Florida has many deed restricted and gated communities, providing residents with a wide selection of amenities. But before you buy a property in these communities, you should know exactly what you are getting and whether it will fit your lifestyle.
First and foremost, you are obligated to join that community's homeowners' association (HOA) and pay the monthly or annual HOA fees for the upkeep of common areas and the building. These fees can range from $200-$400 a month and depend on the number of available amenities. There can, however, be other unforeseen costs. If, for example, a new roof is needed and the funds in the HOA reserves are insufficient to cover the cost, the association may charge an extra assessment that could be costly to the homeowners.
Here are some helpful tips when considering a property in an HOA community:
First, and I think this is one of the more important questions to ask yourself, are you the type of person who does not like to be told what to do? If so, then living in an HOA community may not be for you. HOA rules can interfere with your desire to make changes to your home. They can be your best friend when they prevent your neighbor from painting his house cherry red. But, they quickly become your worst enemy when the association requires you to make a costly repair that you believe is unnecessary or they don’t permit you to put a potted plant outside your front door.
If you feel the pros of an HOA community out way the cons, the following suggestions will make you a well-informed buyer:
Familiarize yourself with the HOA rules. You can request a copy of the rules directly from the community or your real estate agent can assist you with this. Pay particular attention to the fine structure and the process in assessing the fines. Also find out whether the HOA can foreclose on your property due to fines or the failure to make the annual payments.
Check with the Association to make sure the property you are considering is not in violation of any current rules.
Ask about the fees. How often are the fees increased, what it the balance of the reserve, is garbage and cable included, have there been any special assessments applied to the homeowners and if so what was the reason. This will prevent any surprises down the road.
Since Florida has its share of flooding and hurricanes, it is important to ask about the HOA catastrophe insurance policy.
Check to see if there are any restrictions preventing you from renting out your property or that would make it difficult for you to do so. Some communities have limitations on the length of stay for rentals.
As a prospective buyer in an HOA community, you are entitled to and encouraged to ask for this information. Buying a home is a big investment so make it a well informed decision.