Homeowners Associations

The recent thread on condo associations got me thinking about this, it’s something I wonder about.

I grew up in neighborhoods where homeowners associations didn’t exist, and all of my adult life I’ve lived in apartments. I’m still a few years away from being in a position to be able to purchase a home. However, I have friends that have had to deal with HAs, and I’ve not been happy with what I’ve heard.

I decided a long time ago that I will never buy a home where participation in a HA is mandatory, nor will I ever buy a condo. My basic attitude is this: it’s MY home. I won’t have some uppity group telling me what I can and can’t do with it. I’m not saying I would leave my Christmas lights up until Easter or fill my lawn with decaying vehicles, but dammit, I won’t have someone telling me I can’t. If I wanted this, I’d rent apartments for the rest of my life.

So my question is, how prevalent are HAs these days? How much will I be limiting my options with this attitude when it comes time to buy a house?

Good move.

We made the same decision.

Very and very.

It took a long time to find an acceptable house without one.

It was worth it.

It really depends on where you are. Around here in the DC area it’s hard to find a nice place without them though it can be done. Honestly I’ve never had a real problem with the ones I’ve lived in, but sometimes they do say stupid crap. We can’t have trucks here at all, none, unless they are doing work to your house. I bought a truck and left it overnight once and got a note about it. So trucks are out, but cars with busted windows, flat tires and such are ok. I always wondered if they could make us all buy BMWs or something like that.

I’m still waiting for them to say something about my antenna, our by-laws still say we can’t have them, but the FCC says otherwise. It has been a couple of years though so I think I’m safe.

I think it probably depends a lot on what you’re looking for, and where. The new 'burbs in Calgary are lousy with HOAs; the older neighbourhoods are not. We didn’t want a new house anyway, so it wasn’t really a concern when we were looking. The city you will be looking in might be different.

It depends on where you are. Here, if you want to live in town like a responsible civic minded adult it’s quite easy to find a nice old house without a homeowner’s association, although you may end up in a historic district and be restricted that way. If you want to live out in the suburbs and spend all day in your car, it would be difficult to avoid one. I think that’s fairly common.

I’ve lived in two different neighborhoods with HOAs, and had no problems with them. The fees were reasonable ($40 a year maybe?) and were spent on maintenance of the “common areas” - entrance signs, mowing of green areas, upkeep of stormwater detention basins. I’m not sure how that kind of stuff would be handled without one.

There’s pros and cons to both sides.

I once lived in a neighborhood with a pretty mild HOA. They never hassled me, and the neighborhood looked decent. Most of the regulations were things like “you can’t keep broken-down vehicles in front of your house” and “you can’t put up chain-link fences around your house.”

Then I moved across the country to a neighborhood without an HOA. I was fine with that; even though the previous HOA never bothered me, I figured it was better to live without anyone telling me what to do on my property.

I felt a little different when my neighbor parked his piece-of-crap rusted-out popup trailer directly outside my kitchen window. After looking at it for 2 years, I realized the advantages of HOAs.

Now I live in a house on a lot large enough that I can’t see either of my neighbors houses from anywhere in my yard. No HOA, but no need for one either. That’s the best situation.

After all the horror stories I’d heard about HOAs, mostly here, I was very concerned when was house-hunting a few years ago and found a very nice place which included a HOA. So before I put in an offer I made a point of talking to a few of my prospective neighbors to check it out. My realty agent also got me a copy of the HOA regulations, and didn’t see anything objectionable (mostly things like not being allowed to have a vegetable garden in my front yard). And I decided that it was worth paying the HOA fee to keep my grounds up instead of having to mow, mulch, and rake myself. Plus last year they replaced all the mailboxes on my street.

We’ve lived in 3 different HOA neighborhoods. The first one cost $25 per year and it was pretty much optional. As I recall, all the HOA did was host a Halloween carnival for the kids because the nature of the neighborhood was not conducive to Trick-or-Treating.

Second one was a bit more of a pain - we had to get approval to fence our yard. We knew what type of fence was allowed - the fencing company knew also, but we still had to go thru the crap of having the board vote on it. The fees for that one were high: $500/yr, but that included access to the pool, the “beach”, and snow removal, although we lived on a county road so the association wasn’t responsible for our road, the county was.

Third one was absolutely the worst. Only 48 houses - 1 street. The board was made up of several retirees who were country-club wanna-bes. They did *inspections *of all properties twice a year and they’d fine you if your lawn wasn’t perfect. You’d be fined if your garbage can was on the street 1 minute longer than the rules said. You’d be fined if you had a shed in your yard or a boat or RV that wasn’t kept in a closed garage. They tried to fine people for satellite dishes, but they got slapped down for that. I was never so glad as the day when we sold that house.

Never again. We have none here, and life is good.

When we built our house in a new neighbourhood in Calgary, there was no real HOA, and none of the other neighbourhoods had them either. This neighbourhood does have a fairly small yearly fee that goes towards common area maintenance and landscaping, but there are none of the rules and requirements that HOAs traditionally have.

In contrast, the neighbourhoods we’re looking at in San Diego do have traditional HOAs that require monthly payments. While those fees do go towards common area and pool maintenance, they also come with lots and lots of rules, and fines if the rules are broken. The rules can include things like which plants may be planted in gardens (to avoid fire hazards and invasive species), how long grass may be, whether you can have satellite dishes and other appearance-related items. For example, shortly after my inlaws moved into their new house, they received an official warning about a smallish dead spot on their front lawn. They fixed it to avoid a fine.

When we first learned about the real HOAs in San Diego, I thought them ridiculous and over-bearing. However, since our next-door neighbour in Calgary built a fence that is a completely different style than the rest of the fence it’s attached to, and then stained it red, I’m able to appreciate the need for HOA rules and regulations a heck of a lot more. I’m now looking forward to belonging to a real HOA.

Just about every neighborhood has one, especially one, like ours, build as a subdivision (in the mid-50s.) They do come across as a bit obnoxious at times, but on the plus side they have two pools and a nice park. They kept all the houses 1 story for quite a while, and I don’t mind them getting after someone making the place an eyesore.More people sin against them (vandalism in the park) than they ever bother. We haven’t had any issues in 13 years.

I live in the South and it seems to be about 50/50 around here, with many newer homes (but by no means all) in HOAs.
I have family that live in Arizona and it seems that pretty much any home built after about 1970 or so (i.e. about 90 percent of them) belongs to an HOA.
I’ve heard some horror stories about them, but mainly I just don’t want anyone telling me what I can or can’t do on my property and paying them for the privilege. Yeah, I understand there are local ordinances you have to follow and some basic maintenance and appearances that you would keep up with for the sake of neighborly. And I respect that. I’m not the type of person who’s going to put an engine block in my front yard or throw giant keggers at 2 a.m. But the last thing I want is some busybody nagging me about the kid leaving a tricyle in the driveway or me hanging an American flag out on the porch (and yes there are HOAs that will make a stink about Old Glory).

My favorite HOA story is when (Supreme Court Justice) Clarence Thomas’s father-in-law was being badgered about his American flag by his HOA. “No flags” policy dontcha know. Good times.

This was before a 2006 law that stopped HOAs from restricting the right to fly the American Flag. Yes, a Federal Law was apparently needed.

San Diego is overrun with HOAs. The place I used to live had semi-annual inspections of our garages, to insure we weren’t storing too much of our own personal stuff in them. We had to be able to fit two cars in the garage…even if we only had one car. That was just the tip of the iceberg. Glad I don’t live there anymore.

The San Diego Reader just had a cover story about them: Home Owner Association Horror Stories .

Most of our local HOA’s aren’t horrible on the restrictions - mostly they care about conformity of property appearance (can’t paint your house bright red). Some of them have restrictions on overnight street parking, and most have some restrictions about parking RV’s and such.

When I think of HOA’s, I always recall a Jerry Garcia line from an interview. He said that the Grateful Dead are like black licorice. People who like it really like it. People who don’t can’t stand it. HOA’s are kind of like that.