Associations offer many benefits to residents. Most associations offer life-enhancing amenities like club rooms, a gym, pools, playgrounds and professionally landscaped grounds. They may offer a maintenance-free lifestyle by taking care of trash removal, security, snow plowing, grass cutting and exterior maintenance. And many residents value the increased sense of community and activates that allow residents to develop greater friendships.
Association life isn’t for everyone, however. Living in a community association means each person gives up some freedom and autonomy for the good of the community. The attitude “my home is my castle” doesn’t work in an Association. The Association may have authority over choices like what you can put on your balcony and where your children can play, when you can put up holiday decorations and when you must bring in your trash cans. If you don’t mind regulations like these that maintain your community’s overall beauty and property values, while providing services and amenities for all, you will enjoy living in a community association.
Know the rules.
Read the Association’s Bylaws, Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs) before you purchase your home so that you don’t have surprises later on. You will want to know whether with the Association’s policies on pets, parking, collection, rentals and noise fit with your goals and way of life. “For example, you wouldn’t want to live in a community that doesn’t allow hardwood floors if you have an allergy to carpeting,” says Meaghan Bollenburg, LMS Property Manager. “If you want to be able to add onto your home and decorate the way you want – check first to see if the community you are moving into allows that.”
Understand how requests are handled.
“Requests take time. When an owner requests work to be done, it may have to pass approval by a committee, landscaper and the board,” says Charlie Perry, LMS Director of Business Development. “Then, the board may request several bids before assigning the work to a contractor. Also, homeowners may have to get approval from the board for certain architectural changes to their homes.” Since most boards are comprised of volunteers who may only meet once a month, many tasks take longer than if the homeowner was the sole decision-maker.
Be comfortable with close neighbors.
In exchange for the greater sense of community and close neighbors, you will be in closer contact with others than if you lived in the country, for example. Many homes in Community Associations share common walls, roofs and other areas. Noise travels between homes; people will walk past windows and through common areas. The rules and regulations are enacted to help people live courteously with each other, but patience and a degree of tolerance is necessary.
Be clear about what your assessments pay for.
A community association is like a service organization that provides three types of services to owners and residents. They provide community services such as paying group utilities, trash collection or social activities; governance services including enforcing rules; and business services like operating the common property, bidding maintenance work and developing long-range plans. The assessment pays for these services; make sure the association covers services that are important to you.