An “HOA community” refers to any single family neighborhood, townhome community or condominium building that has a homeowner’s association (HOA). There are pros and cons to having an HOA, and in the case of a townhome or condominium, you will have no choice about living with and HOA. In Atlanta, it is possible to find older, single family communities where there is no HOA. Newer construction neighborhoods are almost sure to have an HOA, and there are older communities where they have keep the HOA active.
You will want to find out as much information as you can (usually during the Due Diligence period of your Purchase Contract) about the HOA and the various rules and regulations that will govern you living there. One of those considerations is the monthly or annual cost for the HOA and what is included.
What is a HOA?
The purpose of an HOA is to provide for the rules of common areas, and how those areas are maintained and paid for. In a single family community, this could be as simple as the landscaping at the entrance to the subdivision to as extensive as maintenance fees for a pool, clubhouse, park or more. Condominium HOA’s cover the common areas of the entire building which can be the exterior of the building, to the parking deck, amenities like a pool, gym and club room as well as maintenance of the overall building.
When an HOA is created, a number of legal documents create it, and it is registered with the State of Georgia. The association will have Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, also known as CC&R’s. In a condo/townhome community in Georgia, you may often hear them simply referred to as the Condo Docs. There can be other documents that are an important part of the Condo Docs, including the Annual Budget, HOA Minutes and possibly a separate Rules and Regulations document.
These documents outline the structure of the HOA as well as the limitations that can be placed on your property.
An HOA will charge a monthly (or annual) fee to maintain these common areas and enforce the other rules and regulations. These cost vary widely based on what the HOA is responsible for. The monthly fee could be as low as $150 and in luxury condo buildings the fee could be well over $1,000 per month.
The Pro’s of an HOA Community
An HOA in a single family neighborhood will vary greatly from that of a condominium building. So let’s look at them separately.
In a single family neighborhood, the HOA can have regulations ranging from landscaping to exterior colors on your home. Adding a fence, removing a portion of your lawn for a new landscape bed…could require approval from the HOA. Granted, to some this may sound very restrictive when it is YOUR home, but with such rules you don’t end up living next to a neighbor that decides to paint their house purple and gold! Or removes a large section of the yard for additional parking spaces.
It is rare to find an HOA community in Atlanta that provides for lawn maintenance, but they do exist.
If your community has a pool, an entrance sign, or any other type of “common” amenity, whereby any resident can use it, this will be part of your HOA fee. You use these amenities, but the cost to maintain them is covered by the HOA.
In a condominium building, any major interior changes/renovations you want to make have to be approved by the ARC. (Architectural Review Committee) Why? Because you share walls with a neighbor on either side of you, as well as above and below you, there will be plumbing and electrical in the walls that may not service your condo. A contractor may not know the location of these, and a catastrophic event can occur that can cause damage the any number of homes. (think water pipe!)
Your monthly HOA bill will cover expenses ranging from the Concierge you have in the lobby to maintaining and cleaning the hallways, clubroom, etc. Other services like trash, insurance for the building and some utilities are usually included. As an example some buildings pay for your water and sewer charges as part of your monthly bill, and others do not.
This fee can seem high to many buyers, but you have to think if you have a single family home, you are responsible to mow the yard, repair or replace your roof when needed, and you may not even have a pool or other amenities.
The Cons of an HOA Community
The first big one might be the cost. If you are not the type of person that uses the gym, club room or pool, you might feel like this expense is unnecessary.
In a condo building, you are literally just a few feet away from the next door neighbor. If they have that killer surround system to watch movies, or listen to music, you might hear it as well. Or maybe they are up at night when you want to sleep. Now, you won’t hear most normal noises, but some of these can be a problem. And the HOA is not always successful in resolving such issues, but if there are those Rules and Regulations we mentioned before, the HOA can assess a fine for excessive behavior.
Speaking of rules…..there can be a lot of them. How big of a dog you can have, as well as how many? What you can and cannot have on a balcony? When you can move in or out?
Renovations? In a single family community you may need approval to add any kind of addition to your home. Interior renovations can most likely be done without approval, but remember to check with the local city government for any needed permits to do construction. We already mentioned the need for approval in a condo building.
Limited privacy can be a concern. But you can live in a condo and literally never meet your neighbors next door or across the hall, based on when you come and go from your home. But they are also right there if you are out on your balcony. In a single family neighborhood, the HOA may know more about your business as they watch for any violations as well as the need to have certain things approved.
Is Living in an HOA Community your Thing?
Well, if you want an urban lifestyle like Midtown Atlanta or Buckhead, you most likely won’t have much of a choice…those high rise buildings will have an HOA. But if you want to be able to landscape your yard as you see fit, or paint your house purple and gold, an HOA community may not be the place for you.
As a side note, just because there is not an HOA, does not mean that a local city government does not have ordinances that restrict what you can do. And example would be zoning that dictates how and where you can build a fence and out of what materials.
Know Before You Go
As you purchase a home or condo, there is a lot to consider, and the HOA is one part. This is why you want to make sure your Purchase and Sale Agreement has a stipulation that the Condo Docs, or HOA documents are provide to you to review before you purchase. Each of our contracts contains the following:
SELLER TO PROVIDE FULLY RECORDED COPY OF CONDOMINIUM DOCUMENTS, CURRENT ANNUAL BUDGET AND LAST SIX (6) MONTHS HOA BOARD MEETING MINUTES TO BUYER WITHIN THREE DAYS OF BINDING AGREEMENT DATE.
Another great way to learn about the community is talk to other residents. In a single family community, you can drive through and just stop and talk with people you see to learn more about what the neighborhood is like. You can do the same for a condo building if you already know someone that is living there.
You may not think you need it, but that pool on a hot summer day in August may seem pretty nice!