A homeowners association (HOA) can be a valuable resource in a neighborhood. This group of residents is committed to maintaining the look and feel of a community and protecting everyone’s investment. Each HOA charges a fee to homeowners and this cost varies from one neighborhood to the next. McGuinn Hybrid Homes advises that, before you buy a home, you know what’s included in your HOA.HOA fees vary from one neighborhood to the next. You might pay less than $100 a month or much more. It will depend on the services included and the costs associated with those. More services require more money. In 2015, Trulia estimated the average HOA dues to be $331.An HOA fee can cover a variety of services. It usually handles the maintenance and insurance for all common areas and amenities, like a pool, clubhouse, fitness center, and playground. It might provide for trash removal and services like Internet and cable.In a gated community, the HOA pays for the security staff as well as the upkeep of the entrance. Someone also has to take care of the landscaping, so expect to chip in for those costs, which contribute to the curb appeal of your home.Townhome communities often included exterior maintenance in the HOA dues. Homeowners gain the freedom from mowing and weeding their lawns, plowing the driveway, and even painting the exterior when it’s needed.When you purchase your home, the HOA fee is ordinarily included with the closing costs. After that, the HOA will bill you directly. Some require one annual payment, while others accept dues on a monthly or quarterly basis.Your HOA might include a “reserve”—funds tucked away in case of emergency or high-value improvements. Maybe you need your streets repaved or your neighbors want to add trees. Those choices would be covered by your available reserves. If a common area, like the pool or clubhouse, sustains severe damage and the insurance doesn’t cover the repair, the reserves can be used, as long as the members agree.In a townhome community, reserves might be used to cover the cost of repairing or replacing roofs. The HOA members vote on the use of the funds and have the right to review all costs associated with the project.The homeowners association in a new community is started by the developer. Once enough homes are occupied, those owners take over the management of their HOA, voting in a Board of Directors.Every HOA should have a set of by-laws or codes, covenants, and restrictions (CC&Rs). Whichever they use, be sure you review them carefully before agreeing to live within the rules—physically and legally. Failure to comply with those rules could result in fines, prohibiting you from using the common areas, or even having a lien placed on your home. The HOA CC&Rs is a legally binding document. Protect yourself by knowing exactly what’s included and required.McGuinn Hybrid Homes builds communities of energy-efficient single-family homes and townhomes in and around the Columbia, SC, region near the beautiful lakes. With the exception of our Lee Street homes, all of these neighborhoods provide HOAs to ensure that your home’s value and your enjoyment is protected for years to come. Let’s work together at finding the home and the location that gives you the lifestyle you deserve.