Homeowners associations get a bad rap. Sure, they can come with high fees and limit what you can do with your property, but are they a complete waste? Definitely not.
In fact, they actually offer quite a few perks. From maintaining community common areas to safeguarding local property values, HOAs can do a lot for the residents they serve.
Are you thinking about buying a home in an HOA-managed neighborhood? Depending on where you’re interested in living — the suburbs or some place more rural — an HOA may provide slightly different benefits. Let’s look closer at suburban and rural HOAs and what each can offer you.
Suburban Homeowners Associations
Many suburban neighborhoods come with HOAs. The association will usually mow common areas; maintain any community parks, trails, pools and playgrounds; and staff any facilities within the neighborhood (clubhouses, pools, security gates). They also establish rules for how the community — and homes within it — should look.
Though these rules can be a pain to comply with (you might be fined if you let your grass get too high), they also help ensure a better-looking neighborhood on the whole. In the long run, this means higher property values and bigger profits when you sell your home later on.
Here are a few other perks that come with HOAs in the suburbs:
- They ensure cleaner, better-kept amenities. If your neighborhood has any shared amenities, like a pool, tennis court or even just a picnic pavilion, the HOA will make sure it’s cleaned, maintained and kept safe. The HOA may also add additional amenities over time (and as the neighborhood grows).
- They make for a tighter-knit community. HOAs often put together neighborhood events, allowing residents to socialize and make local connections. Residents can also use the HOA as a way to meet neighbors (through regular meetings or by serving as a board member).
- They can help make the neighborhood safer. If you’re in a gated neighborhood, the homeowners association may cover maintaining and operating the gate, as well as any security staff. Some HOAs install road signs and crosswalks, and many also offer neighborhood watch groups.
- They act as your mediator. HOAs can help settle disputes that might crop up with a neighbor, whether it’s due to too-loud parties, barking dogs, an issue with your shared fence or any other problem you might have along the way.
- They beautify the neighborhood. Many HOAs plant flowers, hang decorations around the holidays and all in all keep the community looking great. Again, this helps support higher property values and ensures long-term marketability.
There are downsides to HOAs, of course. You’ll have to keep your home and yard in line with the association’s rules and regulations, and you may have to get any home improvement projects approved by the HOA board — especially ones on the exterior of your property.
Rural Homeowners Associations
HOAs are more common in the suburbs, but some rural communities have them, too. Generally, rural HOAs focus more on roads, local services (sewage, trash, water utilities) and how land can be utilized in the area (being able to raise livestock on it, for example).
Take a look at some of the benefits that rural HOAs can offer homeowners:
- They usually mean nicer and better-lit roads. Most rural HOAs tend to local roads and walkways, repairing potholes, repaving (or re-graveling) the surface and shoveling snow when necessary. They also might install and maintain streetlights — something especially important in areas with winding or low-visibility roads.
- They ensure your home gets all the necessary services. Trash pick-up, treated water and even sewage services often aren’t available in more rural parts of the country. HOAs can ensure residents get these important utilities on a regular and consistent basis.
- They keep pests and wildlife at bay. In many rural communities, HOAs will cover the costs of spraying for pests (ants, mosquitos, etc.) and managing any wildlife issues that might arise. This is important if you live in an area with coyotes, wolves or other dangerous animals that could threaten your loved ones or pets.
- They keep property values up. Like suburban HOAs, rural ones also help support higher property values by caring for common areas and holding residents (and their properties) to certain standards. This means you’ll have an easier time marketing and selling your home when it comes time — and you may make more money when you do.
- They reduce your responsibilities as a neighborhood. Without an HOA, rural residents would be forced to band together to handle local upkeep, like mowing common areas, maintaining and repairing roads, and managing pest issues. Having an HOA in place allows homeowners to focus on their own properties.
Rural HOAs may also offer social events, too, though it depends on how large the community is. This can be especially helpful for those living in areas with lots of acreage, as it can be hard to meet people (even your neighbors) when your homes are spaced far apart.
The Final Word
Though HOAs — suburban or rural — do come with an added fee and they may even cite you for letting those weeds get out of hand, they’re not all bad. From safeguarding your property values to reducing your burden as a homeowner, HOAs do a lot of good, too.
Are you considering buying a new home in an HOA-controlled community? Check out our HOA 101 guide to understand how it all works.
I’m a freelance writer and journalist from Houston, covering real estate, mortgage and finance topics. See my current work in Forbes, The Motley Fool, The Balance, Bankrate, New Home Source and The Simple Dollar. Past gigs: The Dallas Morning News, NBC, Radio Disney and PBS.