neighbor with plate of cookies

3 Things To Know About Homeowners Associations (HOAs): Types, Rules and Refusals

Explore your mortgage options

NMLS #3030

*Connect with a mortgage specialist

We teamed up with Rocket Mortgage to help you get house-hunting sooner. Answer a few questions and an agent will reach out to discuss your options.

Get Started by selecting an option below

What kind of loan are you interested in?

What to expect

Tell us what you need and a representative from Rocket Mortgage will give you a call. You’ll have support at every step.

What kind of property do you want to purchase? What kind of property do you own?

Why we’re asking

Rocket Mortgage® can provide a more accurate rate estimate if they know what kind of property you’re interested in.

NMLS #3030
How do you use your property? How would you use this property?

Why we’re asking

Having a little more information upfront helps Rocket Mortgage® provide a personalized rate faster.

NMLS #3030
When are you planning to buy?

Still House Hunting?

Hope you find your dream home soon! In the meantime, it’s never too early to know your rate.

NMLS #3030
Are you a first-time home buyer?

It’s all good:

Whether it’s your first – or second property – Rocket Mortgage® can provide you with a rate estimate.

NMLS #3030
Do you have a second mortgage?

It’s all good

If you have a second mortgage, it’s no problem. Letting us know helps to customize your rate.

NMLS #3030
What is your credit score?

Don’t know your score?

Don’t sweat it! Make your best guess. Credit scores range from 300 (low) to 850 (excellent).

NMLS #3030

Tell us a bit more about you

What happens next?

A representative from Rocket Mortgage® will be in touch to discuss your commitment-free, personalized rate. Then you can decide whether you’d like to lock it in!

NMLS #3030

Enter your contact info so Rocket Mortgage® can get in touch!

By providing your contact information and clicking the "Agree & Send Information" button below, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You also expressly consent by electronic signature to receive telephonic sales, promotional, marketing and other calls and text messages, including any calls and messages sent by any automated system or other means for the selection or dialing of telephone numbers, or using an artificial or prerecorded voice message when a connection is completed, from Rocket Mortgage, its Family of Companies, our partner companies and our marketing partners at the telephone number you have provided, even if that telephone number is on a corporate, state, or national do-not-call list or registry. Your consent and agreement to receive such calls or text messages is not a condition of purchasing any property, goods or services from us, our Family of Companies or any of our partners.

NMLS #3030

Ready To Buy a Home?

Get Approved to Buy a Home

Rocket Mortgage® lets you get to house hunting sooner.

Buying your first home naturally comes with a lot of firsts. For the first time, you’ll be a regular presence at a nonstop stream of open houses, taking out a mortgage, closing on a home, owning a home and making repairs and decisions without a landlord’s help or rules.

While they don’t have a landlord, some homeowners do have to deal with a homeowners association (HOA). An HOA is a self-managed organization that oversees a planned community, setting rules and enforcing them.

For homes in certain neighborhoods, dealing with an HOA board is unavoidable – just as unavoidable as the policies and fees that come with it. 

If the home that makes your heart beat faster is linked to a homeowners association, you’ll want to learn how the association is run, what protections it provides and what its policies are.

What Is a Homeowners Association?

A homeowners association is a volunteer, community-led organization that helps manage a neighborhood or community. The HOA’s members are homeowners who live in the area covered by the HOA. 

While every HOA makes its own rules, all HOAs set and enforce neighborhood policies. These policies can cover anything from grass length and acceptable paint colors to guidelines for community amenities and everything in between. 

HOAs also provide access to amenities and services like security and maintenance.

Who manages an HOA?

HOA management can vary. In areas with individual homes, the HOA is often managed by an elected board. 

In planned or townhome communities, a real estate developer may play a role while a property management company may be involved in a condo association. 

In general, policies are decided by the HOA and implemented and enforced by the board.

Who pays for the HOA?

HOAs aren’t free. All HOAs come with a monthly or annual fee. Its cost will be based on the community’s needs. A community with a functioning pool and rec center will likely have higher HOA fees than a community that’s spending most of its dues on landscaping in common areas.

Do I have to join an HOA?

The short (and only) answer is yes. You can’t opt out of an HOA. Buying in a community with an HOA means you’re agreeing to play ball. If the restrictive covenant (aka the restrictions HOAs put on how you can use your property) is too restrictive, you may want to start looking at other homes.

A Better Understanding of Homeowners Associations

At first blush, HOAs can seem a little … tyrannical. After living in childhood homes and sharing tiny apartments with roommates, many of us buy a home so we can finally call the shots! But what might look like authoritarianism is actually assistance. 

Yes, there are rules to follow. But many of these rules are similar to what you’d find in a non-HOA community where neighbors are actively engaged in the neighborhood’s upkeep. If you’re interested in living in a clean, safe, well-manicured community with private amenities, an HOA may be right for you. 

What are the benefits of HOAs?

Properly run HOAs should benefit homeowners. Some common benefits include: 

  • Use of exclusive amenities: Many neighborhoods with HOAs have amenities and services, like fitness centers, pools, parks, playgrounds and rec centers. These amenities are normally exclusive to HOA members and their guests and can be cheaper and more accessible than what you’d find with outside facilities. 
  • Extra security: Some HOAs use private security or neighborhood watch organizations to keep homes protected.
  • Guaranteed curb appeal: HOAs usually have rules about property maintenance, like keeping the grass cut, raking leaves and clearing snow from sidewalks. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but the end result is guaranteed curb appeal. With an HOA enforcing the rules, you’re less likely to deal with the eyesore of a neighbor’s weedy, overgrown yard.
  • Property repair support: Some HOAs partner with repair services that can step in when problems come up. Instead of calling around for plumbers when a pipe bursts, the HOA can assist.  

What are HOA rules, regulations and conditions?

 HOAs love rules. 

Most HOAs keep their rules and policies in their Declaration of Covenants and Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs). Sometimes referred to as the HOA covenant or the governing documents, depending on how an HOA is managed, they can be updated as needs arise. 

If you’re looking at homes in a managed community, your real estate agent can give you a copy to review before you buy. 

Some basic rules and conditions a homeowner can expect to find in CC&Rs include:

  • Living and dwelling limitations (think: the home’s design, landscaping options, aesthetic exterior choices and the number of pets allowed)
  • Use of liens
  • How violations will be enforced or penalized
  • Whether a home can be rented out short term or long term
  • Expected fees (including annual fees and fines related to HOA rule violations)

Do yourself a favor: Don’t skim the CC&Rs. If there are rules you don’t think you can live with (pun intended), make that decision before you start unloading the moving truck. 

If you can’t stay off your phone, you might as well see if the HOA has a social media account or a presence on a real estate community board or forum. A lot of them do. Monitor posts to get a better idea of exactly how hands-on the HOA will be. 

HOAs vs. Other Associations

There are also condo-based associations and property owners associations out there. The differences go beyond what they’re called. There are variations in how these kinds of groups are managed. 

If you’re looking at a condo or townhouse community, for example, knowing how alternative forms of management work can help you make a better-informed purchasing decision. 

Condo-based association 

It’s like an HOA for condominium communities. While HOAs control the common spaces in a community, homeowners own the entire house and land they bought.  

With a condo-based association, the owners own the space within their unit but the condo association is responsible for the spaces between units and the property as a whole.

Property owners association (POA) 

Instead of managing a specific building or neighborhood, POAs generally have a wider reach and can encompass a wider range of building types. 

While community assets may be under POA management, these organizations can also reach a little further, delving into issues like business policy and local zoning.

Neighborhood Association

Unlike HOAs, neighborhood associations are volunteer organizations that come together around a location to meet the neighborhood’s needs. They tend to focus less on property ownership and more on neighborhood advocacy and events.

Essentially, they give citizens a voice, forum and space to improve the neighborhood. They also reach into business policy and local zoning, but it depends on what the community sees a need for. Some may even be nonprofit organizations.

3 Things To Know About an HOA 

If you’re considering a home in a community with an HOA, you’re in good company. Over 74 million U.S. residents are living in properties with an HOA or condominium association.[1] 

If you’re looking at a home that requires HOA membership, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.

The HOA’s financial situation

HOAs are essentially tiny businesses. They collect funds and use them for community betterment – at least in theory.  

Not all HOAs are run and managed responsibly. Do your research to reduce your chances of tying yourself to a property that’s under the watch of a poorly managed HOA. 

Here are some potential red flags you should look out for:

  • Is there enough in the reserve fund and insurance coverage for vital repairs
  • How much debt is the HOA carrying
  • How often are annual assessments raised
  • How good are the accounting and reporting systems

If any red flags start getting raised, proceed with caution.  

The HOA’s amenities

If you’re coughing up cash for membership, you should feel like you’re getting something valuable and worthwhile in exchange. 

HOA amenities can range from tiny, unmanned kiddie pools to fully equipped gyms. 

Don’t be misled by snapshots on social media. Visit all listed amenities IRL. And make sure you know what policies and rules apply to use them.

The future of the HOA

The current state of the HOA is one thing, but the future of the HOA is another. While some HOAs prioritize the status quo, other HOAs try to expand and improve.

Once you feel good about the HOA’s financial situation and amenities, start thinking about what’s coming down the road. Ask about any future projects in the works that will improve the look of the community or increase offered amenities. 

And while you’re asking, make sure they tell you how any future changes might impact future fees.  

HOAs Can Be a Good Thing

You’d never buy a house without at least seeing it, and you’d never join a club you didn’t know anything about. Apply the same philosophy to HOAs. Don’t become a member until you’ve pored over all the details you’ll need to make an informed decision. 

HOAs have a lot to offer homeowners, but with great amenities comes great responsibility.

Home is worth it.

The mortgage process can be exciting, and we’ll be with you all the way. Take the first step to owning a home. You’ll be glad you did.

The Short Version

  • Many homes in the United States are part of a homeowners association or HOA
  • Before buying a home, it's important to know if the property is part of an HOA and what that HOA cover
  • If your home is a part of an HOA, you can’t opt out of HOA membership. You’ve got to follow its rules and pay its fees
Back to top of page

  1. Foundation for Community Association Research. “The Community Association Fact Book 2020.” Retrieved November 2021 from

You Should Also Check Out…

Our team of financial experts write, review and verify content for accuracy and clarity.