What's the Scoop on #Kitsap HOA's?

Kitsap HOAs

For our Dupuis Team first time home buyers, one of the biggest concerns is often whether or not their home will have a Homeowner's Association, commonly referred to as an "HOA." It can seem daunting if you are facing a purchase that has an attached HOA, having just waded through some very complex paperwork to purchase the home in the first place.  We're here to demystify for you!

These are sometimes called by different names depending on intent and the sort of property - some rural properties might have a simple Road Maintainence co-op to keep the gravel smooth for everyone, or a condo community will have a Condo Owner's Association that covers things like roofs that cover multiple units, restrictions on what you can keep outdoors, upkeep of community ammenties like a gym or pool, and gardening for the common areas. 

Restrictions and rules imposed by HOAs are often called Covenants.  You'll sometimes see the body of work referred to as the CC&R (Covenants, Conditions, Restrictions.)

If you've previously been a renter, you might think of an HOA as similar to how your lease defined what your landlord or property management did and did not cover.  You'll know all about that going into the deal, and that's useful - no surprises!

First of all, a great many properties in Kitsap are simply without an HOA restrictions at all.  If that's the case - phew, nothing to learn!  You won't have any covenants (other than those imposed by the municipality, county, or state on everyone) regarding the use and appearance of your property.  You'll be solely responsible for upkeep, possibly including things like the grass on the far side of your sidewalk ("parking strip.")

On the other end of the spectrum, you'll find HOA's such as those that will necessarily accompany a condo purchase, where you share walls (and maybe floors/ceilings) with other owners.  In addition to the previously mentioned condo association topics, you'll need to work with them when you buy and sell that property.

HOA's differ by how much power they wield, and this is where a few bad apples given them an understandably bad name.  In some cases found nationwide, they can demand you remove decorations of which you are fond, they can levy fines against non compliant homeowners, and they can evict or force the sale of your property if you remain in egregious noncompliance with the covenants, and so on.

In response to some difficult standoffs of these sorts that have cropped up over the years, federal and state laws have formed governing what HOA's must (and may not) do. In Washington state, you'll find HOA's governed by this set of laws. It may be worth keeping that link in a bookmark for quick reference if you run into trouble.  Should you have a serious disagreement with your HOA not easily resolved by the group's own grievance procedure, you'll want to consult a real estate attorney - they handle these sorts of cases frequently, and will be your best bet.

So, why bother with buying a home if you "can't do what you want" anyway - why buy a property with an HOA?  There are a number of "Pro" items to consider, against the cons:

  • The HOA can spend its own time finding the best service providers vs return on costs.  Getting bids on larger, communal work will almost always work out to less per resident than each homeowner will have paid addressing an issue individually., and meet with those contractors on behalf of the homeowners
  • The HOA can be responsible for meeting with contractors on behalf of the homeowners, freeing up a lot of time and hassle for individuals.
  • An HOA may provide services you enjoy, but would be disinclined to build or maintain yourself, such as snow removal, landscaping, playgrounds, clubhouse facilities for parties and meetings, pools, gyms, and more.
  • Your property may have a higher value within an HOA.  A study published in 2019 found that overall, there was about a 4% higher value nationwide for homes that sold in HOA-covenanted areas.
  • Some HOA's include certain utilities, such as well water held in common.  That can be much more convenient and cost-effective than managing your own, month to month.  It can mean fewer bills, too.
  • There is often a social side to HOA's, which will arrange potlucks, welcome parties for new residents, children's events, and more.  This can be very welcome if you are new to an area and struggle with getting out there and saying hello!  There is nothing like having several neighbors whom you feel you know well, and can count upon to really feel like you're putting roots down . . . and that's really one of the reasons to be a homeowner!

So, the cons - we mentioned a few above, but we left out:

  • The fees. Yeah, depending on location and what's covered - they can be high.  You'll absolutely need to take them into account when budgeting your new housing purchase. We don't see the crazy $10K/month fees some hot Manhattan building might command anywhere in Kitsap, but you will need to seek clarity - the fees are usually listed right in the MLS property description. This is one of those things you'll need decide for yourself and what is reasonable will vary for each person.  It's something you absolutely will want to familiarize yourself with QUICKLY before making a bid on a property - once you decide to buy, the fees (compared to what's offered) are pretty much carved in stone. It does amount to a little less purchase power for you as a buyer.
  • Discovering that you chafe under terms you previously thought agreeable.  Your own tastes as a homeowner may morph over time, and you'll wish you had more freedom with your property.  The main cure there is to sell and move, so if you think this might be you, consider carefully before you purchase an HOA home.
  • Restrictions on business conducted at the property.  If you are a business owner, be sure to read these rules very, very carefully.  These typically govern actually hanging out a shingle and having clients come to your home, not so much remote work from that many of us find ourselves doing in recent times - but read carefully and be sure!

By and large - and this is a generalization - we see very, very low key HOAs in Kitsap.  They are mostly low cost collectives just to deal with communal landscape areas, plowing private roads, and such.  It's again a big generalization, but in our experience PNW'ers kind of have a streak of individuality and self sufficiency that makes highly restrictive covenants a no-go.  If you find you can't stomach the idea of one at all - there will be loads and loads of HOA-free areas to pick amongst.  Just give us a call at Dupuis Team today - your preferences in this area (for or against!) is exactly the sort of tailored way we represent our buyers every single day.

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