From the point of view of a home buyer, is it better to buy into an HOA if you're concerned about maintaining property values?
Real Estate Attorney
Maybe. It depends on the location of the property and how you want to use it. If there are several amenities or common areas an HOA could be very good to have in place to handle maintenance. If the area is subject to covenants and rules, can you live with them, and does it appear the HOA actively enforces them? Generally the goal for an HOA is to enhance property values, but sometimes restrictions and enforcement may not be want you want. Also, HOA's require payment of a monthly fee. If you live on a golf course an HOA would be beneficial. If you live in a more rural area you may not like having an active HOA.
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Residential Real Estate Lawyer
A homeowners association gives a home buyer some added assurance regarding the long-term condition and value of surrounding properties. Well-run homeowners associations enhance property values.
Lawsuit / Dispute Attorney
An HOA can be a boon, as discussed above. I'll just add that it is very important to find out what you can about each particular one before you buy. There are a number of different kinds of difficult associations. There is of course the do-nothing HOA that slumbers through the year; there is the maverick HOA that acts independently of the Bylaws and there is the macho HOA that seems to nurture conflict. Be sure that you know what you are getting into.
Family Law Attorney
If you look through past posts on this site, you will find many posts regarding problems with HOAs. Of course, posts about problems with HOAs on a legal Q&A website is to be expected. Most persons usually do not go out of their ways to heap praise on something that is going well. But persons with problems seem to find all the bad things to say about the opponents.
There are bad HOAs, and there are good HOAs. One can change into the other as the makeup of the homeowners change.
Me, I doubt that I would want to be micromanaged by my neighbors. I also have too many things to worry about that I do not want to worry about what colors my neighbors are painting their houses.