Read the HOA Documents for your Silicon Valley homeowner asssociationSilicon Valley homeowner associations vary widely, depending on a number of factors.

What do you think about living in a neighborhood with an HOA, a homeowner’s association?  For many, living within an HOA means a nice, tidy community.  For others, it’s like signing up for Big Brother telling you way too much about what you can and cannot do.

Silicon Valley homeowner associations – the scope

  • Some Silicon Valley  homeowner associations are small, have limited authority, and are self-managed
    • this could be a tiny group of townhouses with Planned Unit Development ownership, not condo ownership, on a public street
    • some HOAs only cover a shared pool and recreation facility and have no jurisdiction over landscaping, home paint choices, etc.
  • Some HOAs here are large, have a tremendous amount of authority, and have professional management
    • this could be for a condominium complex, for houses or townhouses in a gated community such as The Villages, or anything in between
    • the more the HOA controls, the larger the dues and larger the chance of the HOA financially impacting your property when you sell (not so much if the HOA only covers a shared pool)

Silicon Valley homeowner associations area vary tremendously in what they can and cannot do, and also in the types of rules which are enforced.

In Silver Creek, in the Evergreen area of San Jose, you can look around and see a vast collection of stuccoed houses with tiled roofing.  So it would not surprise you if your roof needed to be tile there.

At Shadowbrook in the Almaden area of San Jose, houses are much older and were put up in about 1970, so you would expect more diversity, not so “cookie cutter”.  But take a look at the Shadowbrook architectural control policies and it appears that houses in that area must get approval before re-roofing.  A new wood shake roof will be automatically accepted (surprising, given the movement away from wood shake!).  A high end composition shingle roof will be allowed, but lower weight will not.  No mention of the metal roofs which are made to look like shingles, tiled roofs or any other types (foam, flat etc.). So your choices are limited by the HOA.  Is that good or bad?  That depends on what you want.

In some HOAs, you may not wash your car in the neighborhood at all. Want it clean? Take it to a car wash.  In some, you can only have your garage door open when moving your automobile in or out of the garage.  Many have rules about curtains that show on the front side of the home: they need to be white, cream, or off white. (Don’t even think about Little Mermaid curtains facing the front!)

Do not assume that all HOAs are equally lax or stringent.  Be especially careful where pets are concerned!  Many tears are shed over this issue.  Buyers or tenants move in only to find out that their beloved pet is not welcome. One couple told me about putting up a shed on their back patio of their townhouse and the HOA made them remove it.

Some consumers are very black and white about HOAs, usually not wanting to be in one. I understand the concern about being overly regulated, but in many Silicon Valley homeowner associations the only shared feature is a pool, and the only rules have to do with that pool. I’d like to encourage everyone who’s looking to buy to not automatically exclude properties just because there’s a community pool and related HOA.

Boring as it may seem, the only way to know whether you will find any HOA regulations tolerable is to read them.  Buying or even leasing a home is a big decision and commitment.  Do not be rushed in making your decision about a condo, townhouse, duet home, house or any real estate at all with a Homeowner Association.   Get all of the information – all several hundred pages of it – and put the time in to read, read, read.  You’ll be glad you did.

It’s not just the rules you want to worry about. Get professional help to understand the financial documents. Most real estate licensees are not qualified to weigh in on the financial viability of any Silicon Valley homeowner association, but we can recommend professionals to help you to understand them and to weigh the risks of buying in that HOA. See a link below on that topic.

Related reading

Why are those Silicon Valley HOA dues so high?

Does your HOA have enough in reserves?

Understand the Pros and Cons of Homeowners Associations in Silicon Valley

Buying a Silicon Valley condo? A few questions to ask!