Are you in the market for a new home? There are many things to consider before deciding where you will live such as location, access to major highways or interstates, distance to work, quality of schools, the list goes on. But one factor you should be careful not to overlook is the homeowners association.

Thousands of Americans live in HOA communities throughout the country, and no two are exactly the same. Just because you previously lived in an HOA community does not mean that your new neighborhood will be run the same way. Rules, regulations, fees, and amenities change from place to place depending on their needs.

Here are a few things to consider as you compare your options:

  • Financial Management: Review available financial statements for the HOA. Is the reserve fully funded? Have there been recent special assessments? How have dues changed over the past several years? Are there any major projects coming up? You want to ensure that the organization is managing its funds effectively to meet the needs of the community now and in the future – and that you’re prepared to pay required dues.
  • Amenities: This may not seem that important, but pay attention to what you are getting in return for your annual dues. Do you have kids that love to swim? Are you an avid tennis player? Will you need a business center as an option for working remotely? Check to see what is included. On the flip side, if there are a lot of features you know you won’t be using, don’t forget that you’re still paying for them.
  • Rules and Regulations: Make sure you read the rules to find out what is and is not permissible. If you have your heart set on raising chickens in the backyard but that’s against the rules, you may want to look elsewhere. At the same time, if you’re adamant that your neighbor not be raising chickens in their backyard, these rules could be a good thing. It all depends on your lifestyle and what your plans are for your home and yard, so doublecheck to see if there are any deal breakers or if you can compromise.

It can also be a good idea to read previous newsletters, review meeting minutes, and talk to current homeowners to get their input. This can give you a better feel for the community and how you might fit in. Buying a house is a big investment, so you want to find a neighborhood you’re happy to call home.

Many HOAs work with a property management company like Kuester that assists with communication, administrative tasks, managing finances, working with vendors, and much more. This can create a more peaceable and well-run organization and ensure that there is someone available to answer questions or address issues that arise. Do your research when it comes to buying a home in an HOA community.

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