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Deb Staley

JoCo KS Specialist

Homes Associations -- hate ’em or love ’em

Most of my buyers have strong feelings about homes associations. Hardly anyone is “independent” on their opinion of HOAs.

I’ve owned four homes and two were a part of a homes association. I was even a member of the board of one of the HOAs, and learned a lot. As Secretary of the HOA for ten years, my job was to keep board meeting minutes, notify residents of events and official meetings, and file liens with the county when residents didn’t pay their fees.

Originally, homes associations were formed to provide services that cities did not have. Trash service would be a good example of that. At my last home, the HOA provided trash service. Where I live now, there is no HOA, so I pay twice as much for trash service as the people in the surrounding subdivisions do (where there is an HOA).

Monument signs for the subdivisions are maintained by the HOA. Sometimes they are quite fancy and a real addition to the neighborhood. Your friends and family will be impressed by monuments that have sculpture, plants, and nice lighting. Where I live now, with no HOA, the monument signs look like crap. They are 40 years old and the city says they don’t take care of them.

Some HOAs have wonderful amenities like a neighborhood pool, play area, picnic area, walking trail, and more. Dues will be higher in those HOAs, of course.

The biggest objection I get about HOAs is that people feel the board members are “control freaks” and want to tell you how to live. That is certainly true of a few HOA boards, and even some cities here in Johnson County, Kansas, but it is not the case with the vast majority of HOAs.

In my experience as an HOA board member, I learned that it is a thankless, non-paying job. The people who volunteer for the board have to hear a lot of complaints from residents of the subdivision, and most of the complaints are actually city code violations.

Common issues with HOAs:

  • Storage sheds—many won’t allow these.
  • Play houses—you hear about problems with HOAs and play houses all the time.
  • Paint colors, roof materials, and fences—there will likely be rules about these.
  • Pets—there may be restrictions on those, but this is usually a city code issue.

Common issues with cities:

  • Trash containers—some cities require that these be inside the garage or behind a fence.
  • Service vans—if you drive one, the city may not let you park it outside—even in your driveway.
  • Snow—the city will probably require that you shovel a sidewalk that is in front of your home.
  • Cars on the street—will definitely be a problem if you have an extra vehicle that you always park there.

When purchasing a home, make sure you have a chance to review the HOA documents first. Also check the city codes. Both of these can be difficult to read, but it is super important that you do so! You have to be sure that you can live with the rules, because you won’t change them. Don’t choose to live somewhere that just goes against your grain! If you don’t like what you see, just move on.

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