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Benefits of Living in a HOA Community

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Millions of homeowners now live in communities governed by homeowner associations or HOAs.  In fact, it is estimated that one in six Americans live in a HOA community.  That statistic is probably higher in Orange County as so many of our beautiful subdivisions are HOA communities.

Buyers are often wary of purchasing properties that require HOA fees.  Many view HOA fees as another expensive monthly cost and find HOA rules and regulations to be too restrictive.  But, there are many benefits of living in a well-governed HOA as the intent of HOAs is to protect the value of the homes in the area.  While every buyer should weigh the cost of the fees and determine what amenities and services are included, here are some common benefits to being in an HOA community.

Property Value Protection

A HOA provides greater certainty that the community will remain visually appealing over time, by imposing and enforcing rules on architecture, landscaping, fences, signs, parking, usage of public spaces, and more.  The rules are designed to create parameters for aesthetic uniformity so that no house is an eyesore to the neighborhood.  In addition, the HOA is responsible for the physical maintenance of common areas.  While residents often find HOA rules to architectural enhancements to be thorns in the remodeling or construction process, they are put into place to protect the collective interest of the residents.

Recreational Amenities

One of the most attractive benefits to HOA fees are the amenities provided.  Many communities in Orange County offer gated access and around-the-clock security presence to provide added safety for the residents.  Others offer pools, clubhouses for rent, parks, gyms, basketball courts, tennis courts, community events and even private beaches!  Obviously, the more amenities offered, the higher the fees may be.

Property Updates

The HOA sets aside a reserve account for future capital improvements or repairs from unexpected damages.  The reserve account provides assurance that the properties will remain in good shape and may save homeowners money in the long run.  Many people recognize the benefit of owning a home but being able to share in some of the management responsibilities

Community Environment

When a community has an HOA, the residents of that neighborhood have agreed to a set of “good neighbor” rules fostering a greater sense of community.  Many HOAs also provide community events and socials to increase community bonding and communication among the residents.  While this benefit is difficult to quantify, it is highly desired especially by young families, and that desirability can be a factor in property values.

As a prospective buyer looking for a property, decide early in the process if the HOA lifestyle is a fit for you.  If so, do some research and determine how much you are willing to pay per month on HOA fees.  Also, research what amenities are provided in each subdivision to help you narrow your property search.  A seasoned real estate agent knowledgeable in the areas of your interest should be able to provide you with the information you need at the onset of your home search.

Neighborhood Due Diligence

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The iconic adage in real estate has been and always will be “location, location, location.”  A house can always be remodeled and redecorated to suit your personal taste.  But, the neighborhood within which your home resides, will profoundly impact your lifestyle and how you enjoy your home in the years to come.

Within Newport Beach and other similar markets across the country, each neighborhood has its own unique personality and vibe.  If you are like most buyers, your home search frequently starts with neighborhood selection above all else.  So what makes a neighborhood appealing?  And what due diligence should one perform to identify the neighborhood of choice?  Here are a couple of ways you can be proactive in the hunt for the ideal neighborhood:

1)   Check on the schools.

Even if you don’t have children, buying a home in a good school district can pay off at the time of resale.  If you are looking for a home for your school-aged family, go to the school district’s website for more information.  Also, check out www.GreatSchools.org for ratings and see how neighborhood schools’ rank in comparison to each other.

2)   Test your commute & visit the neighborhood at different times of the day.

If living close to work is important, then make sure you drive around potential neighborhoods at different times of day to get a sense of traffic patterns and potential commute delays.  Similarly, visit the area on a weekday, weeknight, and weekends to see how quiet or active the community will be.

3)   Check crime reports.

Local police stations can generally provide statistics on crime within a certain zip code.  Or find this info online at www.crimereports.com.  For further peace of mind, check the Family Watchdog website at www.familywatchdog.us for registered sex offenders in the area.

4)   Talk to neighbors.

No one can give you a more accurate idea of how vibrant and thriving a community can be than someone who already lives there.  Make a list of things that are important to you and when you get a chance to talk to someone, ask them if the community has a swim team, neighborhood events and gatherings, and security measures.  Other important topics to vet with current neighborhood residents could be HOA dues and board involvement, potential community improvements on the horizon, and more.

5)   Discover neighborhood amenities.

Some people desire a neighborhood that is walkable to restaurants and stores.  Others really value the proximity to public parks and recreation spaces.  Walk and drive around different neighborhoods and identify where you’ll be doing your grocery shopping or picking up dinner.  These little amenities really impact how you will function day to day within your household.

Once you’ve honed in on the neighborhood you want to live in, then the fun part begins… looking for the perfect house.  Happy house hunting!