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What to know before becoming homeowners' association members

It seems as though there are good and bad points to just about everything. The same is true for becoming homeowners' association members. When California residents search for a new home, it may help to understand the major pros and cons of HOAs before making a decision about a certain property.

One of the primary functions of an HOA is to maintain the common areas of the community. Those common areas could include anything from landscaping to pools to tennis and basketball courts. The HOA also ensures the community maintains some sense of uniformity. For instance, a neighbor cannot let the lawn become unruly or paint the house an odd color. If a neighbor does one of these things, or something else that violates the HOA's rules or CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions), the HOA can deal with the situation, which helps maintain goodwill among neighbors. 

These benefits come with a price, however. Periodically, homeowners must pay dues and may be subject to special assessments if the community needs something outside the norm. Homeowners must also go through the HOA's approval process before making certain changes to their homes, which could take a considerable amount of time and red tape. Finally, some HOA boards take their jobs a bit too seriously and can be overbearing.

For many homeowners' association members, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. It is often a matter of deciding what an individual buyer is willing to live with when it comes to rules. Making that decision could be easier with a thorough understanding of the rules and CC&Rs, but those documents often contain fine print and legalese not easily deciphered without knowledge of the law. Sitting down with an experienced California real estate attorney could help.

Source: realtor.com, "Pros and Cons of a Homeowners Association Every Buyer Should Consider", Terri Williams, March 15, 2018

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