Check out the HOA before buying your dream home

You found the perfect Massachusetts home for you and your family, and all of you are dreaming about what life will be like once you move in. The price is right, the financing is available. What more do you need before you sign the final papers? You need to check out the homeowners association

Buying a home is the American Dream and one of the biggest and most important decisions you make. Where you live affects virtually all aspects of your life from where your kids go to school to where you shop for groceries. At the very least, you control how you decorate your home, how you landscape its property and a host of other things. Or do you? You may discover that the homeowners association restricts what you can do.

Types of regulations

Each homeowners association is unique, as are the kinds of restrictions it imposes on you and your neighbors. Common HOA restrictions include the following:

  • Exterior paint colors
  • Type of siding
  • Type of roof
  • Type(s) of landscaping
  • Type(s) and height of fencing, if allowed at all
  • Number of pets, if allowed at all

Of course, the HOA sets its annual fee, monthly dues, and the penalties and procedures involved if you fail to pay what you owe on time.

Additional restrictions

In addition, your HOA could dictate what kinds of play equipment you can erect and/or install for your children in your backyard. It might also restrict what kinds of vehicles you can park in your driveway or in front of your house. Many communities refuse to allow their residents to park a camper or RV in their driveways.

If you have any thoughts of conducting business out of your home, this is a particularly sticky wicket. Many HOAs prohibit all forms of home businesses, even a home office that attracts no customer traffic or any other type of community inconvenience.

One issue that has arisen in recent years is the display of the American flag. Some homeowners have gone so far as to sue their homeowners association when it sought to dictate the height of their flagpole and/or the size of their flag. Others have sued over driveway basketball goals, fence height, backyard vegetable gardens, garage workshops, etc.

While some of these issues may seem petty, nevertheless, you should make sure you thoroughly understand your HOA’s restrictions and think seriously about how comfortably you and your family can live within them before you sign your final home purchase contract. If you are like most people, you intend to live there for many years to come. It therefore needs to be in a neighborhood you love almost as much as your dream home itself.

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