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What is an HOA?

An HOA is a self-governed organization that oversees residents in subdivision, planned communities and condo or apartment buildings.

HOAs exist mainly to keep property values high by maintaining and monitoring regular upkeep, like pest control, repairs and aesthetic updates. The way they can afford to do that is through monthly or annual fees of other residents.

Many residences make HOA fees mandatory, but some choose to make it voluntary. For those who have the choice to opt out of regular fees, be warned you’ll likely lose access to communal areas or other perks you’re not chipping in for anymore.

HOA fees across the country tend to average around $250 per month for a single-family home, according to iPropertyManagement’s most recent numbers. But Houston’s average specifically is even less than that. Homeowners there can expect to pay around $195.70, according to a Zillow analysis done by online furniture retailer Joybird.

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Think before you buy

Though HOA fees can serve an important purpose, Seckar isn’t the only Piper’s Crossing owner who feels like he’s not getting what he’s paying for.

William, whose last name is withheld by ABC13, has invested in several condos in the complex. But with the increased HOA fees yet lack of care on the property, he “regrets” his investment decision.

“We never knew that the HOAs would be increasing faster than inflation,” he told ABC13.

ABC13 reached out to the Piper’s Crossing board — made up of condo owners and volunteers — to comment on the situation. The board sent back a statement from their lawyer saying that “there are currently not enough funds to make all the repairs at once.”

ABC13 looked into Piper’s Crossing’s financials from 2023. The complex has around 200 units, but the HOA had only $61,175 in assets. Yet it had $770,806 left on a loan it took out to pay for repairs.

The channel interviewed real estate attorney Richard Weaver, who says that’s not enough funding for an HOA of this size.

“If you look at this community and you see how in disrepair it is, it is really shocking,” he adds.

Look into your HOA before buying

The best way to avoid a situation like Seckar’s is to do your research on your HOA. Before you purchase a property Realtor.com recommends you ask your real estate agent about the nature of your HOA, including what are their powers and how are their finances.

You can also go directly to the HOA to get the scoop. If you want to be extra careful, you can even search court records to see if the HOA gets sued often — and whether that legal action appears to be over reasonable things to you.

This will help you better understand what kind of place you’re going to be living in, as well as if you’re going to get your value out of your fees. Plus, it’ll give you a better idea about your home upkeep — which will be a huge factor of the home’s selling price later down the line.

For his part, Secker says he’s learned an important lesson.

“From now on when I buy a home, no matter how pretty it looks,” he says. “Double check and learn about HOAs.”

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About the Author

Sabina Wex

Sabina Wex

Reporter

Sabina Wex is a writer and podcast producer in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Fast Company, CBC and more.

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