When someone mentions an HOA, most people immediately think of busybody neighbors handing out fines and making ridiculous demands. However, this reputation is very undeserved. While there are a few bad HOAs out there, far more of these Homeowner's Associations are very helpful, keep neighborhoods looking great, and provide outstanding amenities. If you purchase one of the homes for sale in Winter Haven, FL that is in an HOA, you may have questions about the fees you're asked to pay. Here's a breakdown of what the HOA fees do and why buying in a neighborhood with an HOA is beneficial.
What Is a Homeowner's Association?
An HOA is a neighborhood group that is responsible for maintaining shared community spaces and providing amenities to homeowners. Most HOAs are run by a board of directors, elected positions that anyone in the community can hold. Elections are held regularly for members and leadership positions. The HOA is governed by a charter, constitution, or other documents that outline what these leadership positions do, how funds are raised and spent, what homeowners are responsible for, and other rules. In some communities, HOAs are voluntary, while in others, anyone who purchases a home in the neighborhood is required to join and pay dues.
How Much Do Homeowners Pay in HOA Dues?
The amount homeowners are expected to pay varies depending on what amenities are included in the HOA. Condo associations tend to be monthly and include things like trash and bug treatments among other amenities. Single-family homes tend to have annual HOAs that could be as low as $100 to over $1,000 a year. Neighborhoods with a swimming pool, community park, and sports courts may be more.
How Are these Fees Spent?
HOA fees can be spent in a number of different ways depending on the rules outlined in the association charter. Most HOAs take a percentage of the collected fees and place them in an emergency fund to be used in the event of a natural disaster or unexpected cost. The rest is used for regular maintenance and operating costs. Large communities may pay a property manager to handle this task, while others may assign the duties of hiring and paying maintenance personnel to one of the board positions. Additionally, some more advanced HOAs pay for reports to know how much to save for maintenance and replacement of some amenities.
The following are some expenses that may be paid for by HOA fees:
- Community pool and clubhouse
- Parks and other green spaces within the neighborhood
- Fitness center
- Outdoor picnic areas
- Sports courts
- Yard service
- Community gatherings and events
- Insurance coverage (on community property) as needed
For regular expenses, the HOA board is usually empowered by the charter to spend the collected fees as needed. For unexpected or large one-time expenses, the entire membership of the HOA may need to vote on the issue.
Can HOA Fees Change?
Yes, HOA fees can change. The members of the HOA can vote to increase or decrease the fees. It's also possible for the HOA board to vote to levy an assessment on members of the community. This assessment is a one-time additional fee that is paid in addition to the standard HOA fee. Assessments are normally only done in the event of a large unexpected expense that the HOA's reserve fund cannot fully cover.
What If You're Unable to Pay the Fees?
If you're unable to pay your dues, you should speak to the HOA board as soon as possible. The final decision is up to the board, but in many neighborhoods, they will work with you on a payment plan or other option. You will want to make certain you read the HOA rules when buying the home so you understand what options you have and what penalties, including liens, may be involved. In extreme cases, an HOA can put a lien on your property and even foreclose.
Buying a Home in an HOA
If you have any questions about buying a home that is in an HOA, the team here at Florida Realty Marketplace is here to help. We have worked with many HOAs in the state and can answer any questions you may have about them. Contact us today for more information or to start looking for your new home.