So you’ve finally made the decision to purchase your dream home. It’s a great house, in ideal location, but it’s also a community in an HOA or home owners association. So what now? Well we wanted to help out those new owners that have never lived in a community association before. We compiled a list of 10 essential tips for anyone moving into an HOA community Read Governing Documents (Declaration, Bylaws, Rules, etc) This might seem like a pretty obvious one for some, but believe me, very few people actually read their documents thoroughly when moving into a community association. I know it’s not very sexy reading material, but it is very important to familiarize yourself with your community’s governing documents. Understanding all the community’s rules, policies and procedures, well make from a much more enjoyable HOA community living experience because you will then understand the role of the association and expectations of its homeowner members. Know how to contact HOA / Management Company Whether you are a self-managed community or enjoy the assistance of a full time management company, you need to know how to contact the proper people concerning your community. If you have any questions, need proof of community insurance, statement of account, have a work order request, you know who and how to contact them. Understand your community’s ARC application process. Nothing is worse than getting started on your grand back yard deck project, only to receive stop construction notice because you forgot to formally apply for the improvement with your HOA. Every HOA should have a formal ARC (Architectural review committee) application process, that you’ll need to go through before starting your project. I know It may seem like a huge hassle, but the same process is what prevents your neighbor from legally painting their house purple with leopard stripes . View your HOA budget One thing people ask us all the time is “Where did my money go?” The easiest way to answer that question is to understand your HOA community’s budget. This will break down all of the expenses, and services that your HOA community provides. If you never received one upon moving into the community, be sure to request one from either your management company or the board of directors as you are entitled as an owner to your community’s financial information. Get your Amenity Center / Pool Access Keys Yes we do have to remind our communities occasionally to take full advantage of their HOA community amenities. Pick your keys or access cards even if you don’t have any immediate plans to use them. You never know when you might need them for when friends and family come to town and you need a place for the kids to play. Besides, you are helping pay for it after all. Attend Annual Meeting Attending your annual meeting is the best way to understand the pulse of your community learn about the latest projects and potential issues facing the community. It’s only a few hours every year with your fellow neighbors. While there, you can brought up to speed on the current financial situation of your association, which certainly very important, especially when you live in a condo association. Attend a community Social Event Almost all HOA’s have some kind of social or community gathering event for its owners and residents. It’s a great way to meet your neighbors and start to really form a sense of “community” amongst your fellow homeowners. Come on. Join the rest of the community during the next wine tasting or charitable event Opt-in for HOA community emails I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes thinking, “Great more emails, that’s all I need right now” Understand that email is a great way for communities to connect with their residents essential information without spending excess money on postage and paper costs. You certainly will want to know about major maintenance projects, safety updates, and major community voting sessions as well. Budget for HOA Assessments Now that you live in your HOA community, you must plan for adjust your personal budget accordingly. Your community depends on those Annual, Quarterly, or Monthly assessments to properly care for maintain your community. Don’t waste any of your hard-earned money on late fees or penalties because of your HOA assessments. Sign up Bill pay / Auto draft for your assessment Help yourself budget for your community assessments but signing up for automatic bill pay with your bank or sign up for automatic draft with your HOA management company to insure that your get your assessments paid and on time every time. Keep your amenity center keys activated Living in an HOA community can be a great place to live, work, and raise a family. Home owners associations have some significant advantages over communities that do no have a community association to help their property values. Using these tips, you will be further educated and informed about your HOA community.