For many homebuyers, a planned community can offer a number of benefits, but buying a house in a neighborhood with a homeowners’ association (HOA) can mean more than access to the community pool. Before committing to an HOA, there are a number of factors to consider to make sure it’s right for you.

Understanding the Fees
If you’ve found a community you like, work with your REALTOR to understand the fees. Some lenders report that the cost can impact your buying power, with a $100 monthly fee reducing your overall loan approval amount by as much as $10 to $20 thousand depending on your rate. Others argue that the fee covers items you’d otherwise pay for out of pocket after purchasing a home in a neighborhood not governed by an HOA.

The Benefits of an HOA
Depending on the specific community, an HOA can take some of the work out of owning a home. From lawn care and landscaping to certain repairs and even (sometimes) basic cable, associations offer a range of services for their members. Check with the HOA in the communities you’re considering to understand what exactly is included in the monthly fee.

Looking into the Restrictions
While there may be benefits that come from your membership, you’ll also want to understand the restrictions and bylaws that regulate the neighborhood. From limitations around exterior colors and lawn ornaments to parking parameters or restrictions on in-yard playground equipment, an HOA can have a big impact on what you’re able to do in a neighborhood.

Committing to an HOA
If you decide the benefits outweigh the restrictions, be sure you understand your rights as a homeowner before making an offer on a house. How can you petition the board? How do you raise a complaint? You may even consider asking if you can sit in on a meeting to get a feel for the neighborhood.

Work with an Expert
Finding a trusted real estate agent can be a big help in navigating the HOA waters before you decide to buy. Contact your local Benchmark office to get started. If you’re an agent looking to join a team that provides the best for their clients, you’ve come to the right place. Take our quick online assessment to see if you’d be a fit for the Benchmark team today.