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Freedom Rules! When There Are Less Rules.

As we look forward to celebrating the fourth of July and the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, it may come as a surprise that some homeowners have intentionally given up some of their private property rights.

Buying in a community with recorded covenants or a homeowner’s association (HOA) means the property owners have voluntarily given up some of their individual rights in exchange for a more consistent community look.

If you don’t like someone else telling you what color you can paint your home or how to landscape your yard, buying a home in a neighborhood without a Homeowner’s Association and the corresponding rules and covenants may be the best fit for you.

The Case For Homeowner Associations

Some people prefer an HOA neighborhood because they feel it protects their property values from having a rogue owner next door who paints their home a crazy color like purple polka dots, or a neighbor who parks broken down cars in the front yard. Other folks think private property rights to do what they want with their own property is simply the American way, and they are not going to give up any decision making on their property to an elected HOA board.

Typical HOA restrictions may include the color of the exterior paint, roof color, landscaping, and hardscapes or outdoor living spaces, like installation of a pool, playground or outdoor fireplace. Some HOA’s also dictate approval for yard art, mailbox style, parking of boats and campers, and colors of window treatments visible from the street. Others require garage doors stay closed, and some mandate that trash cans stay out of view from the street and be moved off the street as soon as trash is collected.

When buying in a community with an HOA, buyers should ideally review the covenants and any amendments to the covenants, as well as a current budget for the HOA prior to making an offer or at least prior to the end of due diligence. Covenants are a publicly available document recorded at the local courthouse and often available online.

Some communities have voluntary HOA’s or just simple covenants without an HOA. If there are covenants but no HOA, that means there is no official committee structure for leadership or enforcement. In such a case, individual owners must enforce the covenants themselves, which can require going to small claims court.

Live & Let Live

For the folks who prefer to ‘live and let live’, avoiding an HOA or covenants is often the best choice.

For those who like a more organized and consistent look, an HOA can be a positive way to achieve that goal.

When clients ask us which is better – an HOA or no HOA, we say just like all things American, every individual has their own preference and opinion, which is what makes the U.S. a great place to call home!

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