As published in the Conroe Courier, these articles written by Claudia Hohlt address various real estate topics in and around Montgomery County.
Several weeks ago, I spent a couple of days out of state in wonderful community. It had wide tree-lined avenues flanked by pristinely restored century old residences. There were sidewalks alongside each street on which we strolled each evening with a complete sense of safety. The surroundings were quiet, wildlife was in abundance, and everyone we encountered during our stay was friendly, polite and respectful.
OK, it was a highly secured military base, but nevertheless, we had a great couple of days visiting our newest grandson in this peaceful environment. Our kids had just sold their home and were temporarily living on base while in the process of being transferred to another facility. They secured us a room on base in a restored historic residence built in 1908 identified on the historical marker as “Bachelor Officer’s Quarters”.
I suppose you could view a military base as the ultimate gated community. With armed guards, guard dogs, and other security measures, access is highly controlled. And residents inside are greatly incentivized to follow base rules so everyone is on their best behavior. But while it is a nice place to visit, I suspect the many rules wear on folks after a while. That’s probably why many military personnel choose to live off base.
I dare say that not many of us would choose to live in a neighborhood with that level of control over our lives either. But there are local neighborhoods with some of the same features. There are neighborhoods with manned 24/7 security, private security patrols, and deed restrictions on what can be built, how it is built, how each property is maintained. Other restrictions are often included to protect property values and foster good neighbor relationships.
According to the Texas Realtors Association, 4.8 million Texans live in neighborhoods with HOAs. When looking for a home, chances are pretty good you will be looking at a property subject to deed restrictions and governance by a homeowner association. When buying a home, close attention should be given to any deed restrictions that apply to a property. All deed restrictions are legally recorded and are available for inspection by prospective buyers. Any restriction that a buyer can’t live with should be a deal killer. Conversely, buyers should investigate to see if restrictions that are important to them are in place and are being enforced. If enforcement is lax, inconsistent or non-existent, it should be taken into consideration before a contract is finalized. Getting information about the level of enforcement is not easy as its perception can vary from person to person. But speaking with several neighbors could possibly provide sufficient insights into how much importance the HOA puts on the subdivisions’ deed restrictions.
HOAs have on occasion been on the wrong side of public opinion due to controversial actions imposed on their residents. To address some of these concerns, the Texas Legislature passed several bills during the last session designed to better balance the interest of property owners and HOAs. Many of the provisions in the new statutes relate to increased HOA transparency, but other provisions prohibit an HOA from having outright bans on certain items like rain harvesting devices or national and state flags.
A home is a valuable asset and an HOA exists primarily to protect the value of homes within its boundaries. A little due diligence on existing deed restrictions and on the enforcement philosophy of an HOA could be valuable to buyers as they make a purchasing decision. These items could have an impact both on the buyers’ future quality of life as well as the value of the purchased home when it comes time to sell.