Donna Coakley McGowan's Blog
Homeowners associations are common features of new residential subdivisions, condominiums and townhouse developments, planned communities, and vacation resorts throughout the United States and abroad. Typically established by the builder or developer, such associations are most often responsible for maintenance of common facilities. They also frequently oversee the operation of community centers, pools, golf courses and sports courts, and can assume responsibility for routine repair of streets and/or sidewalks, building exteriors and roofs, and even front yard landscaping and upkeep.
Residents pay a monthly fee to the association, in addition to mortgage, taxes, insurance and utilities on their individual properties. Most commonly, the day-to-day operation of a homeowners association will be managed by an independent firm, with oversight from a governing board of homeowners elected to serve, unpaid, for specific terms.
Pay Attention to the CC&Rs
Buying a home in a community with an HOA requires that residents agree to the covenants, conditions and restrictions, known as the CC&Rs. Rules can be relatively simple, outlining the types of fencing allowed or specifying allowable trim colors and landscaping plants. Some HOAs, however, have stringent restrictions, governing varied aspects of community living. Some actively promote community programming while others simply act as a review board to handle disputes or non-compliance with stipulated regulations.
Withholding payment of association dues can lead to legal action, sometimes even foreclosure.
HOAs Uphold Community Standards
Prior to buying property in a subdivision with an HOA, a buyer should be completely familiar with the CC&Rs and understand the financial commitment entailed. All HOAs are committed to uphold community standards and protect property values. That is perhaps the best reason for buying property in an area that has a well-managed, effective and highly-functioning HOA. But it is always up to the buyer to determine the effectiveness of any HOA. The best way is to ask to view previous years' financial statements, and to talk to current owners.
The best homeowners associations foster a heightened sense of community, encouraging social events and offering services to promote safety and security for residents. Neighborhood watch programs, community patrols and emergency response, rideshare programs, and youth-oriented activities are common. In addition, well-run associations have financial reserves to handles unexpected maintenance or repair needs and have a "comfortable" relationship with homeowners.
HOAs were first established to govern the operation of condominium associations, and have sometimes received a bad rap from owners who found them restrictive and expensive. The role of the HOA has changed over the decades, and most are professional and dedicated to the welfare of current and future homeowners. They actively promote and encourage neighborliness, cohesive community spirit and property values.
Belonging to a homeowners association fosters a valuable common bond with other owners, and offers homeowners a real voice in the community.
If you're like many homeowners who prefer a natural landscape plan, your outdoor living space undoubtedly features lush vegetation and bright, blooming flowers. However, you might also have the sense that something is missing but can't quite put your finger on what it might be. If this describes you, the missing element is probably hardscaping. Hardscaping refers to elements of landscaping that aren't plants, such as water features, statuary, gazebos and garden paths.
At its best, hardscaping brings functionality to the table as well as enhances aesthetics. Few things do this better than a rustic stone walkway meandering over the property. Here's how to make it happen yourself over the course of an average weekend.
Select Your Stones
Stones used for walkways should be flat, wide and thick enough to withstand foot traffic. Choosing stone that is found naturally in your area cuts down on retail and delivery costs. Avoid using polished stones because these present potential slip-and-fall issues due to their slick surfaces. Stones that are between two and three inches thick offer better stability than their thinner counterparts and often come with a more attractive price tag as well.
Lay Out Your Walkway
The first step is to determine your walkway. Avoid straight lines -- stone walkaways are meant to meander. Garden hoses are ideal for marking garden paths that curve. Use a sod cutter and a flat spade to cut and remove the grass, and dig out the soil where you want to place the stones to about a depth of five inches and make sure it's firmly tamped down before placing landscape fabric and adding a two-inch layer of sand over it.
After smoothing down the sand so it provides a flat surface, it's time to lay down the stones. This part is a little like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, so take your time to figure out the placement. Be sure to use a carpenter's level to make certain that the stones are at the same height, and add or remove sand as needed. However, if you live in an area that receives significant amounts of precipitation, slightly sloping the larger stones toward the outside of your walkaway helps prevent standing water issues.
Landscape the Walkway
Some people prefer the clean, austere aesthetic of pebble or oyster shell mulch in the gaps between the stones, while others like the rustic, tousled look provided by low-growing herbaceous plants. Corsican mint is an excellent choice because it has a bright green color all year round and releases a divine, minty aroma. Other choices include creeping thyme, rock cress, artemisia and sedum. You can also mix it up with a variety of ground covers for a classic, cottage garden look.
4 Brousseau Drive, Upton, MA 01568
There is a lot of discussion today about whether or not a real estate agent is necessary for the most successful sale of your home. You may have all the required skills and experience to handle it yourself, but that’s hard to figure out if you don’t know what a real estate agent actually does for you in the process. They’re marketing savvy, have access to the local MLS (multiple listing service), professional history and ongoing training with the market, which are the main features they bring to the table, but what does that really mean for you?
You probably found your real estate agent the same way you plan to sell your home and even found this article – with an Internet search. Sure, you can post your listing in several places on the internet, but the best advertising covers a variety of media outlets. Your real estate agent will have their own website, will syndicate the property to listing sites and even send out print media advertising like postcards, signage and home magazines. You can do the majority of these things, but the costs to retail clients are often much higher than they are for B2B clients like your agent. In addition to actual advertising venues, your agent will work with you on home staging, curb appeal and professional photography to make your home look its best in all that high-end advertising.
The Multiple Listing Service (MLS
Except for a few locations, all licensed agents are also members of at least one local MLS board. Some are members of two or more depending on their market area and the structure of the MLS relationships. It's possible for a do-it-yourselfer to pay a moderate fee and become part of an MLS board, but some require full agent licensing to join, and that can be an expensive and time-consuming process. This benefits you in multiple ways. First, your property goes into the MLS and syndicates out to anywhere that pulls that information. That means not only major sites but also each and every other agent in the same MLS’s website. That means more buyers looking at your property from more places.
Network and Know-How
A real estate transaction is a complex process with a lot of paperwork. It also generates legal agreements, which have more terms than just the price. Your real estate agent will be familiar with the entire process and therefore is in the best position to make sure you come out on top. They benefit when you benefit, so it's like having an extra person on your team in a race. Not all deals go through, and an experienced agent knows where to find those pitfalls and avoid them, or get you out of a deal that’s gone wrong with the fewest repercussions. In addition, your agent knows people. Not just other agents, interior decorators, photographers, and advertisers but other sellers and buyers. Most agents have multiple clients both buying and selling. Through these networks, your agent can find a buyer that loves your home that you otherwise wouldn’t have known it existed.
When it’s time to sell your home, going to the pros is the best decision you can make. Not only will you generally get a higher price for your home, it’s less work and often much quicker than trying to do it yourself. Talk to a variety of professionals in your area to find the one that is best for you.