Owning a Townhome

September 28, 2012

In addition to condominiums and single-family homes, townhomes are one way to own property in a community association.  Understanding the in’-s and out’-s of owning a townhome and understanding what your responsibilities are regarding maintenance and maintenance fees will go a long way to ensuring your townhome owning experience is a pleasant one.

What is a townhome

A townhome or townhouse is typically defined as one unit within a larger building.  These townhomes have two and three stories to maximize the square footage on a smaller lot footprint.  Townhomes will typically share walls with the other units of the building as well as the roof.

What you specifically own will usually be spelled out in the Articles of Incorporation, Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions and the By Laws.  Ownership is sometimes defined as your unit from the roof to the ground, but sometimes the homeowners association owns the roof and real estate surrounding your unit.  Therefore, it is very important to understand what you will be responsible for when purchasing a townhouse.  Prior to your purchase, seek out the experience of a real estate attorney who can answer your questions.

Who does what

Some townhome homeowner associations will consider the area in front of and behind your unit to be a common area and the association will handle the maintenance of that area such as landscaping, irrigation and shrubbery.  This should be covered by your association fees that you pay monthly, semiannually or annually. Building exteriors and roofs are sometimes covered as well but always check the documents or with your attorney for confirmation.

Read before you buy

If you have questions about the association documents prior to your purchase, you can always request a copy from your real estate agent.  These documents are part of the public records of your respective county so with a rather simple online search of the county’s Clerk of the Court website you can obtain a copy.  Do not rely on your general understanding of how townhome associations typically allocate maintenance responsibilities because your governing documents will be specific to your association.

If you plan to purchase a townhome that is controlled by the homeowners and not the developer and you know without a doubt that the association will be obligated to maintain the building exterior and roof, ask to review the association financials.  Funds should be set aside each month to provide for roof replacement and building maintenance.  How much to place in these funds is up to the Board of Directors and we will address it in another post but as always, check your documents.


Living peacefully in your HOA

September 5, 2012

Living in an HOA doesn’t have to be an exercise in prim and proper home ownership.  Understanding what you can and can’t do goes a long way in maintaining the peace and tranquility in your neighborhood.

Here are the basic do’s and don’t’s of HOA living.

DO pay your assessments on time.  If you are unable to pay by the due date, contact your Board of Directors or association manager to arrange a payment schedule.  Some HOA dues are due at the beginning of January and with Christmas just passing it may sometimes be a financial strain.

DON’T not pay and pretend it will go away.  Come June you may find yourself with a lien against your home.  A lien can be foreclosed upon and the HOA could take your home for unpaid assessments or start legal action to collect the delinquent assessments.  This recourse is mentioned in your Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions.

DO keep your home and areas around your home properly maintained.  This does not mean you must manicure your grass daily but it does mean you should cut your grass routinely and keep your planting beds free of excess weeds.  Edging sidewalks, driveways and street edges can go a long way to sprucing up your home.

DON’T leave boats, campers or cars in disrepair in your driveway.  This is typically a big no-no in a deed restricted community.  If allowable, consider putting your boat or camper behind a privacy fence.  If you must work on your car, truck or motorcycle make sure that you can do it in a garage or have space in the garage to move it to when not working on it.

DO ask approval for any improvements to your property prior to starting your project.  Any exterior improvement such as fencing, screen enclosures, additions or a change in exterior color will require approval from the Architectural Review Board.  These requests are usually reviewed within 30 days of receipt and require the addition to be drawn on a copy of your boundary survey.  You received a copy of your survey at closing.

These are just some of the basics of peaceful living in a deed restricted community.  For the complete list refer to your Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions that you received at closing.  If you do not have a copy, contact your Board of Directors or the association manager for a copy.