What You Should Know Before Buying in a Homeowners Association

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Before you buy in a Wilmington community with a homeowners association, there are a few things you need to know to make sure you’re buying in a community where you will be happy living. But first, you must understand what a homeowners association (HOA) is.

HOAs were first created to enforce and improve upon the restrictive covenants i.e. rules written for certain neighborhoods built in the 1940s. The covenants were intended to create a certain quality of lifestyle for the homeowners and at times included racial restrictions, which were later removed by the Fair Housing Act. Now, developers often create HOAs to handle maintenance of community common areas, especially those where federal mandates require certain features, like retention ponds for excess storm water runoff. HOA responsibilities are different from community to community, so it’s important to do your research before purchasing a home.

In North Carolina, when a homeowner lists their property for sale with a Realtor, they provide the contact information for the association manager or management company. Then you or your Realtor can obtain the HOA documents either through them or the listing agent. Those documents will provide most of the information described below.

Rules and Restrictions

When an HOA is created, the founding group, usually the developer, draws up a set of Rules and Restrictive Covenants. These rules can regulate everything from how garbage should be handled to where residents can park. This is probably the most important document from the HOA and should be thoroughly read before buying property in the community. It can be very disheartening to buy a home and discover later on you can’t park your boat in your driveway, repaint the exterior the color you want, mount a satellite dish on your home, etc. If you still aren’t sure about a community after looking at the rules and restrictions, try to get a copy of the last meeting’s minutes or speak with the neighbors.

Architectural Improvements

If you find yourself interested in a home that you may want to add on to or do some exterior improvements to, like adding a swimming pool, there’s a chance the homeowners association will need to approve your project. This usually requires filling out a request form and attending a meeting. However, there may be additional requirements. You should keep this in mind before purchasing and make sure you’re aware of all requirements and limitations.

Budget

You’ll want to know how the HOA board will handle the money. Monthly or quarterly fees usually cover the usual community expenses, like lawn care, common area taxes, pool maintenance, etc. However, what happens if an unexpected expense comes up, like a federally mandated improvement to the community water system or a new roof needed for the club house? It’s likely there will be another fee assessed, but you’ll want to be sure about that, so you aren’t surprised later with a bill.

Condo and Townhouse Owners Associations

If you’re buying a unit in a condo building or townhouse community, you should be aware that by sharing a common building, you have different rules and benefits than single family homeowners. Pest treatments, the master insurance, and exterior maintenance are often covered by the association, which can save you money. However, you should find out exactly what any group plan covers, including disaster insurance. You need to be aware where your responsibility as an owner ends and the Association’s begins. The defining line can be as small as a layer of paint.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to do your research before buying in a community with a homeowners association. If you buy in an association with the same values as you, it can make a huge difference in your level of happiness.

The Cameron Team would be happy to answer any questions you may have about homeowners associations in the Wilmington area. Give us a call at 910.202.2546 or send us a message through our Contact page.

About the Author
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meghanriley

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Meghan is the Client Care Coordinator for The Cameron Team and a published author of two young adult books.