Guide to Purchasing Real Estate Part IIl
Finding the Best Homes for Sale
In the previous article, we walk you through the preliminary steps in getting all the financial docs in a row, having pew-qualification letter from your financial institution or a mortgage broker, and finally finding a licensed Realtor. Now it is the time to look for that house of your dream. The first step is to have a list of wants and needs that would accommodate all the requirements that you and each family member might have. Start writing everything down and have it ready for your family and the Realtor’s review. This list could include the number of Bedrooms/Baths, Garage, Swimming Pool, the Location, within a Planned Community or not and so on. When it comes to the location try to be as flexible as possible as you don’t want to miss out on purchasing of a better home just because of 5-10 extra minutes of the drive-time. Also, remember not to tie yourself down by factors like the proximity to your work if you are not sure you will be at that job for a long time.
Buying Homes in a Homeowners Association Community
Regarding the planned communities there are pros and cons that you have to evaluate before jumping into living in one. The following will explore the pros and cons of buying homes in a homeowners association community.
The positive points living in a community that is run by a homeowners’ Association are:
- Security- Most HOA communities are gated and normally offer some sort of security
- Uniformity- All Homeowner Associations have some sorts of rules and regulations, such as predetermined collection of colors for the exterior paint, no trucks, boats or motorcycle allowed in the community and etc.… These regulations are designed to keep the community maintained and preserve the values of all homes in the community. It also means you would not have to look at a dark purple home across from your residence!!
- Landscaping- Depending on the association either the HOA will take care of the entire landscaping, including in and around each homeowner property or they are just responsible for the common area
- Amenities- Most associations offer an array of amenities, which could become a great advantage and could be a good selling point in the future. The two of the most common HOA amenities are the swimming pool and the clubhouse. Just imagine being able to take the kids to the swimming pool and enjoy your time there without having to worry about maintaining it.
The cons for living in a community run by the homeowners’ association are:
- Weak Homeowners’ Association- While the homeowners’ Associations are run by a board that is comprised of the elected homeowner-volunteers but there are many horror stories of misconduct, mishandling of the funds or just pure mismanagement by these board members or the property management companies that they have hired.
- Stringent Rules and Regulations- The same rules and regulations that are supposedly in place to protect the homeowners could become a double edge sword and work against them. One example that we encountered not long ago was about a homeowner who traded in his car for a shiny red truck just to find out a week later that trucks are not allowed inside the community and there is no other place outside either that he could park the truck and walk to his residence.
- Age Restriction- Although you will be notified by your Realtor or by the board, during the interview process, if the community is a Housing for Elder Persons or HOPA but you should take a minute and call either the HOA or their management company about the age restriction as well as other limitations that might affect your decision in buying a home in that community.
The bottom line is all homebuyers, regardless if first time or not, have to be proactive and ask questions. They should not rely solely on what the Realtor might tell them. This is simply because the information that he or she is conveying could be from the last deal they had in that community, but the rules have changed ever since. Remember that associations could change whole or parts of their rules and regulations as long as they have enough votes from the board and homeowners.
In continuation of these series about our guide for homebuyers, we will explore the house hunting, appraisal, inspections process all the way through the closing day. Look for Guide to Purchasing Real Estate Part III in upcoming articles.