Have you ever taken a new job, only to be handed a policy and procedure manual to memorize? Some employers require employees to sign a statement that they have read and fully understand and abide by all of the policies. Buying into a homeowners association (HOA) has similar implications – whether or not you read the rules in advance they still apply to you and can be legally enforced. Thus, I consider it wise for any prospective home buyer to review the community rules and restrictions before making an offer on a new home.
HOAs have become more sophisticated and technology savvy. Many have websites that post most of these documents for anyone to review. Familiarize yourself with the website and work with your real estate agent to find a compatible community for your lifestyle. Community associations aren’t for everyone, and not all communities are a match for every buyer. Once you purchase a home governed by a homeowners association, membership and assessments are mandatory.
All prospective homeowners should know if there are association restrictions on pets, flags, outside antennas, clotheslines, fences, parking, rental homes and home businesses. Investigate financial issues such as the annual budget, how it compares to similar communities and whether there is a viable reserve fund to cover long-term maintenance and repairs. Know how much assessments are, when they are due and what they cover. Planning to renovate after buying? Make sure you know the architectural guidelines, and budget enough time to submit plans for approval. In communities with high foreclosure rates, inquire about the current delinquency rate of HOA assessments. And, since some homes belong to more than one association, make sure you research each association that governs your property.
By state law the association is required to provide a Planned Community Disclosure Statement to all new homeowners, as well as all relevant documents such as the by-laws, articles of incorporation and the Declaration of the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (“CCRs”). Keep these documents in a separate file or notebook so that you can reference them later.
Finally, once you’re in your new home, make the decision to get involved and informed. Attend board meetings, serve on a committee or even seek a seat on the association board. It’s your community, your investment and your home.
Katrina Shawver has lived in Ahwatukee Foothills for 25 years and recently served on the Ahwatukee Board of Management.