Learn about your homeowner's association before you buy
The law presumes that if you've signed a contract, you've read, understood and accepted everything in it, says author Evan McKenzie. If you drive through a development and don't see any RVs or basketball hoops, odds are they're not allowed, and judges aren't sympathetic. Here is some of his advice for those considering a home that comes with a homeowner's association (HOA) attached:
- Ask for the most recent copy of the associations covenants, conditions and regulations before you close the deal. For example, McKenzie says, You'd better find out if they've got a rule that says you cant have more than one dog and you have two.
- Insist on seeing the financial statements for an account of where your money goes. Accounting is critical, and you want some assurance that theyre doing the books correctly, McKenzie says.
- Inquire specifically whether any pricey assessments are currently pending or being contemplated for example, relining the pool or repaving all of the neighborhood streets. Owners sometimes try to sell if they know theres a special assessment coming, McKenzie warns.
- Check to see if the HOA is currently involved in or has a history of litigation. If youre in an HOA thats suing someone, it can make life miserable for everyone pretty quickly in terms of legal fees and harmony, he says.
- Find out who runs the association. Do the officers and members neighbors like and respect them or think theyre power-hungry and isolated?
- Assess the current political and social environment. For example, are neighbors harmonious or in a state of turmoil?
- Ask if there has been a recent reserve study. The association should commission this study every few years to ensure that enough money has been set aside to pay for large repairs.
- Make a point of meeting the association president. Ask him or her if theres anything you need to know about living there before you buy.
- Find out how often meetings are held. Are they open to any association member?
- Ask for a copy of meeting minutes for the past year or two. Read through them to discover the general nature of the meetings and how adversarial topics are handled.