There are more than 350,000 homeowner’s associations in the United States that oversee over half of all owner-occupied homes, so chances are, if you’re shopping for a new home, yours is bound to have an HOA. With HOAs so prevalent, one might imagine joining one would always be a positive experience. But in addition to the best aspects of HOAs — like having access to amenities that a homeowner might not otherwise be able to afford alone — there can be drawbacks.
Some buyers wish they could live without the restrictions that some HOAs can place on their individual freedoms. But can you just choose to opt out? Unless the HOA is voluntary —and that’s rare — the short answer is… no. But there are some nuances.
If you’re a homebuyer on the fence about buying a home with an HOA, let’s do some digging on whether you can refuse to join it. Read on to find out more about HOAs before you move into an HOA community and have to join one.
Just as it sounds, if you are looking to buy a home or condo in a neighborhood or building with a voluntary HOA, you have the option of whether to join it or not. Just know that if you opt out, you won’t get to use the facilities the HOA fees support, or you might have to pay separately to use them.
Some of the amenities that Voluntary HOAs usually maintain are facilities like pools, clubs, and tennis courts. These are the perks. What residents don’t always enjoy are the restrictions that come with HOA membership. But since residents can choose whether to join, voluntary HOAs cannot enforce rules on nonmembers, including the color of the home, type of mailbox, or yard maintenance. This means that they cannot fine the homeowner or levy assessments, which can be appealing to some home buyers.
Now as this name suggests, if you buy a home within a neighborhood with a mandatory HOA — and this is the majority of them — you don’t have a choice about whether to join. You cannot refuse to join a homeowners association that is already in place.
It will be disclosed whether or not the home you plan to purchase is part of an HOA, and at your home’s closing, you will be presented with documents to sign in which you will agree to abide by the HOA’s rules. You automatically become part of the HOA by default when buying into a mandatory HOA community, so you can either pass up homes that are governed by HOAs or resign yourself to membership.
That said, there is one exception. If you already own a home in an area that is discussing forming an HOA, you can likely opt out of joining. You can choose not to join a new HOA forming in your area if it wan’t in existence at the time you bought your home; but any owner that purchases your home from you in the future will not be granted the same exception.
Enjoying Your HOA
Since the majority of homes have HOA membership, you’ll want to at least make sure you are joining one that is well-run. An HOA is meant to preserve, or even increase, the value of your property. So the positives should outweigh any negatives.
A healthy and well-run HOA charges dues that sufficiently cover the cost associated with maintaining your neighborhood’s amenities and shared spaces while also planning for future needs. It has homeowners with a shared vision for the community that cooperate and work together. Strong HOAs have diverse leadership that listens to feedback while creating logical and practical rules and regulations, and a membership of homeowners that follow these rules and regulations and submit to financial consequences for noncompliance.
There are as many reasons to dislike HOAs as there are reasons to enjoy them. While moving into your dream home may require compromising on joining an HOA, it is possible to make HOA membership benefit you.
Whether or not you are looking to purchase a home that requires HOA membership, LIST WITH ELIZABETH® can help! Contact us if you have specific concerns or questions about particular HOA rules in the neighborhoods we serve, or if you need helping to decide if an HOA is right for your situation.