You’re looking for a new home, but every new community seems to have an HOA fee.
Yes, it’s a fact, more new neighborhoods are going to have an HOA. Sure, you can still find great places without one, but you have to admit, they are becoming more prevalent. It can be a little scary, especially if you’ve heard some of the horror stories.
So what are you going to do about it? How about you start by being informed. HOA’s don’t need to be the big disturbing monster that they are made out to be.
At Leisure Villas, we’ve been building senior communities for active adults who are 55 and older for nearly twenty years. We’ve seen it all, and we can help you navigate your way through the practice of shared neighborhoods.
Naturally since we build mostly senior communities, we’ll tailor this discussion to those types of communities. But really, the information here can apply for the whole spectrum of HOA communities.
How much are HOA fees for the average senior community?
First thing to address, why even have an HOA at all?
You’re still active, and can handle the yardwork, right?
But why? Most people that have moved into our 55+ communities have been tending their yards for their whole lives. And if you stop and think about it, does it really make much sense?
By the time you pass 55, you are either nearing retirement, or you are retired. If you’re working, you’re probably at the higher end of your career pay scale. If this is the case, ask yourself, how much do you make per hour?
Okay, now, how much time do you find yourself laboring away on your landscaping, or your snow removal each week. At a bare minimum you’re losing an hour or two each week mowing. At the most, you’re losing multiple days each month trying to keep up with the yard.
The question is, how much was that time worth to you? I’m guessing that you could have hired a local kid to do it all for a price that you’d never consider working for yourself.
So why not just hire a kid to do all my mowing and landscaping. Why bother with an HOA. They’re just going to hire a property management company that will waste even more of my money.
Not so fast.
Legally, in Utah at least, HOA communities are required to provide more than just mowing services. In reality, if your HOA board is being run correctly, you might find that you save money by having an HOA.
So now, you’re curious. What all does an HOA do?
Every community is different. A lot of this is at the mercy of the developer before any house is ever built. Some places just have a small HOA that maintains the community parks or clubhouses, leaving your yard to you.
Other HOAs take care of everything from the inside of your home to the last tree on your street. Maybe to help you understand what can be included, we’ll walk you through one of our senior communities, and you can get a feel for all that we do.
This is the first and most obvious expense included in an HOA. Even if you live in a single family home community that has an HOA, or one of our senior communities that has multiple attached homes, there will be some degree of lawn care.
The grass around single family homes, homes that younger families tend to prefer, may not be included in the HOA’s maintenance plan. Younger families often do their own yardwork. But These types of communities still often have parks with lawns that need tending.
When you get to attached homes, then the boarders of the lots are too gray to distinguish. Instead, everyone’s yard is treated if not in principle, then in reality, as common yard. These types of arrangements will require a lawn-care plan for the entire building.
From trees and shrubs to flowers and sprinklers, most planned communities will have some features that no single homeowner has responsibility for. These areas significantly improve the overall look and feel of the neighborhood, and without an HOA, it’s only a matter of time before they fall to neglect.
Many cities will plow your roads when heavy snows come—sort of.
Have you ever driven down a road made more of ice and snow than asphalt? The cities often won’t plow roads for many reasons:
Maybe the city is on a tight budget or they’ve used all their budget with earlier storms. Maybe your road is too small to consider ahead of other major traffic areas. Then by the time they get to you, they’re unable to make a dent in the berg that’s resting in your burb. Maybe your street is a private street, then you can be sure the city will ignore you.
For us, we often have our HOA’s plow everything, from streets to driveways. Even your front walk. Your community may be a little different, but the more surfaces you plow, the more expensive the bill.
The bill also can go up depending on how often you have everything plowed. As a general rule of thumb, a community is most efficient if snow is plowed once for every 2”.
If you’ve got real picky homeowners that are allergic to snow, they may complain if they don’t hear shovels hitting concrete with the first flake. That can get expensive quickly.
Most HOAs have some form of amenities that require upkeep. From a little picnic pavilion to a full sized clubhouse or country club with spas, pools, exercise equipment, playgrounds, walking trails or more, amenities add a fun dimension to your neighborhood.
Your choice to live in a community will often hinge on the local amenities that match your desired lifestyle. Naturally the more amenities, the more expenses.
This is all good and well, but the next few items are often overlooked by many when they look at their bill.
Repairs, replacements, and reserve accounts
What am I talking about here? How about your road? Private streets are not fixed by the city. For that matter, neither are many of the interior water services attached to those private streets.
Many HOAs are also responsible for the exteriors of your homes. Not all, but many. So what if you get to the end of the life on your shingles, and everyone’s shingles need replacing?
Or what about that trendy board and batten or clapboard that needs repainting every ten or twenty years.
There are so many issues that are subdivision specific that are very expensive to replace when their time is up. If your HOA is responsible for them, then you’ll have to pay for them. A lot of horror stories come from this very problem.
Luckily the laws have been modified to accommodate this. Before, you might move into an HOA community, then find out that a major expense needed to take place, and your HOA would levy a “special assessment” onto your HOA bill until the fix was finished. These could range from an extra $20 each month for a year to and extra $2000 dollars per month for a year.
Now days, HOAs are require to do studies that will help predict when these problems are likely to surface, and they are required to build up a reserve account so that you aren’t suddenly hit down the road with an unexpectedly large monthly payment.
Without an HOA to plan these expenses, then wisely fill a reserve account, it would be like you living on your own, then finding out that your whole roof needed replacing. Without having budgeted for this in advance, you could find yourself visiting your checkbook and wondering how on earth you might pay for such a repair.
Did you know that in Utah, HOAs over attached homes are now required to provide insurance on that home?
This isn’t just your cheapo dismemberment policy like your credit union offers. The HOA must insure the entire building. This is because fire or water damage has the potential to affect more than just the home it started in.
So while this may add an expense to your HOA bill, it offsets your personal homeowner insurance liabilities. All you need now is your own cheapo insurance to cover your personal belongings—a renters type policy.
Where-ever the city will allow it, it is in your best interest to have your HOA responsible for garbage removal.
Why? Because garbage removal is a large profit center for most cities. If you are able to hire out a non-city sponsored garbage removal company, you can save money.
So while this will add to your HOA bill, you’ll really be saving money because you’ll be paying less overall.
Unless your board wants to donate all their time, or put together a committee to micromanage every detail of your community, you might want to consider a property manager. They don’t really cost much more, and they are in the business of taking care of properties.
They can handle all the hiring, firing, and repairs that go into keeping your neighborhood looking great. They are the key to giving you the freedom to enjoy where you live, while not laboring all your weekends away on the yard and house.
So, is living in a 55+ community with an HOA worth the move?
The real question is, do you want to spend your time and money taking care of a yard and house?
Maybe you’d rather spend that same amount of money on your home, but use your time more effectively?
Wouldn’t you rather spend that time playing with grandkids, going on extended vacations, playing with friends, and much more.
Just a note of warning, HOA’s are often great, but they are run by HOA boards. These HOA boards are comprised entirely of members from your community. You help elect them, which means that you get stuck with their decisions.
All problems related to HOA’s come from community members not getting involved enough to elect a responsible HOA board. If you are in an HOA, treat it like the neighborhood you’d want to live in—because it is.
You may even be nominated at some point to be on the board. Take pride in your community. Be involved. Then enjoy the ride!