If are considering the purchase of a home in a Northern VA subdivision, chances are that the home is part of a homeowners’ association, or HOA. The question for some homebuyers and particularly first time homebuyers is, what exactly does this mean? Here’s some answers to the most frequently asked questions about, what to expect from an HOA in Northern VA:
The purpose of an HOA?
Home owners association are responsible for enforcing the rules (a.k.a by-laws) regarding the properties within that subdivision. An HOA will ensure that everyone in the community maintains the appearance and good care of their property. As a result, homeowners will never need worry about an unkempt property lowering the value of the other homes. HOA’s are also responsible for maintaining any common areas including pools, sport courts, or common use land if there are any for community use.
What rules need to be follow?
The by-laws homeowners must follow will vary, but some common examples of HOA rules include restrictions on:
- Types of fences and location
- Types of pets
- Types of mailboxes and location
- The color of the home’s exterior
- The condition of the home’s exterior
- The color of the front door
- Installation and location of a visible satellite dish
- Having a basketball hoop or other recreational equipment in your front yard
- Window coverings visible from the street
- Approval of any exterior update or remodel
These by-laws are established and enforced to ensure all homes maintain a certain appearance by restricting what homeowners can and cannot do on their property. If you are interested in buying a home in an HOA community, it is required that the home seller provide you the most up to date HOA bylaws and financials. This is called the HOA resale documents, and you need to make sure you are comfortable with the restrictions set by the HOA.
Why do I pay the HOA?
Northern VA homeowners that live in HOA communities must pay fees either monthly, quarterly, or annually. The fees will vary depending on the community and how many amenities the community offers its homeowners.
The money paid by homeowners is used to maintain landscaping, common areas, and the amenities within the community. For example, a community center that includes a pool, fitness center, tennis courts, and party room must be staffed and maintained. The HOA Fees would be used to maintain the center and ensure it is fully staffed.
In Northern VA the fees very greatly, and with more amenities, you can expect higher fees.
Can the HOA charge additional fees?
Short answer is, YES.
An HOA may require homeowners to pay additional fee’s in addition to the normal monthly or quarterly fee. This should only be done when the HOA does not have enough money saved to cover the cost of a needed repair.
For example, let’s say the pool lining for the community needs to be replaced and the cash reserves are not enough to pay for the repair. The pool must be replaced right away to avoid further damage, so the HOA decides to charge homeowners an additional fee to raise more money. In this case, the HOA is justified in its decision to charge homeowners another fee since the money will be used to make necessary repairs.
Who is in charge of the HOA?
In many Northern VA communities, the residents serve as board member of the HOA. They association, may hire an individual and/or staff to run day to day operations or hire a third party company. The much larger communities often decide to hire an independent residential property management company to take control of the HOA instead of handing this power over to someone in the neighborhood.
What happens if I violate the HOA’s rules?
Homeowners in violation of HOA by-laws or who fail to pay fees can be fined. If the homeowner continues to violate the rules or miss payments, the HOA may put a lien on the property or file a lawsuit against the homeowner. Of course, this depends on the specific rules and regulations of the specific HOA.
If you are in a dispute with your HOA, it’s best to try to resolve it with them directly. Meet with the head of the HOA and ask for a hearing on the matter so you have explain your side of the story and the reason for your violation.
Homeowner associations in Northern VA can offer amenities to improve your lifestyle and rules to help all homeowners help maintain homes value. They can also be restrictive to what you can and can’t do with your own home. When you buy a home in an HOA, make sure you receive the resale documents and immediately review the bylaws, financials, and recent meeting minutes. You want to make sure you can comfortable with the restrictions and fees.
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