What’s Included in the Homeowner’s Association Fee?

by Bill Ness on July 16, 2012

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Monthly Homeowner's Association (HOA) fees vary based on factors such as included amenities and included maintenance for the home or community.

Whether they are age restricted or open to everyone, planned communities are often managed by a central Homeowners Association (HOA). This organization is responsible for a variety of services and amenities within the development. To cover the cost of these benefits, every homeowner in the community is charged a monthly fee. But just how much are monthly HOA fees and what items do they cover?

The cost of HOA fees will vary widely from one community to another. They may also be different for various types of homes within the same community. Condos frequently have higher HOA fees than single-family homes because they include the cost of exterior maintenance for a shared building (roof, elevators, lobby, community rooms, etc.). Townhomes and other attached homes may also have higher rates than single-family homes, although that is not always the case.

Often, the cost of HOA fees will depend on the amenities included within the community. HOA fees may be much lower in communities which only cover the basics, like trash removal, snow removal and the maintenance of public areas. Homes which include exterior maintenance and lawn care will typically have higher HOA fees than those where homeowners are responsible for their own homes and yards.

Communities which offer more resort-style amenities—like golf courses, tennis courts, state-of-the-art fitness centers, spas and spacious clubhouses—will often have higher HOA fees to cover the cost of operating and maintaining these facilities. Condominiums may also base HOA fees in part on the square footage of each unit.

In some communities, different neighborhoods offer varied levels of home maintenance so homebuyers can opt to buy in an area with lawn care included (higher HOA fees) or take care of their own yards (lower fees). Golf or country club communities may offer tiered membership programs so that residents who use the extra amenities pay more through membership fees, while the standard HOA fees stay lower.

As a potential homebuyer, it is important to find out what the HOA fees will be on a home before making an offer, while keeping in mind that HOA fees are not fixed. They are likely to go up over the years to cover the cost of upgrades, emergency maintenance or simple inflation. Before buying into a community, don’t be afraid to ask for more information including a breakdown of the HOA fees, a history of how the HOA fees have changed in the past and a copy of the HOA’s annual budget.

While HOA fees are a necessary part of supporting a planned community, they are very different from one development to the next. With so much variance in the cost of HOA fees and the items they cover, it is very important that you understand the requirements before buying into a community with a Homeowners Association.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric Makoon-Singh July 19, 2012 at 7:32 am

Looking for a single family home, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2 car garage, coverec lanai, preferibly 55+ community, gated.

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Victor July 20, 2012 at 11:53 am

Thanks Bill for writing a VERY interesting and detailed article on HOAs. Yes, they DO vary widely and like you said, people buying into communities that have them need to do their research before buying a new home, condo or town house as not all HOAs are created equal. Some are very well organized and budgeted and have legitimate regulations but others are not. It is those latter ones that you have to be most wary of. And some HOAs have some real asinine regulations on petty things that do NOT make much sense and those are usually the ones which are run by people who do not know what the heck they are doing. Try to avoid those kinds of HOAs! And always remember that the monthly fees WILL go up as time passes and if you are on a limited budget, that can really cause financial problems for you in the future. Something definitely to consider along with everything else.

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