Questions to Ask HOAs in the Raleigh-Durham Area
Below is a list of important questions all home buyers should ask when buying in an HOA community.
HOA Question #1: What are the fees?
HOAs usually have some sort of dues paid either monthly or yearly, and these can vary drastically from community to community. This expense has to fit into your budget.
Generally, these dues cover the costs of maintaining common areas of the community, such as landscaping the entrance and caring for greenways. If your neighborhood has a pool or clubhouse, your fees will usually cover maintenance costs for those as well.
Be sure to ask exactly what your dues cover and specifically what is not covered. Ask who handles the bookkeeping and manages the money. In addition to the monthly base fee, find out how the HOA covers unexpected expenses, like major repairs to the pool or clubhouse.
HOA Question #2: What are the HOA restrictions?
Parking regulations are common, such as no parked cars on the street overnight and limits on how long an RV can stay in a driveway.
Some HOAs restrict not only the kinds of animals allowed (no chickens, for example), but may limit the number and size of animals (like one dog or one cat, 25 lbs. or less) and restrict the permitted breeds.
If you love to celebrate Christmas à la Clark Griswold, check for the HOA rules about holiday decorations. Some associations don’t allow elaborate lighting and may limit when you can put decorations up and when they have to come down.
HOA Question #3: Are there style guidelines for homes and property?
Are you required to submit any changes to the house or landscaping to a review board? If you’re building a new home, do your blueprints need to be approved before you even break ground? Also check if there are rules as to materials used for decking and driveways, exterior paint colors, or even window size.
If going green is an essential part of your lifestyle, be sure to inquire if you’re allowed to compost, add solar panels, harvest rainwater, landscape with drought-resistant plants, or hang clothes outside to dry. Some associations don’t permit these kinds of things, even if they have a positive impact to the environment.
HOA Question #4: Who manages the HOA?
Some communities hire professional management, so a larger part of your monthly dues goes to administrative costs. Others rely on a volunteer board elected by the members of the HOA. This may be problematic if the most enthusiastic and dedicated volunteer doesn’t have the skills or experience to fill the role effectively. Learn how often the board meets and how decisions are made that affect the whole neighborhood. How much of a voice do you have as a member?
HOA Question #5: How are disputes handled?
Naturally, you don’t expect to have problems with your neighbors—but it does happen. Ideally, you’ll be able to work out minor nuisances directly, but if you can’t, what recourse to do you have?
Try to figure out if there are any potential problems by visiting the community on different days and at different times of day. Are there any obvious issues with noise or lighting? For example, does the neighborhood light nearby shine directly into the master bedroom of the house you’re considering? Does the neighbor across the street fire up his muscle car early Sunday mornings? If those things annoy you, you’ll want to know in advance what you’re facing—and how to deal with it through the HOA.
HOA Question #6: What kinds of neighborhood events does the HOA sponsor?
Some communities love to get together. Whether celebrating national holidays or monthly birthdays, they make it an event for everyone in the neighborhood. While attendance is optional, you may feel like a “party pooper” if you never join in. On the other hand, it shows that your neighbors are a close-knit group that enjoys each other’s company.
HOA Question #7: What participation requirements does the HOA have of members?
Some associations have certain expectations of members. For instance, each homeowner may be asked to volunteer a couple hours a month in the community garden. You’ll want to be informed in advance if your HOA assumes you'll take an active part in community projects like these.
HOA Question #8: Are home-based businesses permitted?
Many people work from home. But some HOAs strictly forbid businesses operated in the neighborhood. If your association has a blanket ban on commercial activities, then it’s possible that even a home office is not permitted. You may think you can keep your activity hidden, since clients and customers don’t come to your home, but it might not be worth the risk of getting caught violating the regulations.
HOA Question #9: Are rentals allowed?
If you're buying a home in a popular destination, you may be thinking about listing it as a vacation rental for extra income. Check not only the city and county regulations, but your HOA rules as well. Even if your city permits short-term rentals, your HOA may not.
HOAs generally try to regulate the sorts of things that affect property value. Ideally, the goal is to create a cohesive, well-kept community. Some associations may seem hyper-restrictive and others may not seem to have any power at all—so do your due diligence to understand the rules and expectations of your preferred community before falling in love with a home there.
Homes for Sale in the Triangle
If you are interested in browsing homes for sale in the Triangle in HOA communities or without an HOA, follow the links below! Please contact us using the link at the top right of this page if you have more specific questions.