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Understanding HOA Assessments

HOA assessments have often been viewed as an additional expense and sometimes even considered a burden by homeowners. However, association assessments typically offload some of the common expenses that homeowners would have had to pay.

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Your Money at Work: Understanding Your HOA Assessments

Homeownership has long been considered a cornerstone of the American dream. However, new homeowners quickly discover that being a homeowner can come with a number of hidden price tags. 

Beyond just the initial down payment and mortgage, there is an array of expenses that homeowners need to be prepared for. From maintenance costs, taxes, and utility bills to unexpected repairs, the financial responsibilities of owning a home can be daunting. 

If you live in a Common Interest Community Association (HOA or Condo Association), there is one more expense to add to the list: Assessments. 

It’s a topic that homeowners often have questions about. Why do I have to pay HOA assessments? What exactly do they cover? How do they benefit the community? And what’s in it for me?

HOA Assessments 101: How It Works

 

Community associations have only one major source of income - assessments. The money gained from assessments needs to cover all the expenses for the community for the entire year. 

As a member of your community association, you are required to pay your share in the costs of maintaining and operating your community. You may have wondered, what exactly are my HOA assessment fees spent on, and how does my community determine what to charge me? 

Your assessment amount is determined and set by your community's voted representatives, the Board of Directors and subsequently ratified by the homeowners. Boards base the budget on previous year expenditures, trends, community needs, preventive maintenance and capital improvement planning. 

Each year the annual budget is thoughtfully reviewed and approved by the board and is subsequently ratified by the owners. Based on the budget, the total amount needed for the year is divided amongst the number of homes or units in the community, which is each owner's share of the regular assessments.

Where Do Your HOA Assessment Dollars Go?

 

HOA assessments have often been viewed as an additional expense and sometimes even considered a burden by homeowners. However, association assessments typically offload some of the common expenses that homeowners would have had to pay anyhow, and because the community is buying as a collective, the cost of these services is often cheaper than it would have been if each homeowner had purchased them individually.

While every community’s budget is different, there are a lot of similarities between communities.  Here are some of the key expenses funded by your HOA assessments:

  1. Municipal Services:
    Municipalities love approving new HOAs and Condo associations in their districts because it takes a huge financial load off of them. Instead of the city or county footing the bill for municipal services like garbage pickup, water and sewage, and road maintenance, they often pass those responsibilities off to the community association - and the association uses assessments to pay for it.
  2. Routine Maintenance:
    Community associations come with amenities, beautiful landscaping, parking areas and more—all of which are called common property. Regular upkeep of these common areas ensures that your community remains in top shape. Your board uses the assessment income to contract with a range of professional vendors to provide these maintenance services, helping enhance curb-appeal and maintain property values in your community.
  3. Reserve Funds:
    Imagine what would happen if the elevator in your condo suddenly stopped working, or the entry gate in your HOA broke down? The costs to replace major components like these can be staggering. If the board has not set aside funds to accommodate for these costs, you and your fellow homeowners may end up having to foot the bill. Having a healthy reserve fund is crucial for community associations as it serves as a financial cushion that can prevent the need for enacting special assessments on homeowners.
  4. Legal Fees:
    On occasion, your association’s Board may need to consult with an attorney regarding collection of delinquent assessments, ongoing rule enforcement issues or to defend against a lawsuit. Many community associations keep a law firm on retainer to address these needs as they arise. Nobody (except the lawyers) loves legal expenses, but the alternative of not having a good legal team to address issues can be even more costly to homeowners in the long run.
  5. Insurance:
    HOA assessments often include insurance coverage for common areas, directors, and liabilities. This collective insurance approach reduces individual homeowners' insurance costs and provides added protection for the association and its residents. You’ll still need insurance to cover your specific home or unit, but the association’s insurance coverage can cover a lot of external areas that would cost you more if you had to cover them in your own policy.
  6. Management and Administration:
    Whether your board of directors has hired a professional management company like Morris Management or directly employs administrative staff, there is a lot that goes into the day-to-day operation of a community association. Professional managers provide a range of services from financial management, customer service, vendor management, project management, and guidance with strategic planning. These services help your board maintain smooth operation of the community.
  7. Technology:
    Your HOA assessments also cover the technology that your association uses to monitor financial management, homeowner communications, website maintenance, work order processing, and homeowner payments. These technology offerings help simplify HOA operations and enhance resident experiences.

Are HOA fees worth it? You bet. 

HOAs can increase your property values & take some of the burden off of homeowners. Not only do your assessments cover costs you might have had to pay for on your own, but they also help cover time-intensive homeownership tasks like scheduling home repairs & routine maintenance, getting bids for repairs and managing vendors.  

Homeowners can reap the benefits without the hassle and often at a lower cost than if you were to manage everything individually.

Protecting Your Investment and Improving Your Quality of Life

 

Ultimately, your HOA assessments play a crucial role in maintaining and enhancing your community. By sharing the financial responsibilities of common expenses, your community association allows you to enjoy the benefits of a well-maintained property while taking less responsibility on yourself. As a result, you can enjoy a hassle-free, beautiful community that will enhance your quality of life and property value.

 

Morris Management is a leading provider of professional management services for community associations in the Puget Sound region. Our expertise, local knowledge, and commitment to putting people first make us the ideal choice for HOAs and Condo Associations. Request a proposal today to learn how we can help your community thrive.

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