Just Because Someone Else is Doing It Doesn't Mean It Is Right

Real Estate Agent with Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA VA License # 0225089470

Just Because Someone Else is Doing It Doesn't Mean It Is Right

There is an assumption many people will make, in any number of situations.  If someone before them has done something a particular way, then they feel it is okay to duplicate it.  They give no thought to whether or not the first person who did this thing did it within the confines of the rules or regulations.

Home Owner's Associations are great examples.  As a Top Bristow Real Estate Agent, I'll be out showing a home and get a question from a buyer, "Does the HOA allow a black and white deck?"    They'll want to go with some nautical theme where they have vinyl white railings and the appearance of black wrought iron spindles on the railings.  They next thing they do is look up and down the back yards.  "Oh.  I think they must.  That house there has one."

It could be a privacy fence, above ground pool, shed, play house, garden or any other number of items you picture in your outdoor space.  Seeing whatever it is you want one someone else's property in the same neighborhood is not enough to assume you have the all clear.

No buyer really ever wants to read through the HOA documents they get and find out what is and what is not acceptable in the neighborhood.  Looking at what other home owners have done is certainly easier. However, as borings as those HOA covenants can be, if you have something in particular in mind, you better read through those documents and figure out if what you want is allowed by the HOA rules and regs up front.  That's what the whole document review period is for.

Better to know what you can and can't do for a fact, than follow the lead of someone who may not have a clue.  





Re-Blogged 1 time:

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  1. Debe Maxwell, CRS 05/20/2018 09:53 PM
Home Buying
Virginia Prince William County Bristow
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how you do know what an hoa will allow before you buy a home
learning the hoa rules and regulations

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Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

Read CC&Rs and HOA rules very, very carefully. Believe me, I was on an HOA board, busy- body neighbors love to police the community and force the board to enforce infractions. It's not fun to have a Board hounding you over something - not to mention the ire of your neighbors. 

May 18, 2018 09:44 AM #13
Dan Tabit
Northstone Real Estate Inc. - Sammamish, WA

What isn't readily obvious is the person with a different deck is being penalized by the HOA for noncompliance.  When I get the question, the only answer is "I don't know you'll have to read through the CC&R's." 

May 18, 2018 11:25 AM #14
Marney Kirk
Cummings & Co. Realtors - Towson, MD
Towson, Maryland Real Estate

You are right, Chris Ann Cleland , just because a neighbor did something doesn't mean it was OK with the HOA - or that the HOA won't make you AND them remove whatever you put in without permission! Great post!

May 18, 2018 01:01 PM #15
Ricardo Mello
Manhattan Miami Real Estate - Manhattan, NY
Manhattan & Miami Real Estate Broker

Great post  Chris Ann Cleland!

May 18, 2018 03:36 PM #16
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad

Hi Chris Ann

Making assumptions in an HOA can really get you in trouble. As can the inconsistency of how things are monitored, and approvals given, by the HOA. The safest thing to do is for the buyer to verify with the HOA, in the documents but going even further if the rules, etc. are unclear or do not address the issue. Anything that sounds like a red flag probably is.


May 18, 2018 05:26 PM #17
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Specializing in Brookside, Waldo, Prairie Village

This is so true!!  HOAs can be very particular about the rules and regulations--and some properties may be 'grandfathered' in. Always best to check before you buy!

May 18, 2018 06:51 PM #18
Matthew Klinowski, PA
Downing-Frye - Naples, FL
Golf Community Real Estate Expert

Chris Ann, thanks for the great post. HOA's really can be a challenge. It's so important to be aware of all the rules and regulations when you're purchasing a home.

May 19, 2018 05:27 AM #19
Elyse Berman, PA
Best Connections Realty, Inc. - Boca Raton, FL
Boca Raton FL - (561) 716-7824 - CRS, ABR, GRI

Chris Ann Cleland We have many HOAs in south Florida.  One of the issues you bring to mind with your post is that what someone may see may be grandfathered in and the association no longer allows it to be done.  For example, all fences must be white aluminum railing but you see a bronze one.  That bronze one may be grandfathered in.  Best to read the documents and know upfront what you are involved in.

One of the problems with HOAs in Florida is that the documents do not have to be provided until closing.  Unlike condos, which have a 3-day right of recission based on condo docs for resales and 15 days for new construction, HOAs do not, so ask for them asap.

May 19, 2018 05:54 AM #20
Beth Atalay
Cam Realty and Property Management - Clermont, FL
Cam Realty of Clermont FL

Good morning Chris Ann Cleland, most of the communities in my area have HOA's and buyers almost always have the same question. What is allowed and what's not? Best to read before saying "I do".

May 19, 2018 07:16 AM #21
Tim Maitski
Atlanta Communities Real Estate Brokerage - Atlanta, GA
Truth, Excellence and a Good Deal

Even if you read the documents, you can be left not knowing what is Ok and what is not.  Some covenants are  vague and at the discretion of the current Architectural Control Committee.  Every year if you get new members on the board, you can end up with different standards.

But if you do run into a problem where you see a neighbor doing what you want and then they cite you and not them, use the "selective enforcement" lawsuit threat on them.  HOA's don't want to get sued and the board members don't want to be responsible for costing the neighborhood a costly lawsuit.

HOA's rely on their perceived power and their appeal to authority.  Most don't want to make waves so they cave and acquiesce to the board.  But most board members are just your neighbors and usually don't enjoy a legal fight.  So I would push it and show them you are willing to fight it.

May 19, 2018 07:37 AM #22
Michael Mahoney
eXp Realty - Boston, MA
Boston Realtor with eXp Realty

Chris Ann Cleland I think it is best to always ask the association and never make assumptions. I once sold a condo for a homeowner who had a satellite dish on the property. The seller was on the board. I said in a rhetorical manner to him that it must be okay to have a satellite dish and he laughed and said it's not. Here was a board member breaking the rules.  Never assume anything. 

May 19, 2018 07:45 AM #23
John Wiley
Right Move Real Estate Group- EXP Realty - Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL Real Estate GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

Chris, you are providing some really valuable information by calling attention to what is affected by HOA rules.

I was talking with a buyer in an HOA, gated community. He had only been there a couple of months. Every time he turned around, the HOA gave him notice of a wrong doing. He had places several, large decorative flower pots in front of his home, that did not meet the standards. He had a pickup truck, a nice one, but they were not allowed.

He said if he had known all this he would not have bought in this community.

Agents can help the buyer by providing HOA docs and highlighting key points with the buyer.

Thanks for sharing.

May 19, 2018 07:50 AM #24
Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com - Monroe, NY
The House Kat

This is true of everything in life, not just HOAs! But good example!

May 19, 2018 08:31 AM #25
Michael Layton
Big Block Realty - Palm Springs, CA
Michael Layton 7604085300

Hi Chris,  Excellent points. I currently live in an HOA that will let you get away with anything - well almost - but when you go to sell the house they come by for a "site inspect" and cite you for all the changes you did without approval.  Leads to some unpleasant last minute running around for offending homeowners.

May 19, 2018 08:50 AM #26
Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi
NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656 - New Lenox, IL
708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience

Better to take the time to read through the HOA rules/regulations prior to taking action VS having to take the time or make the expenditure to correct actions afterward, Chris Ann Cleland ... assumptions can be costly ...


May 19, 2018 09:15 AM #27
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
your real estate writer

You just reminded me of an incident years ago. A potential buyer came in with an interest in a house in an area with CC&R's. After saying he didn't want to look just yet, he went there himself and had a look around. (He also knocked on the door and said I told him he could look without me, but that's another story.)

He came back to the office and read the regulations, then announced that he'd get his house paid for by suing the neighbors who weren't in compliance. He saw homes with chickens, pigs, and more cows than were allowed on those 2 acre lots.

My then broker came out and explained a lot of "buyer beware" things to him - things about the well maybe not being adequate, etc. After a few minutes, the man jumped up and actually ran out the door, screaming "You're scaring the hell out of me."

We had a good laugh.

Interestingly, several years later he and his wife were still living in town with his Mother. (Small town - you know these things.)

May 19, 2018 12:27 PM #28
Jane Peters
Home Jane Realty - Los Angeles, CA
Connecting you to the L.A. real estate market

That would be a mistake a prospective buyer might make which makes it even more important to check the CC&Rs to know for sure whether what you want to do is allowed.

May 19, 2018 01:11 PM #29
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Chris Ann- I was reminded how important it is to have read and understood the HOA rules when a friend moved into a community a few years ago.  It wasn't until after they had moved in that they learned that pickup trucks were not allowed even if they were kept in the garage!

May 19, 2018 06:42 PM #30
Robert Vegas Bob Swetz
Realty ONE Group - Las Vegas, NV
Las Vegas Henderson Homes for Sale

Hello Chris Ann,

So true my friend and some HOA's are very strict with colors, visual add on's around homes, fences, etc, and plans for many changes around homes need to be run through the HOA of that community.

And on another note within the construction industry I have come across work by glaziers I work with doing something wrong. I ask them why did you do it like that and they always say well so and so did it that way! Only for me and or foreman's to tell them they did it wrong ;o)

May 20, 2018 03:16 PM #31
Debe Maxwell, CRS
www.AtHomesCharlotte.com | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
Charlotte Homes for Sale - Charlotte Neighborhoods

I don't know how I missed this one earlier this week, Chris Ann but, you are SO right. Looking at the neighbors' yards/decks/fences/patios may seem easier but, it's not always pertinent to the here & now. Addendums are added and exceptions can be made by one Board that won't be made by another. I've run into that several times.

It's never 'fun' reading but, is certainly required reading!

Great reminder for all home buyers. Have a great week, Chris Ann!

May 20, 2018 09:45 PM #32
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Chris Ann Cleland

Associate Broker, Bristow, VA
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