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An HOA. What is it? Do you need one? Are they worth it? What does it cost? So many questions about HOA’s come up when searching for a new home, particularly if you haven’t ever dealt with one before.

What is an HOA?

HOA stands for Home Owner’s Association. Basically, it’s a group of owner’s in a neighborhood who establish and enforce some rules about what can and can’t happen in a neighborhood. There’s a good definition and history lesson on Wikipedia if you want more details.

In a previous condo we were renting, there was an HOA for the community.  It had some pros and cons:

The good:

They arrange for all snow removal and take care of all landscaping

They regulate what kinds of things people are allowed to store on their patios and balconies. This is great because it keeps people from storing junk and garbage in semi-public spaces. Also, political signs are only allowed for the duration of the campaign, and all holiday decorations must be removed 1 week following the holiday.

They make sure all garbage is disposed of properly and enforce the recycling rules for the community

They do not allow non-functioning¬†or unlicensed vehicles to be parked in the community lots for more than 48 hours. I know this is a touchy subject for some, especially when they can’t afford repairs or licensing fees right away, but it also keeps people from parking junk cars they never intend to fix from rotting in place. I get both sides.

We didn’t pay any HOA fees because we were renters. The condo owner paid the fees and was responsible for the enforcement of the policies.

The bad:

Because we were renting from an owner, we had no say in the HOA changes and updates. They made decisions we had to comply with but had no say in. The plight of renters, I tell ya.

They regulate what kinds of things people are allowed to store on their patios and balconies. This is bad because they stopped allowing grills on balconies, so we had to get rid of ours. We were also out of town one Christmas and were late taking down our decorations by a day. We didn’t get fined, but we did get a nasty-gram taped to our door telling us to remove them or else.

What’s the Cost?

Cost for HOA dues varies. Like I said, we didn’t have to pay for it in the condo we rented, but some of the homes we’ve seen have HOA fees that range from $12 a month to $500 a month. The $500 a month one included landscaping, snow removal, paint and trim upkeep for the homes exteriors, water usage, pool and clubhouse maintenance fees, and a pool of money to be used for community parties.

The one for $12 a month didn’t include any services but did specify where people could park and that they were not allowed to have any broken down vehicles or trash piles in their front yards.

Are HOA’s worth it?

Depends on what you are looking for. I wouldn’t pay $500 a month in addition to my mortgage and other bills so a group of people I don’t really know can tell me which planters I’m allowed to use for my roses.

But I would pay $12 a month for someone to enforce some basic rules about keeping the neighborhood a clean place to live. We had neighbors on both sides of our last home who had so much garbage in their front yards that they were unable to get to their own driveways. It was creating a rat problem in the surrounding houses. I would pay an HOA to not have to deal with that again.


The home we are currently in the process of buying does not have an HOA in the community. For now, the area is clean and seems to be fairly well kept up. By that I mean there are no junked out cars randomly parked all over and there aren’t any visible garbage piles in front yards, which is all I ask. I don’t really care what color people want to paint their homes, or what plants or gnomes they prefer. I plan on a few plastic flamingoes myself, and no HOA is going to tell me no on those.

So, yeah, sometimes HOA’s are good. They can be stifling I think though, so it’s up to the home buyer to verify if there is an HOA and what the regulations are if there is. Can you live with the rules, or should you look elsewhere? Up to you really.

Stay tuned for more on our home buying journey!





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