy because so many of their residents are delinquent. Make sure your community has a solid reserve fund and not too many delinquent accounts.

Understand the Community Management

checklistCertain things will tell you if the community is over-managed or under-managed. If the rules aren’t enforced, you aren’t getting enough oversight and management. On the flip side, you may have a zealous board that delivers violations if a blade of grass is out of place. That’s an example of over-management.

These are some of the things you should consider when you’re purchasing a property in a common interest community. If you have any questions, please contact us at Realty Solutions.