Thursday, October 15, 2009

Neighborhood associations

Last night our neighborhood homeowners association held its annual get-together at a local pizza place. We have lived in our house for six months and have so far only actually met our immediate next-door neighbors on either side, so we were looking forward to meeting some more people in the neighborhood.

And the dinner didn't disappoint. It was interesting, actually. I had been hoping to meet a few younger couples but there weren't many there. I was definitely the only 20-something present. A huge majority of the people at the dinner were elderly, well beyond retirement age. There were a few young families there, with small children and parents in their thirties. And we did enjoy talking to everyone we met, including the older people.

In fact, we made a couple good connections. One neighbor offered to lend us the dog-training tool we'd been planning on buying, while another is a retired financial planner and gave us the name and contact info for another financial planner he recommends. We also talked to people who've been living in the neighborhood for thirty years or more, and got some perspective on the history of the neighborhood.

The two most interesting things, as far as I was concerned, were a) talking to some of the parents about the local schools, and b) talking to the president of the association.

The school stuff didn't really teach us anything new, per se, but it was interesting to get some different perspectives on the school situation from people who are very aware of the current issues with our school district.

But talking to the HOA president was really fascinating. Our HOA is pretty laid back, thank god--although actually we looked into that a bit before we bought the house. We were concerned about having the type of HOA that severely limits what you can do with your house and sends you angry letters every time your grass gets more than a quarter-inch long. So we drove around the neighborhood and saw houses of all different colors, including one that's bright blue, and lawns in all different states, and figured that the HOA couldn't be that bad. And it isn't.

The guy was telling us, though, that the biggest problem came from this one house that was being fixed and flipped by someone who wanted to put on a 30-year roof when the HOA demands at least a 50-year roof. Apparently they got into it and finally the HOA won and the house was given a lifetime roof. Which is not that interesting... until we realized that he was talking about our house. So now we have a better roof than we otherwise would have! Thanks, HOA!

The funniest moment of the night came from one of the young mothers who told me that when she and her husband bought their house, their realtor described the neighborhood as being made up of "newlyweds and nearly-deads." And that's exactly right.

Not to be crass, but there will be a lot of turnover in this neighborhood over the next ten years. And while it's lovely to see all the original owners of the homes and talk to them, it will be nice when they start moving out and downsizing and a lot of young families closer to our age move in. I think this neighborhood is going to be an awesome long-term choice for us.

What about you? Do you have an HOA or condo association or anything placing any limitations on your homeowners' choices? Do you know your neighbors? Do you like them?


  1. From my experience with HOAs, a lot of the 20-somethings are non-participants. So, maybe there are even younger people in your neighborhood that just didn't go to the dinner?

    My last HOA was a condo building made of 53-units. I knew pretty much no one until two things happened ... 1) I got a dog and 2) I ran for and was elected to the Board of Directors. After that, I knew most people in the building. And even left with a few good friends.

    My current HOA is another condo building, only this one has 6 units. I met everyone within a couple weeks of moving in and we've become very good friends with a number of our neighbors.

  2. No HOA. But we've gotten to know most of the immediately-surrounding neighbors. The folks on either side introduced themselves and made us feel welcome right away. Just over a year ago a new family moved in down the road, and after seeing her outside on the first warm day of the spring, we seized upon each other and have become good friends. And the folks to our right had a neighborhood get-together a year ago where we got to meet and actually TALK to even more neighbors. First time we've seen a lot of them in a setting other than during Girl Scout cookie time!

    Our neighborhood is also mostly older couples/empty nesters. There are not a lot of kids for my kids to play with--and since we're on a street that divides the school districts, then even the kids they've made friends with go to different schools than they do.

    We too are kind of hoping the empty nesters start downsizing soon to bring in some more young families with kids.

  3. My neighborhood is like yours, made up of newly weds and nearly deads. When I first bought the condo, we ate at the neighborhood cafe. I asked one of the elderly ladies how she liked the neighborhood and she told me it was great, and that all the old folks were dying off and leaving the properties to their grandchildren.

  4. There is nothing stopping us making changes but the council where plans must be approved (local government level). We know our neighbours to two houses either side of us but not beyond that and we dont socialise with them except at the dog park.

  5. I have an HOA but it is pretty lenient (based on how some people's houses look) but we can't change the colour of our house etc.

    I have lived in my townhouse for 5 years and while I'll wave and say hi to my neighbours -- I barely know them at all which is really a shame. I would love to live in a neighbourhood where everyone was friendly.

  6. Newlyweds and nearly deads - that's awful! And so correctly describes our neighborhood too.

    We don't have an HOA, and I'm happy we don't, for the most part, although if we lived in a neighborhood with more like-minded people, I think it would be fantastic.

  7. I actually work for a property management company and I work directly with the HOA of several communities. Some of them are awesome. They know what's going on with the HOA finances, they plan ahead, they care about their community - without being totally over the top. And the others...well...we had a VERY hot summer this year and not a lot of rain so a lot of people were only watering their lawns here and there, and a lot of them were not green. But instead of the HOA commending them for saving water, they fined them. I deal with this stuff on a daily basis and it has made me keenly aware of the things I will look for if I buy in a development with an HOA.

    Yours sounds perfect and I'm glad that you guys are making some good connections with your neighbors. And it sounds like when you guys start having kids, there will be some families in the neighborhood which will be great!

  8. That sounds fun! We have an HOA, but it's still run by the builder since our neighborhood isn't complete yet. It's pretty lax though.

  9. We have an HOA that is sort of a pain (that they won't allow any yard signs at all is the point of contention around our area) but in all, not too bad. Most of the time I'd rather have an HOA than live next to someone who paints their house pink, stores 4 rusted pickups in the backyard and never mows their lawn.

    Our n'hood in FL we knew almost no one. It sucked. Now we live in a pretty tight knit 'hood, know and love our neighbors and I love it. I thought I wouldn't care if I knew our neighbors well or not, but now that we do, I don't know how I could go back.

  10. Our first HOA was a disaster. They would get these hairbrained schemes and spend all the money, and then it wouldn't work out and we'd be broke. We saw our monthly dues rise by over 100% during the time that we lived there.

    This HOA I don't really hear from. Our neighbhorhood is so new that there is not a lot of issues yet.

  11. I lived in a condo almost four years with an HOA. Everything was great until I got a puppy. Then I got fined for supposedly not cleaning up after it ( not true lol). Suffice it ti say I'm not an advocate for these HOAs who think they can rule over people and that they're above evryone else. Now I live in my own home no HOAs and much freer. I did have nicer neighbors then than now unfortunately. Condo communities tend to be small and friendly, at lease here in jersey.

  12. I live in the middle of nowhere, so there is definitely no HOA. We can't even see our neighbours, but we have met all of them. It's amazing the people who will stop and talk once you have a puppy on the end of a leash!