Buying a home in a Home Owners Association (or HOA) or Property Owners Association (POA) comes with some additional things you need to be aware of, as well as additional fees.
How will I know if a community is an HOA?
In Virginia when you sign a contract to purchase a home, your real estate agent or attorney will check off whether the home is located in an HOA, POA or condominium association. If you are working with a real estate agent you should know this ahead of time as they cover the neighborhoods you are looking at houses in, and they should be able to tell you the ins and outs of the community.
Once you put an offer on a house located in an HOA you will receive a copy of all paperwork pertaining to the HOA. This will include the bylaws, rules, deeds of dedication, any lawsuits they are involved in, all fees homeowners have to pay, and any relevant issues with the home you are buying, such as whether or not there is a current rule infraction that needs to be fixed such as a deck that was put on without permission.
What Does an HOA Do?
HOAs manage the community and everything that is owned by the community that is not private property, such as roads, parks, playgrounds, pools, landscaping, entrance gates and often personnel that work for the community. Some HOAs hire outside management companies to do the work and others use volunteers from the community to manage through a board of directors that then may then hire specific individuals to carryout certain aspects of the work.
HOAs are mostly well known for enforcing rules on the appearance of homes and property. This can be appreciated by neighbors or not liked very much when you want to choose a different paint color. The rules are voted on by the board or when the deeds were established by the original developer, and can typically be changed by a vote of the members. These rules and the ability to change them will be outlined in the HOA book you receive when you place an offer on a home. It is important to review this information to make sure you can abide by the rules.
There are typically monthly, quarterly or yearly HOA dues that each owner in the community pays in order for the HOA to do the management and maintain the property. There may also be a one time fee when moving in that is put in the general fund for ongoing expenses. Each year a new budget will be proposed by the management team and dues can change at this time based on the budget. HOA dues can only be raised 15% each year by law in VA.
In Virginia special assessments can also be included for large expenditures that are not typical, for instance if the roads in a community need redone all at once, a special assessment can be approved on top of the normal HOA dues. Special assessments are not limited by law.
When you are considering a home in an HOA make sure you review all documents and ask your agent any questions. Compare the fees and what they include, sometimes the fees are far less than you would pay for individual services. For instance, some condo fees might cover cable TV or Internet service for much less.