Buying a home is a personal experience. From bedrooms to air conditioning to paint colors, there are so many things to consider. Even more, each person prioritizes their needs differently. Buying a home is so complex that we hire real estate brokers and agents just to help us sort through the options and sign the right documents. During the process, many people ask themselves: should I buy a home in a planned community and join a homeowner’s association?

The housing market is moving at lightning speed. According to this study, more than half of homes in the US are selling in less than two weeks. If you are looking for a home, you may need some help. And if you are looking for an HOA, there are some unique things to consider. This guide will address some of the major concerns for home buyers and how an HOA fits into house purchasing plans.

The Basics

Whether you are looking at a traditional home or one in an HOA, here are the basic tips for sorting out what home you are interested in purchasing.

1. Location

As they say, location is the most important factor that influences the value of real estate, and it may be the most important factor influencing your decision as well. Do you want to live in the city, a suburb, or a rural area? Do you like mountainous regions or flat land? Do you like a quiet neighborhood or a busy social scene? These types of questions will lead you to the locations that you find desirable.

2. Budget

Perhaps the biggest limiting factor is the cost of the property. Your budget determines how much land and home you can afford. So, be sure to sit down with a financial planner or a budget calculator to determine what kinds of options are available to you. It is important not to stretch your budget so far that you can’t live comfortably within your remaining means.

3. Size

Another important factor is the size of your home. While size can be described by square footage, it can also be described by the number of bedrooms or bathrooms. Both of these ways to describe the size of a home are important. You need enough bedrooms and private spaces for the full functionality of your family; but you also need enough floor space so that you don’t feel trapped on top of one another as you move about the home. Outdoor space is another consideration, particularly for those interested in yards, decks, and parking.

4. Style

Things often come down to taste, and home purchasing is no different. Do you want a new build with modern features or an older home with a bit of character? Are you comfortable in a split-level home or do you prefer a ranch? These questions about the architecture and design may seem superficial, but they aren’t necessarily so. They dictate the feel of the home and the options with which a homeowner can add their own aesthetics.

5. Organizations

The organizations associated with the home are critical for your family’s comfort and success. For your children, the most critical organization is the school district. Highly coveted school districts can significantly influence the cost of the home. For you, the most important organization may be an HOA. The benefits include a supportive and caring community, but the additional cost should always be accounted for in your budget plan.

Finding Your HOA

Planning living developments that utilize the HOA model are popular. They are designed to be community-oriented and accessible to businesses, education, and recreation. Not all planned developments are the same, however, and some have advantages that others may not. For example, modern HOAs have been known to have a variety of housing types at different price points. Many have shared amenities and some even house businesses and organizations.

When looking specifically for an HOA, check out the real estate listing first. Homes that are typically listed as single-family homes or townhouses may be described as “condos.” Some listings may describe shared amenities that are only private or only available to “community members.” Of course, others will be more explicit and list their membership in an HOA or include details about the HOA fees.

Financing Your Purchase

HOA properties can be more expensive than traditional real estate. Not only should HOA fees be included in your calculation for your budget, but the homes themselves can be more expensive because they are located in well-kept communities that maintain shared amenities.  

Securing a mortgage for a property in an HOA, however, should not be totally different than for a traditional property. The difference may lie in the lender’s underwriting procedures. By examining the HOA’s finances, covenants and restrictions, and governing documents, the lender evaluates the credibility of the HOA along with your own credibility. More information on that process can be found in this article from Forbes.

Finding the Right Fit

Before settlement, you need to examine the HOA carefully. You will have a chance to examine the HOAs governing documents like the articles of incorporation and the bylaws. You will also have a chance to look at the covenants, conditions, and restrictions carefully. These are binding contracts, so you may want to hire an attorney to look at them with you. Your attorney can also help you determine if the HOA has been in any financial or legal trouble. These documents will help you make important evaluations about the HOA so you can determine if it’s the right fit for you.