How to Spot a Bad HOA

Buyers can avoid their own homeowner association horror story by keeping an eye out for these items during the search.

What’s the difference between a good, mediocre, and downright bad homeowner association? It’s not entirely a matter of opinion. There are specific items to look at and questions to ask when you are buying into an HOA that will only give you headaches. This information is particularly important in condominiums, where the HOA usually is responsible for maintaining the exterior of the buildings. If they aren’t careful, buyers could face paying a big special assessment for years of neglected capital improvements after they close. The bill they’re typically stuck with could be anywhere from $1,000 to $30,000. (In some cases, they’ve gone over $100,000!) Perform your due diligence before closing by identifying issues to minimize the element of surprise. While this isn’t intended to be legal advice and there may be other items to look at other than those mentioned in this article, this should give you ideas on dealing with HOAs.

Look at the Community as a Whole

Is it run-down? Don’t solely focus on the one property you are purchasing. When the HOA is responsible for maintaining the buildings, check out neighboring units and common spaces along side the home. Here are some telltale signs of an HOA that isn’t on top of its responsibilities:

  • Are the fences rusting?
  • Are the building signs in disrepair?
  • Does the asphalt look like gravel?
  • Are the pool and other amenities clean and in good working order?
  • What is the age and condition of the roofs?
  • Do the buildings need to be painted?
  • Are there staircases and balconies in poor shape that the HOA is responsible for maintaining?
  • When were the buildings last treated for termites? Have they been neglected, with a higher risk of unknown termite damage throughout the community?
  • Are there problems with siding?
  • Are there grading issues causing flooding?
  • What is the condition of the gutters, fascia, and other fixtures?

Look at the Reserve Study

First of all, make sure you know what this is. A reserve study details an HOA’s long-term funding plan, showing, most important, how much it currently has to offset maintenance costs. It’s the most important tool to determine the financial health of the HOA.

  • What is the percent funded? Zero percent to 30 percent means it’s at high risk of a special assessment; 31 percent to 70 percent is a medium risk; 71 percent to 100 percent is low risk.
  • How much does the reserve study recommend the HOA saves each year, and how much is the HOA actually saving?
  • Has the HOA been following the reserve study and making capital improvements?
  • How much money can you foresee being needed compared to what the HOA has saved?

Proactively Ask Questions

We encourage you to call and ask the HOA or HOA management company questions. You may need to make it a condition of the purchase contract that the seller will provide the answers if the HOA management company won’t answer you or your buyer. Keep these questions in mind:

  • Have there been any special assessments before? Get the details and ask if there is discussion about having another one.
  • Have there been any lawsuits or are any expected?
  • How many insurance claims has the HOA had?
  • If roofs are an HOA responsibility, are there plans to transfer the burden to the owner? How many roof repairs have there been in the last couple years?
  • Are there plans to change the HOA’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions?
  • Have there been any repairs from extensive water or termite damage in the last couple years?

Your buyer must review the HOA’s covenants, rules, meeting minutes, violation policy, collection policy, and other aspects.

Ignorance isn’t bliss when it comes to HOAs. Remember, some HOAs are underfunded and in poor condition due to lack of maintenance. These are not HOAs “protecting our property values.”

This problem is not going away by keeping our eyes closed. The first step in improving HOAs is having real estate professionals who will educate you on how an HOA should operate. Buyers need to be involved and concerned with the HOA business that they are becoming a part of before closing — and they need to stay involved after closing.

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About padreeliteteam

Alta Monroe, Gayle Hood, Jules Wilk & Laurie Howell are a full-time professional and dynamic team known as the Padre Elite Team with RE/MAX 1st Choice in South Padre Island. Quality service for their clients is their number one priority. To them, it is about the client's needs and protecting their interests. Finding just the right property for their buyers or helping their sellers get their property SOLD is their goal. Helping clients step through the complicated process of buying or selling a property to a smooth closing is essential to them. A personal Bio on each of the team agents is posted on their website at www.PadreEliteTeam.com. The South Padre Island real estate industry is changing faster than ever these days. With the changes in the economy, there are new challenges with buyers, sellers, foreclosures, short sales, Internet marketing, our education, increases in inventories, changes in comparable sales, and frustrating politics. Alta, Gayle, Laurie, and Jules strive to stay on top of all of these changes and to keep in touch with their clients. Alta, Gayle, Jules & Laurie all hold designations they have acquired through eduction. These designations include CLHMS, CRS, GRI, RSPS, CPN, ePRO, SFR and RSPS. Gayle and Jules both hold the CLHMS (Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist) designation and they are the ONLY agents in the entire Rio Grande Valley that are members of the Institute of Luxury Home Marketing. This better qualifies them to share their specialized expertise with a luxury home seller or buyer. Making sure the buyer and the seller are represented correctly is a priority for this team. Investing in TREPAC (Texas Real Estate Political Action Committee) is important to this team since TREPAC has proven to be a major force in Texas by lobbying for Realtors and property rights for the consumer. For many years, the Padre Elite Team has been a major investor in TREPAC. Alta and Gayle have attended the National Association of Realtors Mid-Year Conference in Washington, D.C. often. The conference is primarily for Realtors that are Board directors or executives. It is a great way to stay on top of the current issues facing Realtors and homeowners in our country. They get to meet with their Senators and Congressmen to express their concerns. Last year they were invited to attend the Realtor PAC President’s Circle Conference in New York where they heard many famous guest speakers regarding current real estate issues. The Padre Elite Team also attends the RE/MAX International Conference each year to acquire more education and to keep up with the latest technology available to Realtors in the Marketplace. They have received numerous awards for being Top Producers in the real estate industry. Education is a priority for this entire team including their assistant, Grace. The GOOD news is that 2012, 2013, 2014 and now 2015 proved to be better each year for real estate sales in South Padre Island and the surrounding areas of Port Isabel, Laguna Vista/South Padre Island Golf Community, and Bayview. The real estate market is showing an increase in the number of sales and a leveling of values. Now that the market has hit the bottom, investors are finding that real estate is a great place to invest their money. It is still a buyer's market and a great time to buy. Alta, Gayle, Jules & Laurie all agree that it has been such a pleasure to live & work in a resort area such as South Padre Island. A hundred of your closest friends and family will visit when you live near the beach! Clients are always encouraged to contact them. For more information about this team and to view their blog, visit www.PadreEliteTeam.com.
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