For Home Buyers: 21 Questions to Ask the Homeowner's Association
I'm always seeking great information to share with home buyers, home sellers, and home owners. The post below is comprised of a great list of questions for home-buyers to ask the Homeowners Association. In North Carolina, Sellers, Builders, or the Realtor will generally provide the covenants & restrictions, the cost of the HOA, and what is covered. I would guess only a small percentage of people read through these ever and especially before closing.
Perhaps nothing on this list or in the covenants & restrictions will be an issue. That is probably the case with most. But, if it is, there isn't much you can do.
I try to listen for trigger comments. One of the most common I hear pertains to putting up a fence. When I hear buyers talking about that, I mention they would need to get permission from the HOA. I also tell them that if it is a deal breaker, they should find out beforehand. Some have large dogs and want 6 foot fences. A lot of HOA's don't allow 6 ft. fences.
Make certain you scroll down and read the 21 Questions to Ask a Homeowners Association by Jackie Connelly-Fornuff. I've added a couple Bonus Questions that I am aware of for the Raleigh - Cary - Durham - Chapel Hill areas.
Bonus Questions to ask a Homeowners Association:
A. Can I put up a fence? Can I put up a 6 ft. fence? What style of fence can I put up (i.e. iron, plastic, ranch style, etc.)
B. Can I change the mailbox to a prettier, decorative, different color?
C. Can I remove those trees in the yard?
D. Can I replace my grass with low maintenance wood chips, a dormant grass, or artificial turf? FYI: Artificial turn isn't common in our area but, I have seen a couple homes with it. I understand it is common in other parts of the country.
E. Can I put a swimming pool in the backyard?
F. Can I put a trampoline in the backyard?
G. Can I put a fire-pit in the yard?
H. Can I put a play-set in the yard?
**Just because neighbors have done it doesn't mean it is OK. Some neighborhoods in the Raleigh - Durham area are made of of different sections that were recorded separately. It is possible the restrictions were changed or some sections were grandfathered in.
21 Questions to Ask the Homeowner's Association
Homeowner's Associations. Love 'em or hate 'em. There is a stigma with them. My HOA where I live is cooperative and fair. No one on my HOA board have "power" issues.
I have also found that buyers are sometimes not aware about certain rules and regulations. That starts with the real estate agent and a buyer's attorney should bring that up as well.
If you are thinking of buying a home in a Homeowner's Association below are questions you should be asking. Some HOA's are condos and some are single family homes so the questions below may not always pertain to the HOA development you are interested in:
- Are there pet restrictions? If not, make sure to also ask if there is a pet weight limit restriction. Some HOA's have a pet weight maximum of 30 pounds or less. Also ask if there are breed restrictions.
- Are holiday decorations restricted? Also ask if there is a time limit of how long decorations can stay up.
- Is there guest parking and where is that located?
- Are outside alterations to the home allowed?
- Have homeowners been assessed for repairs in the last 10 years? 5 years? Last year? If the answer is yes, find out what repairs were done and the assessment amount(s) per homeowner.
- Is the HOA development FHA approved? Some are not FHA approved so this needs to be asked before you see the home. Also, you can search yourself for condos that are FHA approved on HUD's website.
- Are rentals allowed? Some HOA developments only want owner occupied homes.
- Are guests allowed in the community pool? Some have community pools so it's a good idea to find out if guests are allowed and how many at one time. If yes, there may be only certain days that your guests are allowed in the pool.
- Who is responsible for the roof? This question pertains to homes that are attached and not detached homes. You will find this with condo developments.
- How many parking spaces are given? Some developments have parking space limits. Some only allow 1 car per registered owner. Some only allow 1 car and others have to park elsewhere on the property.
- Can you plant flowers? Sounds like a nutty question but some actually do not allow you to plant your own flowers and/or hang flowers in baskets by your front door or on your deck.
- Are there age restrictions? Always find out before seeing a home if it's in a 55 and over development. If you want a 55 and over development ask about the age restriction minimum for the second owner that will live there. Some have it where the first person is 55 and over and the minimum age of the second person is 45. Some will not even allow a person under 45 to stay there at all. Example, let's say a person that is 55 has a child in college that will live there only in the Summer since they are away at college for the rest of the year. Some 55+ communities will not allow that. Crazy isn't it?
- Does the HOA allow home businesses? If you run a business from home find out if some businesses or all are prohibited.
- Can I store my boat or RV on the premises?
- Are there restrictions for commercial vehicles?
- How many times in the last 5 years have the homeowner's dues been raised and what is the current homeowner's dues?
- Are there any current litigations pending involving the HOA? If yes, find out what the lawsuit is about. You may want your attorney to call the board president to discuss any lawsuits pending.
- Do we have to keep to a certain color of paint for the outside of the house and front door?
- Are For Sale signs allowed in front of the house? Most will say no but always good to ask. Ask about other signage regulations.
- Are there smoking regulations?
- Are grills allowed? Some will not allow open flame grills.
I know I covered most of the questions for HOA's. Always ask for a list of their restrictions before buying in an HOA.
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