Thoughts on Home Owner Associations

Another Reddit reply, this time to the question about what the Libertarian take was on HOAs.

The Libertarian position? Best to review some of the major players to see what they have written on the topic. Here we can pretty much offer up what some libertarians feel.

Personally, I have a neutral/hate relationship with them. Having recently purchased a house (my first) virtually all the properties my wife and I reviewed were associated with some sort of HoA. I’d say of the 30 or so homes we reviewed maybe 2 weren’t in HoAs. So the notion that one can opt out of an HoA by not buying into a neighborhood in an HoA is a tad iffy. Their ubiquity is startling.

The concept is ok, but in my experience the execution is horrible. HoAs today amount to little more than mandates for homogeneity in aesthetics often at the expense in progress in other areas. For example where I live has no lack of sunshine (Vegas). I’d love to look in to practical options for solar power. However any decision I make has to be approved by the HoA. The criterion? How much the proposed solution impacts the profile of my house.

I put up with it because, really, the house was a steal in this market and the chances of me getting into a neighborhood without an HoA are pretty much nil.

Addressing the second point I think there is a matter of scale. One of the problems with HoAs is that it takes time to investigate what, exactly, each HoA’s terms are prior to purchasing the home. On top of that the pace of real estate purchases means taking the time for a thorough review of HoA policies could mean missing the sale on the house. As such I am willing to wager that most people purchase the house first, then familiarize themselves with the rules and regs of the local HoA.

While there is an argument for local control I think HoAs are too local, the granularity too narrow. Especially since there is no clear marking of where any individual HoA’s jurisdiction begins and ends. What I mean by this is that when I was looking for a house to buy I could make a reasonable choice on local policies based on established and recognized geographical boundaries. If I have a problem with Las Vegas I could move to Henderson, Summerlin or N. Las Vegas and know exactly where one ends and the other begins. Similarly if I’m upset with county policies I can leave Clark county. State policies, leave Nevada. Each has clear lines marking where their policies end.

HoAs have no such clear indication. So while it may be easier to switch HoAs by moving the next subdivision over it is not as clearcut what HoA is control of which properties and what their policies are. You’ll often not know until you get there. Note, I am well aware of some exceptions, like the above mentioned Summerlin. But they are just that, exceptions.

Finally I think the policies that the local government concerns itself over and what HoAs concern themselves over differ radically. Or rather, the perception of such does. If the city of Las Vegas were to concern itself over the aesthetics of individual rooflines many people would object to the overbearing nature of government. Yet the same happens in HoAs all the time, in an unrepresentative structure, and it somehow becomes viable.

IE, my impression and feelings are that there’s something amiss with HoAs. I cannot clearly define it, but much like porn, I know it when I see it. I just don’t enjoy it nearly as much.

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