Homeowner’s Association Fees: Are They Worth it?

by AJ Pettersen · 9 comments

Housing development

My wife and I recently relocated to Florida, where the streets are lined with gated communities. Most are operated by homeowner’s associations that set rules and regulations, maintain the grounds, offer services — and charge a monthly fee. The number of associations in Florida is significantly greater than where we lived before, which led us to wonder: if you’re buying a home, is a community with a homeowner’s association worth the cost?

Here are the factors you should consider:


Homeowner’s associations typically cover services for the fee you pay. We are renting, but the owner of the home we live in pays $350 per month to be in the community. These fees cover the gate, a large pool, a workout facility, and various other services. Down the street, there’s a community that charges $1100 per month and offers high-class spa treatments to the homeowners. My mother-in-law pays a monthly fee in Minnesota, but her association only covers snow removal and lawn care, so the cost is much less.

Picking what amenities you’d like is important. You may find the spas and high-class dining to be luxurious, but if you don’t think you’ll use them often, you probably shouldn’t fork over the extra monthly payment. A mortgage payment carries equity, while an association payment counts as a living expense. It’s a monthly fee you pay for services, and it carries no tax advantages.

We’ve found that the gate at the front makes us feel very safe. Nicely maintained yards, garbage removal, and free use of a large pool are also amenities we will really enjoy.


Homeowner’s associations typically have rules that everyone in the community needs to follow. These can include pet restrictions, rules on leasing, and landscaping policies. It’s important that you read the association guidelines before buying or renting a unit.

During Christmas last year, my mother-in-law got a fine when some of the family parked on the street. This was a restriction she hadn’t known before, as it didn’t seem to lower the standard of living for the other members of the community.

Sense of Community

I immediately noticed the friendliness of everyone within our community. Most people stop to say hello and wave as they walk past. There’s even a channel on our TV dedicated to promoting events within the association, which include card games and dance classes. A homeowner’s association can help bring people together.

With a lot of retired people living in the community, an association is a perfect fit. It helps the members find people to meet and activities to attend throughout the week.

Is an HOA Right for You?

It comes down to whether the amenities are worth the monthly cost. Without the association, what would you pay for lawn services and a gym membership? Are you looking for a sense of community? If so, then maybe an HOA would be the right fit. But don’t forget that an association’s monthly fee can offset the equity involved with owning a home.

What is your experience with homeowner’s associations?

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  • Brainiac3397 says:

    Who care’s about standard of living and friendliness when you got HOA Nazis freaking out that your shade of white doesn’t adhere to regulation, or your flower is 3 inches too close to the road, or that your car isn’t in the garage.

    Forget that nonsense. It’s practically anti-American. Many HOAs undermine American values, and make you think it’s for your own good. All they care about is the money.

  • Ryan Vann says:

    Caveat emptor rules in HOA land.
    In its plutonic form, an HOA is virtuous and clever concept: pool capital from the inhabitants of an area to beautify and/or maintain the common areas, thus increasing the value of each individual dwelling. In theory, gains from economies of scale should result in very efficient maintenance and upkeep costs. For example, a grounds-keeping company is probably more willing to offer lower prices to maintain a larger area, than a bunch of small ones owing to reduced contracting costs.

    In practice, the virtuousness goes right out the door when one realizes that HOAs are corporate entities that, while they ostensibly represent the owners, are also in the business of making profits. There are conflicting interests here, and an asymmetry of power and information. Any one dissatisfied owner has limited avenues for redress. Some states have remedied the information asymmetry by requiring yearly financial statements. While this is good and well, a full audit would probably keep HOA’s more honest.

    Then there are the conflicts and grievances, and covenant violations that cause residents all kinds of grief. There is actually something called HOA syndrome.

    On the whole, HOAs present a multi-faceted legalistic issue, and in my book more legalese and complexity = more societal and individual atomization, ultimately leading to a much worse world. I’m by no means a full blown Luddite, but on the topic of HOAs I can’t muster a good answer to “were housing values so bad prior to the surge in HOAs to merit their current prevalence?”

    I’m not sure when exactly HOAs became de rigeur, but I started noticing them in the late 1990s. Despite the insane bubble in the mid 2000’s spurred on by cheap money and other factors, the trend in home values has been pretty modest and consistent for at least 40 years.

    That isn’t to say one may be able to find an HOA that does present a good value.

  • slinky says:

    When shopping for a home, i automatically ruled out everything with a hoa. Of course, I’m also putting a blacksmith forge in the backyard.

  • David says:

    When HOAs become intrusive, they are the absolute worst. Beyond worst. They turn the home ownership experience into a gigantic rental; limiting the things you do on your property. When the HOA is run by fiat and busy-bodies, they lower the property value. The tiny indignities just make living in a bad HOA community just terrible. Imagine buying a piece of land, paying a mortgage on it, paying property taxes, and having someone else tell you how to decorate, or that you can’t grow tomatoes on the lawn. Imagine someone wresting these decisions from you in the name of… god knows what (property values?) Oftentimes, you can find a reasonable landlord; but when HOAs are bad, they are by definition, unreasonable. And unlike a rental, you can’t just leave.

    HOAs are fine when they are under control; when not, there are few things worse.

  • Maverick says:

    NO WAY to HOA! When looking at property to build a house, I came across lots that shared common areas including a dry basin used for storm water run off. I found that if a person, a child for instance, drowned in the storm water basin, the HOA gets sued. No thanks!

  • artesanatos says:

    I think in certain cases it is really worth it to live on a community with association fees. I think it is especially useful for security reasons. The fact of belonging to a community can actually help to prevent crime and the sense of isolation.

  • Cindy says:

    I live in a condo in the pacific northwest and love it! My association fee pays water, sewer, garbage, pool, clubhouse, landscaping, snow removal and all exterior maintenance. It’s comperable to what I paid for my single family home with the bonus of a pool and clubhouse. Living in community requires compromise, courtesy and communication. It’s not for everyone, but it suits me.

  • Chloe says:

    I have a retired family member who lives in a gated retirement community in Florida. And I think if you’re a senior, and you want to live in a gated community… Then it’s worth it if the place is good. She loves it there.

    BUT, her gated community is NOT like the ones I’ve read about where people pitch a fit about a lawn ornament or something stupid.
    And recently, I found out why.
    Her gated community… ONLY the social activities are done by the “association”. All grounds, community areas, community buildings, and all of the maintenance kind of stuff – it’s ALL done by the community owner/manager or whatever he is… I guess you’d call him a landlord of the community, but not of the individual properties because obviously the houses & lots are owned by individuals.

    At times there has been talk that SOME people in the community want to make it a proper “home owners association” and get rid of the landlord somehow. (I have no idea how, but apparently there is some precedent law that people can use to fight for it.) And these people say “then we can decide how the money is spent & he won’t be profiting from us!”…

    My family member said she wants no part of that! Because right now, with a landlord they pay, he’s legally obligated under landlord laws to take care of the community buildings & all sorts of things. And apparently he does a really good job. There’s nobody complaining about the job he’s doing. Nothing is neglected, and nobody is hassled about anything other than basic things like keeping the lawns mowed or like being disruptive in the neighborhood… – if you have a jungle on your property then maybe someone will complain obviously (but that’s true in regular neighborhoods!

    So my family member said that one of the problems HOAs have is that it’s a bunch of homeowners in clicques and the ones who are interested are sometimes into it because, well, they’re control freaks and this is an outlet for them to play dictator against their neighbors, and play petty politics. And there’s already that nonsense because they’re sometimes newly retired bored seniors.
    And then there’s people not allocating the funds properly, and things start getting neglected – or the focus gets to the wrong things – like pitching fits about door colours…
    She says at least with a landlord, he’s in business. Yes, it may seem like the homeowners are missing out on his “profits”, but the point is, he runs it like a business – ie: he has the utmost incentive to provide good service – and since he doesn’t live there, these people are not his neighbors and there’s no personal issues or neighbor feuds involved. He just straight up does what he’s paid to do.

    So yeah, I think it depends on the HOA. And one would be well advised to find out BEFORE moving into one!

    We live in a house in a regular neighborhood that we rent off a friend of the family… and we seem to have more freedom & less aggravation than a lot of HOMEOWNERS living under HOAs. If you’ve got someone hassling you about nonsense all the time – that’s worse than a bad landlord because at least if you’re renting you can break your lease & move without having to sell property.

    I personally was OUTRAGED a few years back when I heard that many HOAs across the country BAN clothes lines in BACK yards!!
    Yeah, ban a big money & fuel saver people have in nice weather because you’re trying to send the message that you’re too good to save money or do anything to reduce your carbon footprint. How shallow. Or maybe they’re like stuck in Victorian times where they’re afraid they might see their neighbors’ underwear & die of shame? ha ha

    I’d never want to live somewhere that didn’t like clothes lines! I think that’s unAmerican! ha ha

  • Shane says:

    I don’t think they are worth it. They pitched a fit over my sisters door color, it wasn’t even a weird or loud color. I think in certain occasions they are needed. but most of the time they are just a hassle.

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