Homeowners Associations in the News

Red HouseSince my original idea for today’s post has blissfully slipped completely out of my head, we’ll go this direction: homeowners associations.

In the Phoenix area, if you’re looking to purchase a home built from the mid-1990s on inside a subdivision (and generally excluding acreage properties), you’re virtually guaranteed to end up in a homeowners association. There’s a simple reason for that – municipalities have learned they can outsource many of their code compliance duties, at least in terms of property maintenance (weed control, etc.) to homeowners associations, saving the costs of compliance inspectors.

Life in an HOA is a mixed bag. One client of mine, determined to aggravate her board, developed a landscape plan centered around plastic pink flamingos. Others bristle at the idea of having to have a particular color scheme for their home (not that it’s always a bad thing when your neighbors lose their mind, as above) or to be told how many trees they need to have in their front yard (a common restriction in many active adult communities.)

At the same time, properties in HOAs generally are better maintained (at least cosmetically.) Blocks look a little cleaner, a little less cluttered. Curb appeal is a little more, well, appealing. And that tends to help property values as buyers are more inclined to purchase in an area that appears well maintained.

Two perfect examples of this. This past fall, I was showing homes in Westbrook Village in an area where the casita subassociation didn’t overseed with winter rye grass (the only way to maintain year-round green lawn.) My buyer started to wonder if there was an issue with the subassociations finances that prevented it from laying down the rye grass seed to maintain the appearance.

Similarly, about a month ago my parents were driving in Sun City looking for the neighborhood in which they wish to land once I sell their home in Mesa (only $150,000 with a pool and fireplace, coming to the market next week!) They came across an area where the HOA for the gemini homes had decided not to overseed and their first reaction, unaware of my prior example, was that there had to be some financial issues involved to seemingly lessen the maintenance.

Simply put, first impressions matter and HOAs generally help those first impressions.

Of course, there also those moments when you end up with an HOA whose president decides he or she is all powerful. Take this example from Evansville, Indiana, where the president of the HOA in Stonecreek Arbors threatened to sue the local newspaper if they used the name of the HOA. Or his name. After being interviewed by the paper.

Here was his e-mail to the paper:

“[T]his notice also requires you not to at any measure mention anything regarding my name, any resident of Stonecreek, NOR will we ALLOW any of your printing in any article regarding Stonecreek at any time in any publication… You will be held liable for any violations of this letter and notice/request in this email. If we find/discover you have mentioned Stonecreek in any legal matter their (sic) will be action toward yourself as well as any print paper you represent in the media article. You may contact any HOA in the County of Vanderburgh, the State of Indiana, but Stonecreek will not PERMIT OR ALLOW YOU our legal name in any future article.”

These are the moments I loved back when I was a newspaper reporter, in the days newspapers still were read in print form. “I was all set to ignore you, sir, but since you emphasized your point in CAPITAL LETTERS, I’ll back off!”

Apparently, he has gone so far as to inform homeowners they must get their dogs microchipped – not a bad idea, mind you, but also not contained in the HOA rules.

Closer to home, it used to be common place for me to receive inquiries from would-be homebuyers in Ventana Lakes about the POA board based on a 2000 shooting at the Property Owners Association offices that claimed two lives and left two other injured. (My own two cents – one incident doesn’t equate to a “history of violence” but what can we expect when the reporters at the time fell in love with the phrase “murderous rampage.”)

Later, into the mid-2000s, Ventana Lakes’s reputation suffered a bit under the leadership of another overbearing president. This one claimed to have been shoved by an elderly resident who needed a walker simply to get around.)

As with most things related to home purchases, homeowners associations are a mixed bag – some good, some bad, and all are what they are.

(Editor’s note: It was only now, as I was looking up the link for the shooting, that I discovered the shooter, Richard Glassel, died on Tuesday. That event had nothing to do with the rest of this post, lest someone cynically think I used his death and the deaths from the shootings as post inspiration. I debated removing the Ventana Lakes passage but that didn’t seem quite correct either.)

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at allphoenixrealestate.com.