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The Pros and Cons of HOA

By Kayla LaFroth

When I was a kid, my dad purchased a playground set from a yard sale. And sure, the thing was oversized and the wood was slightly rotting, but I loved that playground and I never quite forgave the Homeowners Association (HOA) for making us take it down. Now it’s been quite a few years since I plastered my anti-HOA campaign posters around the house, but sometimes the memories of the plants we had to rip out or the fences we were told to move still haunt me. However, with adulthood comes a somewhat broadened perspective, and I recognize that there are some benefits to living in an HOA neighborhood.

So if you’re deciding whether to move into a neighborhood run by that mysterious Homeowners Association, here are some pros and cons to consider. I’ll do my best to adhere to journalistic integrity here and push my past prejudice to the side.

Pro: The neighborhood will look nicer

The HOA regulations you and everyone else will have to follow will help the neighborhood look its best. Having grown up under HOA’s dictatorship, I didn’t realize how nice my neighborhood looked until I moved out. Residents of HOA territory have to keep their lawns nice and trimmed and their houses a more reasonable shade. At my parent’s neighborhood, I’m not going to find boats in people’s yard, trash piled up high, or magenta-colored homes.

Con: Land of the less free

With rules and uniformity also comes a lessening of freedom with your house. Was our giant yard-sale playground a bit of an eye-sore? I’ll concede a solid maybe, which is why the HOA made us take it down, but the fun we had on the monkey bars was more important to me at the time, and maybe it’s more important to you too. Without an HOA, you’re free to do pretty much whatever you want with your house and property. You want that fresh magenta coat of paint? It’s all yours.

Pro: An HOA provides some nice amenities

Sure, it took them longer than they said to install the neighborhood pool, but we did have a neighborhood pool. Since moving out, I’ve had no regular access to a pool and my sickly pale skin shows it. And for all my complaints about the Playground Incident, the neighborhood provided several nice playgrounds sans rotting wood. Different HOA amenities can include a pool, a fitness center, a neighborhood club house, parks, playgrounds, or security gates.

Con: It might not be for the poor in heart. Emphasis on the “poor” part.

Put simply, living in an HOA neighborhood is going to require some dues that you might not want to fork over. Somebody’s got to pay for that pool. HOA dues can be hundreds of dollars per month, and you might prefer to just get an inflatable pool from Target.

Pro: You’ve got a mediator for your squabbles

My family was semi-anti-social and we weren’t ones for picking fights with the neighbors (or maybe we just had good neighbors), but if you have an issue with your neighbor’s tree that keeps shedding branches on your child’s vulnerable head, the HOA board can help settle disagreements.

Con: One crazy board member can be a real hassle

As a kid, I imagined an HOA as a room of pristine elites sitting in the shadows as they decided to victimize my home, specifically. Turns out, members of the HOA board are just neighbors elected to the position, but one rogue board member can cause problems. If someone starts implementing a bunch of annoying changes, it can be a surprisingly big hassle to remove them from their very important position of board member #7. You might want to attend HOA meetings to make sure a small group of people don’t start making silly decisions, but then again, who really wants to attend more meetings?

As I write this article, I’m sitting on my childhood bed looking out the window at my old HOA neighborhood (don’t worry, I’m on vacation. I’m not living in my parent’s basement just yet). The rain is drizzling, the trees stand tall and full, and the houses look neat and pretty. I do quite like this neighborhood, and I’ll admit that the HOA has something to do with that. Of course, that hasn’t come without its woes and hassles. By understand the pros and cons of having an HOA, hopefully you’ll be in a better position to choose which kind of neighborhood you want to live in. Good luck with your decision, and if you need me, I’ll be at the neighborhood playground.