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When you purchase a home in a gated community or planned development you are usually
obligated to join the community's homeowners' association. That means paying a monthly or annual fee for upkeep of common areas.
Here is a list of some things you should be aware of:

Know the Rules-Find out what happens if you violate a rule. Pay close attention to rules regarding fines and whether the HOA can foreclose on your property for nonpayment of HOA dues or fines.

Make sure the home you are buying is in compliance with the HOA rules-No sense buying more of a headache, find out what the rules are and what changes you have to make to be in compliance before your purchase.

Assess environmental practices-Be aware that some HOA's may dictate that you use only environmentally friendly fertilizers, pesticides and other lawn and garden treatments. They may also limit garden sizes, read the fine print.

Ask about ALL fees-Fees will differ for each community. 
Be sure to ask the following:
  • How are HOA fee increases set?
  • How often do increases occur, and by how much have they historically been raised?
  • Can you get a printed history of HOA dues by year for the last 10 years?
  • How large is the HOA's reserve fund?
  • Ask for a record of special assessments that have been made in the past and ask if any special assessments are planned for the near future. 
  • Find out what the monthly dues cover. 
  • Will you still have to pay extra for garbage pickup? 
  • Is cable included?
Get a copy of minutes from last HOA meeting or sit in on one- The minutes can be very telling about the HOA policies:
  • What are current and past conflicts?
  • What is the process for resolving any conflicts?
  • Has the HOA sued anyone? How was that resolved?
Watch for under-management-Residents may have to take turns serving as HOA president and that can mean no one is really interested in maintaining the property. So be prepared for your turn as president.

Renting Restrictions-Check into any restrictions that may prevent you from renting out your home. Better to find out sooner than later.

Find out what kind of catastrophe insurance the HOA has on the building-This is really important if you are considering a condo or townhouse and live in area near potential natural disasters. 
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