What are some pros and cons to a homeowners’ association?

If you care about how well your neighbors keep up the appearance of their property, then a community with a residential association may be for you. In a common-interest development, homeowners’ common concerns have been written down and formalized into legally binding by-laws that come with the home you buy. Some communities can be quite strict, even restricting colors of paint.

  • Condos, co-ops, town homes Condominiums, cooperatives, townhouse communities and planned unit developments are examples of common-interest developments. They are run, generally, by a manager hired and directed by a board of residents that is usually composed of volunteers.
  • By-laws protect resale values Often the association offers special amenities like swimming pools, bike trails, picnic areas, etc., that are available only to residents. The by-laws often include architectural guidelines and property use rules that are written to help protect the resale value of properties in the community. Homeowners are required to keep their properties up to a specific standard. The guidelines are legally enforceable, as anyone who steps outside of them will learn.
  • Read the rules before you buy Before buying property in an area covered by a homeowners' association, read the rules to be sure you can live with them.

What do real estate agents mean when they say the three most important factors in selecting a house are “location, location, location”?

The house is wonderful! But before you buy, carefully check the location to be sure this is the house you want to buy.

  • Consider destinations Where will family members go most often from this new location? How easy is it to reach those places from here? How accessible are schools, churches, grocery stores, medical care, public transportation, shopping malls, and neighborhood services?
  • Be sure rooms have a view What is the view from the house and yard? Is the yard right for your anticipated activities? What uses are possible for nearby undeveloped land? Is a new road planned?
  • Check around the clock Is rush hour traffic a problem? What will be the impact of special events like local high school games or church picnics?
  • Crash test the driveway How easy is it to get into and out of the driveway?
  • Be service conscious What utilities serve this property? Are the rates competitive? Do you want an all-electric house, or do you want gas or oil heat? Where will you get your mail? Where are the easements?
  • Dig below the surface Is the soil stable? Is part of the property on a flood plain -- if so, what is the history of floods on the property?
  • Visit the neighbors How will you fit in with the neighbors? Do people seem to be friendly? Are houses well-maintained?
  • Read the fine print If the community has special by-laws or architectural controls over changes to a house, what are the pros and cons? Make a list of the positive and negative aspects of each property as you tour it. Assign priorities to important elements of the house's location.

Do you have home questions about a specific location? We can help. Call or e-mail us now, or click on “Ask Your Own Questions.”

Why is it smart to size up the schools before buying a house?

When you buy a house, you also buy into the area schools. Why should schools influence the home choice of even childless couples? Resale values. Families will often spend thousands of dollars more for a home located in a better school district.

  • Start with statistics Typically the best place to start is with research that relies heavily on statistics like test scores, high school graduation and college attendance rates, student-teacher ratios and spending per pupil. This data can give a snapshot of the condition of a school or school district over the recent past. Ask your real estate agent, informed friends and school-finding services.
  • Visit, walk-through, ask If you have children and want to find out what the schools will be like for them, you need to visit the schools and see how well they are run, how ancient or modern are the buildings, and how well equipped they are. Pay attention to class size and teacher workload and whether enrichment courses are offered. You also need to talk to school staff to see what problems exist or are looming ahead. Budget cuts, a demographic shift in the area or local development that overwhelms schools with new students -- all can change the quality of schools.
  • Decide for yourself Even if the schools are the best in the state, you should look for what is best for your children. Some youngsters need a small, quiet school where individual efforts are rewarded, others thrive in a large, cosmopolitan atmosphere. Or your children may need personal attention to help cope with special learning styles.

Is it better to buy in a new home area or a resale community?

New or previously owned? Once you’ve started to look for your next home, you need to decide whether to look at homes under construction, or for resales in established neighborhoods. Here are some pros and cons for each type of house.

Newly-Constructed Homes
  • Pluses are: You choose the colors and finishes for floors, bath tiles, appliances, kitchen counters and cabinets. You can opt to upgrade and select builder options, and often can choose your lot. Everything is clean and new when you move in.
  • Minuses are: You may not see the home you are buying until the final walk-through, and may find a number of items that need to be fixed by the builder's maintenance crew. Often, new-home buyers have to deal with construction traffic, debris, mud, dust and unfinished roads.
Existing Resale Homes
  • Pluses are: You can see the home you are buying, and many personal touches like drapes and curtains will likely have been added. You can also tell what the neighborhood will be like by driving through during the day, and how rush hour will be by passing through in the evening.
  • Minuses are: The seller's tastes may not be yours, and you may need to do some redecorating to tailor the home to your color scheme. Also, the appliances may be several years old if they haven't recently been replaced for the sale.