If you live in a condominium complex or a community housing development, you might already be a part of a homeowners association (HOA). Or if you are a first time homebuyer and are getting ready to buy a home, you might be considering living in a development with an HOA. An HOA is an organization in a subdivision or planned community that makes and enforces the rules for the properties in jurisdiction. Typically the HOA can put stipulations on what type of fencing you have, what color you can paint the exterior of your home, and sometimes they even govern rules for pets allowed in the community.

Before you purchase a property with an HOA, make sure you ask your Realtor or the Builder for a copy of the CC&R's. These are the rules and requirements that you must follow living the community so it's vital you look over it beforehand. If you want to go one step further, speak with someone on the committee or talk to some local community members. Usually members of the neighborhood will be able to provide you with a wealth of information on how the HOA operates.
The bylaws of the community can be changed at any time so make sure you stay current by attending meetings and always checking your email or mail for notices. If you stay aware of what's going on there likely will be no surprises about monthly fees going up or other scenarios. The more you know the better off you are. It's also extremely important that you notify your HOA before making any drastic changes or modifications to your property such as a new wall, fence, or additions in the yard. Attend a meeting or send in a request in writing proposing your idea. If you have a strong case it's likely they will reason with you.
What do you think- are HOAs worth the extra money? Have you had any good or bad experiences dealing with a homeowners association?