Do your research before buying into an estate with a homeowner’s association

With security a priority among South African property buyers, many consumers have opted to buy homes in areas that are boomed off or within security and lifestyle estates.

Adrian Goslett, regional director and chief executive of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that owning a home in an estate or boomed-off area will often mean that homeowners will be required to join a homeowner’s association (HOA).

“As a member of a HOA, a homeowner will be obliged to adhere to a number of regulations stipulated by the association. Unlike a body corporate which manages a sectional title development, in a homeowner’s association each member owns the house and the erf or plot on which it has been built. A HOA is usually established by the residents of a community to ensure that the infrastructure such as the roads and communal areas are maintained. A large aspect of a HOA is also to ensure the safety of those who live in the community.

“HOA rules and regulations can cover aspects ranging from the colour you are allowed to paint your home to whether or not you are allowed to display a garden gnome collection in the front yard,” says Goslett. “Before you buy a property in a community governed by a HOA you should ensure that the regulations stipulated don’t conflict with your lifestyle. You need to investigate all aspects of the HOA regulations before making a final decision.

Goslett says you should ask the following questions:

Does belonging to the HOA incur any fees? HOA members may be required to pay a monthly premium or levy towards the association. You should compare fees for similar developments in the surrounding suburbs.

How are the fees allocated? HOA members should know how their monthly contributions are allocated. Often the fees paid towards an HOA are allocated to the maintenance of common areas and amenities such as outdoor landscaping, swimming pool and gym or clubhouse. You should find out what is included in the fee and what is not.

Have there been any hikes in the rates recently? When researching a HOA, you should get the history of how much and how often the rates have increased over the past 10 years. Looking at the history will give you an idea of what to expect in the future. Another important aspect to enquire about is whether any additional fees have been charged to homeowners when the HOA lacks the reserves to cover a big project.

What are the community’s priorities? Looking at the minutes taken at the last few HOA annual general meetings will give you a clear idea of the community’s priorities and what issues and topics keep appearing.

Don’t overlook the fine print. It is important to read through all the regulations, restrictions and conditions before buying the property. It may be time consuming but it is far better to do that than move in and find out that you can’t park a second car outside your home or store a caravan in the garden. Rather have a clear understanding of what is allowed than be taken by surprise.

Penalties. It is essential to know what penalties will be enforced should any of the regulations not be adhered to.

“With any property purchase, it is always vital to do your homework and ensure that you are entering into a purchase with a reasonable amount of knowledge about what you are getting yourself into. Reading through the documentation on the HOA will provide some meaningful insight when selecting a home to purchase in a particular estate,” Goslett says.

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