So you bought that house with an HOA, now what?

So many things come to mind when I talk to people about HOAs and homeownership. I’ve heard great stories, I’ve told a few myself, and I’ve heard horror stories.

When I look back on my previous experience I can honestly say that it was such a lovely experience that didn’t leave me wondering if I should have read every page of the ByLaws to arm myself with knowledge against who knows what.

Some backstory; We were living in a community of about 300 houses a completely community run HOA, not with a managment company.  Every year we managed to have funds for repairs, community events (a ton) and our facebook page reaked of kudos to thoughtful neighbors for helping out. Our properties were kept up and aesthetics were across the board fairly even keeled. I’m sure requests were made and possibly denied. I’m sure there were violations sent but I honestly never saw one myself. There were gentle reminders sent, twice of year for sure that I can remember, that let us know it was time to make sure our trees were trimmed up on the street side and if you still had your Christmas lights up it was a tad past due. Simple easy living. There was open communication. I had an email address to contact the board if I had questions, There was a facebook page that allowed for yet more communication and an access point to reach whoever was the appropriate contact for my question or suggestion. Simple easy living.  At no point in over five years did I feel that I should read our ByLaws cover to cover because I thought something was out of place or someone was breaking a rule. I don’t recall ever making a complaint about one of my neighbors and their lifestyle. That neighborhood, by the way, was 16 years old when we moved in and almost 22 years old when we moved out. Well established and mature.

Fast forward to today.

Holy Hell Batman, Have none of these people ever lived in an HOA before? Did they not even ask to review the Covenants and ByLaws before they dropped this kind of cash on a house?  Human nature is a fascinating thing. I’m not generally surprised but I have to say I’m bummed that the lack of review and/or questions is causing animosity among my neighbors.

So….This new neighborhood is exactly that, new.  Coming in my only concern was if I could have a garden and how big?  This new place has a community well and septic system. Placement of large items and structures need review as you don’t want to damage your septic lines.  This was going to be a learning curve for us. When we landed here houses were still being built and people were still dropping off cookies to the newbies.  Everyone waved and smiled, there were some community meet and greets and it felt like the beginning of a new college year in the dorm. You weren’t quite sure who your besties were gonna be just yet and you knew most folks were still acting on their best behavior.

Two years has passed and here are some of my thoughts.

*Aesthetics count. As a homeowner you want the neighborhood to look nice. Your definition may not match your neighbors. This is where we compromise.

*Our HOA board was voted in like 5 minutes ago Give them a break. You act like they are trying to govern you when really they are just trying to get an understanding of how things are run, what’s really ours compared to the Management Company (who no one really likes, by the way) and what still belongs to the Developer who’s still attached to us. And while you’re at it, Yah, Give them a break again. This is a volunteer position that takes up far more time than you can imagine. They have lives too.

*And on that note, This HOA board is made up of your neighbors. The people who live in your neighborhood and end up at events with you.  Are people this mean or critical of their church brothers and sisters? Do you treat your co-workers this poorly. If you ask questions and act human most everyone will get along. I think a few folks may need to tone it down a notch.

*Yes, I’m aware there are always a few folks who can’t quite behave themselves. Our job is to do our best to talk them down from the ledge. We are still in this together.  OH, did I mention our new neighborhood only has 60 houses? Yup, it’s the size of a large family with 2 sets of twins and lots of personalities.

*If you don’t like boats, trailers, motorcycles etc..etc.. name your dislike,  in your neighborhood you probably should have read the ByLaws before you moved in. Nobody wants to be told that rules should be changed or added that excludes them. Especially if they are in the right and the ByLaws are in their favor. How would you feel if someone added rules that changed your way of life, simply because it doesn’t suit them?

*This house cost you money, no? What was your budget? Did you have one? Do you understand that this house, in this neighborhood for some of your community members is the best house they have ever owned? To some this it is a step down. You may have a certain standard of living but you cannot expect everyone to rise or drop to your standard. It is important to remember that your income, budget and priorities is exactly that, yours. Please don’t expect your neighbors to spend excess amounts of money to change their environment to please you.

*People are generally not confrontational. Please don’t expect your neighbor to complain to you directly. Like it or not it is easier for them to call the Management Company to complain anonymously.

*Please don’t come in thinking there is no reason for any Rules and Guidelines. While we are all new and get along fairly well you have to take into account that someday someone is going to sell their house and move.  This leaves us open to new owners who may or may not think it’s okay to do __________.  You drive a car and most likely never break the law but some folks push those limits and the rules are in place for them. Same thing.

I think our growing pains are normal. As we mature we’ll figure out the right fit for the community as a whole. But as you know, They call it Growing Pains for a reason. Some days it’s sunshine and daisies and other are well……….They who shall not be named. :/