A homeowners’ association or condominium owners’ association is a group that consists of all of the residents of a certain community area or condo development. Such associations usually entail fees and covenants with which you must comply in exchange for access to or partial ownership in common facilities and areas. Typically, there is a council or board of directors that makes decisions regarding rules and use of facilities by association members.
Obviously if you are thinking about buying a single-family home or a condominium with an accompanying association, you’ll need to factor monthly or annual association fees into your budget, as they are separate from your mortgage payments. You’ll want to be sure to understand whether these fees are static or how they might change over time.
Here are a few of the amenities that you might enjoy when you belong to a community association:
Access to shared common facilities, such as swimming pools, playgrounds, fitness centers, tennis courts, and clubhouses.
Condo association fees generally include upkeep of exterior features like sidewalks, utilities, landscaping, and common areas.
Trash removal and recycling may be included in your association fees.
As a member of the association, you may have a vote in decisions made by the association as well as a voice in electing council or board members.
In gated communities, association fees may also pay for gate maintenance or security officers, adding a sense of security to the community.
Some associations also maintain a management company on- or off-site to handle property sales as well as to look after maintenance issues.
Homeowners’ and condo associations may also impose fines on those members who don’t comply with rules regarding fee payment or expectations about property upkeep, ensuring that the community maintains its aesthetic appeal.
Most homeowners who join an association enjoy the added security, sense of community, and amenities that their fees afford them. If you are thinking about moving into a community with an association, you’ll want to make sure you understand all of the rights and responsibilities that accompany association membership. It’s a good idea to take the extra step of getting a “feel” for other community members so that you know that it’s the type of place you would enjoy living.
Your real estate agent will know the market and area where you are looking to buy, and can be a resource to help you understand the type of experience you can expect from buying a property with an attached association as well as any restrictions that may apply to be aware of. Be sure to ask about the specifics of the community in which you are hoping to buy. Good luck!