You may think like many people do that because you’re buying a single family home that you don’t have to worry about an HOA but that’s not so. Although homeowners’ associations are more commonly associated with condos, when you buy in College Station, there’s a good chance you may wind up with an HOA to answer to. Here’s what you need to know before you buy.
What is an HOA?
A homeowner’s association is literally what it sounds like – it’s a group of homeowners who get together to create laws to govern a certain set of properties within a community. All HOAs have CCRs or Covenant, Conditions, and Restrictions; guidelines that residents have to abide by or they could get kicked out of their homes.
Depending on the type of person you are and the type of HOA that manages your community, you may find your HOA unreasonable, too intrusive, with many even dictating how long you can have overnight guests. So even though you own the property, your castle is your castle in so far as your CCR will allow you to go.
5 Benefits of an HOA
That begs the question, why would anyone want to buy a house where they have to answer to an HOA about whether or not they can install a swimming pool or put up holiday decorations. For the same reason you buy a home anywhere – because you fell in love with the house.
Before you buy a house or condo in a particular community, find out if it is governed by an HOA and if so, find out what kind of HOA they are. Here are the 5 main benefits you should look for in your neighborhood’s HOA.
#1: Well-Kept Grounds and Facilities
Part of the fees you’ll pay to the HOA every month is dedicated to the upkeep and maintenance of the grounds. The average HOA fee can be as low as $150 per month or as high as $350.
Drive around the properties governed by your prospective HOA. Are the grounds well-kept? Is there litter or dog feces everywhere? Get out of the car and walk around to get a really good feel for how well your HOA will maintain the property.
#2: 24-Hour Security Patrolling the Community
Many HOA communities are gated but just as many are not. It may be a group of homes that on the outside would appear to have nothing in common as single family homes but could be governed by the same HOA.
How well are the premises secured? Is there a gate with a patrol officer at the entry? Is the community patrolled mostly by cameras and not by foot/car patrol or vice versa? The best security will do both as well as 24 hour security and surveillance. Check back at different hours and days of the week as you’re deciding whether or not to buy to see if the grounds are consistently well protected and not only for show during the day.
#3: Proactive and Responsive Maintenance and Repairs
Anyone who has ever lived in an apartment knows how frustrating it can be to deal with an unresponsive maintenance staff. For your fees you should expect prompt repairs and maintenance, not just to your unit or home, but to the grounds as a whole.
When you drive around, are there neighborhood lights that are out? Are signs defaced or broken? These can be tell-tell signs that your HOA’s maintenance and repair team is not very responsive.
#4: Great Community Perks and Amenities
Not everyone who belongs to an HOA is a joiner but if you are, one of the big benefits of an HOA is the community perks and amenities. A home governed by an HOA will likely have a community park and the HOA often hosts several community-wide events each year.
What are the community perks like? What kind of amenities does the HOA provide to residents? However importantly you rank these things, they should factor into your decision about whether or not to buy a home in College Station with an HOA.
#5: HOA Fees Pay for Free Cable or Wi-Fi
Many HOAs will give you extras for your monthly fees like free cable and Wi-Fi. You will find some that have special discounts with local vendors like gyms, restaurants, and grocery stores too.
Does the HOA offer freebies that you would actually use? Are they worth a particularly high monthly HOA fee?
5 Things to Look for in an HOA
Besides knowing what benefits to look for, when buying in an HOA there are certain features and actions of your board that should guide your decision. When weighing all of the benefits, make sure to weigh them against these 5 equally important things to look for in an HOA.
#1: Positive/Healthy Financial Statements – The HOA has to make financial records available to prospective tenants but few think to ask for them. Make sure that your prospective HOA is forthcoming with their financial statements and that your fees are well managed.
#2: Reasonable CCR (Restrictions) – When you join an HOA you have to agree to the CCR which is basically a formal document detailing community guidelines and restrictions. Some of the typical things that are limited or forbidden by HOAs include pets, painting or making renovations to interiors and or exteriors, parking, types of visitors or lengths of stay permitted by guests, etc.
You can ask for a copy of the HOA’s CCR before you decide to buy. You should do that and see if there are any restrictions that you cannot live with beforehand.
#3: Limited HOA Fee Increases – Once you buy in an HOA and agree to the fees, over time, those fees may steadily increase. In fact, some HOAs include regular fee increases. However, they should be minimal. Ask about any major increases for residential projects in the near future that are anticipated so that you know exactly what you’ll be out each month and prepared for big hikes later on.
#4: Legal Track Record of HOA – Some HOAs are so nitpicky that they find themselves in court all of the time being sued by residents who were ejected for rule violations or to kick residents out for violating rules. How often is that happening and how often is the HOA in the wrong?
#5: Reputation of the HOA – Bad HOA boards tend to earn a bad reputation in the community. Instead of finding out the hard way after you’ve already signed the deed, take a walk around your prospective community and talk to the neighbors about the HOA – go outside of the community even to get an outsider’s opinion.
Some College Station Neighborhood HOAs
Your prospective College Station home may be in an HOA community. Here we have two online sources that will help you identify and learn more about HOAs in College Station. The first is the Neighborhood Partnership Program; a community-wide program aimed at positive community building.
There they maintain a comprehensive database of all of the different homeowners associations in the area. You can get all kinds of information about planned projects, upcoming hearings, and community events.
We also have the HOA Partners who manage a broad selection of HOA communities in College Station. Here you can find budget summaries, CCRs, and financial statements for HOAs associated with HOA Partners.
Emerald Forest HOA – Single Family Subdivision
Emerald Forest is a good example of an HOA that governs single family homes within a particular subdivision. Their website spells out many of the restrictions imposed by the HOA and includes a tenant portal for paying HOA dues. Select the documents tab to take a look at phase maps, deed restrictions, meeting minutes, HOA by-laws, and more.
The Traditions – Highly Restrictive with Championship Golf Courses
The Traditions is an example of why people are willing to put up with sometimes unreasonable restrictions in order to live in a certain community. The Traditions is a private community with its own championship level golf club. Members have to abide by a 69 page CCR with dozens of deed restrictions.
Spring Meadows – Single Family Homes with a Park
Spring Meadows is one of those HOA communities that work to foster a community environment. In order to see their 34 page CCR and deed restrictions you have to have a member login. Your CCR is mailed to you once you buy. If you are thinking about moving here, ask them for those details up front.
Castle Gate (and Castle Gate II)
A second phase of this development is going up, but Caste Gate is governed by a 31 page CCR. They are also members of the HOA partners so you can get detailed information about their CCR, financials, and budgets going back several years from the HOA Partners website.