A street in an Arizona HOA community.

If you’re planning on living in one of Arizona’s two metro areas (Phoenix or Tucson) in a planned community, expect to come under the benefit/headache of a homeowners association, or HOA. Most who do either swear by them or at them.

Fans of HOAs like that the neighbors are required to keep their yards trimmed and their houses neat. Foes complain about clipboard-toting buttinskys fining them for grass height or garbage cans out front. And most Arizona communities built in the past 50 years of any size have come with HOAs.

If you’ve never lived under one of these mini-governments, here are the ups and downs of doing so:

Advantages of Living in an HOA Community

No junky houses or yards

*An HOA hallmark is the emphasis on uniformity and aesthetics. These communities often boast well-kept lawns, color-coordinated homes, and communal areas like parks and pools. For those who yearn for a clean, well-kempt community, this is like living in a postcard.

No pink or fluorescent houses

HOAs often regulate what can be seen in those communities, from the color of houses to where boats and RVs must be kept to how long the trash cans may be in the street. That can include landscaping, colors, what’s allowed to be parked our front, and other regulations about home “improvements.” It’s designed to prevent one wacky neighbor from creating an eyesore.

Amenities and Services

While some HOAs simply deal with the look of the places, others offer communal amenities like a pool, community center, sport courts, events like Easter egg hunts, and neighborhood watches. (My HOA puts up flags on patriotic holidays.) That allows residents to have features available that they may not be able to afford all by themselves.

Security and Sense of Neighborhood

Communities that have shared events and gathering places can have a greater personal stake in keeping the place nice and knowing the neighbors provide greater security and feeling of a community.

Dispute Resolution

If your neighbor plays saxophone outside after midnight or won’t fix the leak from his sprinkler system draining into your yard, some HOAs will mediate those issues. That’s most effective when one party is clearly violating written rules, like leaving junk out front.

Keeping the Value of Your Home

When the time comes to sell the house, you won’t have to worry about the Clampetts down the block turning off prospective buyers with their messy abode and junk cars. This truly is one of the main advantages of an HOA.

Disadvantages of an HOA

Mini-government means fees and taxes

All those amenities and oversight cost money, and guess who pays? You do. Generally, the more the amenities the higher the fees, but some HOAs that are little more than a landscaping agreement still can run a pretty penny – into the thousands for really high end communities. If you love the idea of having pool that someone else maintains and events someone else plans, this may be your ticket. If you wouldn’t use those features, perhaps a less active HOA (or none at all) would serve you best.

Pain in the Keister

Sometimes, to some residents, it seems like they’re just trying to make life harder, sending notices about trash containers in the street or having an RV in front of the house while loading or vacation visitors getting dinged for having a car on the block. And many who have lived under an HOA have stories about authoritarian and nit-picky board members who have it out for someone. Try fighting an HOA. Expect it to cost money, time, and heartburn – and there could be legal complications.

Resale Costs and Considerations:

Some people considering buying a house flat don’t want to live under and HOA, and those folks are not likely to buy real estate in one. Others might be turned off by the monthly expense. And there are costs associated with transferring the HOA to the new owner and even just getting buyers all the updated HOA rules.

Is an HOA Right for You?

What do you fear most: Junky hillbillies damaging your sense of place and property values, or power-mad persnickety busybodies? Most fall in-between. So, look at the advantages and disadvantages above and see which of them get your goat the most. Do you most value a community with consistent aesthetics and amenities, and don’t mind playing by the rules? Or is your freedom of expression more important?

HOA Regs That Create the Most Conflicts

The Yard

Many HOAs have rules about how landscaping should be maintained, including plants allowed, grass height, and even how often lawns should be mowed. You should pore over those rules if you want a more natural or personalized landscape.

Paint and Extras

Some HOAs restrict not only paint colors, but additions, fencing, gates, and anything the sticks up above the back fence. Make sure it fits your likes and lifestyle.

Animals

Some have restrictions about breeds and behaviors of pets, plus the number and what kinds of animals are allowed. They also can restrict where pets can be walked, while others put out stations with poop bags and cans to make dog-walking easier and neater. Don’t expect to be able to have chickens or other animals that are not traditional household pets.

Where and What to Park

Many HOAs prohibit RVs, boats, commercial vehicles and the like unless they are garaged or hidden, so discover those rules if that’s important to you. While you generally can load and unload them in front of the house, such activity is often timed. HOAs have been known to ban even a pickup or van with commercial writing on them. Some also limit the number of cars per residence, so if you have a big family with lots of drivers, that could be an issue.

Would You Turn That Down, Please?

Few of us want screeching loud music blasting in the middle of the night or neighbors mowing lawns near your bedroom window at 5 o’clock on Sunday morning, and many HOAs limit times and volume of noise (which may be music to your neighbor).

No Party House Rentals Allowed

A few HOAs limit or prevent homeowners from renting out their properties, and more and more of them are limiting short-term rentals, like Airbnb or VBRO, which can turn into loud and messy party houses, something most neighbors do not want. At this writing, Arizona prohibits cities from passing ordinances prohibiting short-term rentals, but it’s an issue in flux and things could change. If you’re planning to use the property as such, learn what you’re getting into.

Political and Holiday Signs and Decorations

Some HOAs have time restrictions on those things you put up out front to show your enthusiasm for a candidate or holiday. They can’t prevent political expression, but they can limit it by size, time, number and the like. They also can’t prevent you from putting up a For Sale sign, although they can regulate its appearance and dimensions.

Pull Your Cans in, Pal

Probably the most cited complaint about HOA behavior is a citation for a garbage container being out past the restricted time. Rules often require cans be pulled in by a certain time and kept out of sight otherwise.

Running a Home Business

HOAs can have restrictions about running some businesses from home. If that’s your plan, check the rules. (Mostly what they’re trying to avoid is a constant flow of customers coming into the neighborhood and parking disputes.)

The Price Changes

If something the HOA maintains breaks or needs to be replaced, HOA boards can raise the dues or pass special assessment to cover that cost, and it’s all the homeowners who have to pony up for that. HOA finances are supposed to be available for members, but it can be confusing, not to mention a lot of work, to dive into that.

Final thoughts

Before signing on the dotted line, get and review the HOA rules (the seller is required to provide them) so you avoid serious lifestyle surprises.

The post Navigating the Neighborhood: Pros and Cons of HOAs in Arizona appeared first on Arizona Realty Network.