How Do HOAs Work?

When you purchase a home, there's a good chance you'll have to pay a homeowners association fee, especially in gated communities, townhouses, condominiums, and other similar planned neighborhoods. The idea is to keep common areas clean and maintained for the benefit of all, and there's usually an HOA board of directors that is responsible for setting the rules and regulations, and carrying out the provisions of the CCRs--a foundation HOA document naming conditions, covenants and restrictions.
Each HOA is different, but most have the same core elements. Most associations employ a qualified professional property manager which assists the Board. You'll typically pay your HOA fees either monthly, quarterly, or annually, and the amount of those fees are an important factor to consider when you're weighing your options for a new home. Lenders, for instance, will need to know that fee amount as part of your purchase mortgage loan approval.

So what is typically included in your HOA fees?

First, the fun stuff Amenities are typically the big perk of living in a community with an HOA. While you lose out on some of the freedom of living without an HOA, you instead get community amenities like a maintained pool, gym, clubhouse, tennis courts, and other amenities. The HOA fees pay for cleaning and maintenance, so-in theory-you'll always have a clean pool whenever you want to use it.
Protecting the community HOA fees often contribute to insurance for the community amenities, as well as a  reserve fund for unexpected repairs to damaged community property--think damage from weather or accidents. California, for instance, requires a reserve fund which is typically contributed to at the rate of 10% of total annual income (usually the HOA fees paid by owners).
General maintenance Your HOA fees will go toward maintaining the general safety and upkeep of the community. This means things like elevator maintenance for condominiums, trash/recycling services, interior roads and other "common area" features as contained in the HOA documents.
Be active in the association There may be a board of directors voted into office by the owners, who are required by law to do certain things, but homeowners associations exist for the betterment of the entire community, and every voice matters. HOA meetings--and the amenities they support--provide great opportunities to meet your neighbors and make your community a better place.

For additional information on condo buying, go to http://www.juliahuntsman.com/condo-living.html


Housing Market and Inventory Shortage in Los Angeles County

Buyers still experience a great deal of competition when submitting offers. I know of one recent instance where an offer for a $450,000 house was submitted at $10,000 over asking, but the buyers were still outbid. This is and has been a very frustrating fact of life for quite some time.

 As it happens, Los Angeles County has far more jobs than new housing permits issued compared to any other county in California. Santa Clara and Orange Counties are the next most underbuilt counties. This did not happen overnight, but happened over several years, and estimates are that it will take several more years to "catch up".

 Other reasons for low inventory is that the Baby Boomer generation and/or longtime homeowners are not moving as much as in the past. The recession featured very low interest rates, or they may have lower property taxes, or if they move there may be a capital gains hit due to rise in prices ($250,000 for single, $500,000 for couple), there is the question of where can they move to, or their circumstances may have changed and they cannot qualify for the same mortgage today--so they stay put.

In California in the 1970s, there was about a 9% turnover rate, in 2014 that rate had declined to less than 5%. In 2000, California sellers stayed put for about 6 years (national average was about 7 years); as of 2016, that average length of stay was 10 years. Californians 55+ years of age are now at their lowest rate of moving -- 71% of the 55+ crowd has not moved since 1999. Data from the construction industry reveals $3.9 billion was invested in remodels and additions compared to $1.5 billion in 1988. In San Francisco alone, there are currently between 400,000 and 700,000 rentals that used to be owner-occupied, in other words, those are properties taken out of the purchase market. Another interesting effect is formulation of households -- not as many people getting married and wanting to buy a new home for a new family! Additional effects on the housing market could be future policy changes concerning the mortgage interest deduction and outmigration to more affordable areas (which at least might put some properties on the market).
Political uncertainties and Twitter bursts are essentially wildcards for certain aspects of the housing market.
 For buyers, is it impossible?  No, but it's extremely important to be prepared with local market knowledge, and prior loan approval before shopping.


Here Are 5 Good Reasons to List Now

Have you thought about selling your investment or residential property over the last five years? Here are five reasons now may be the time.
1. We are experiencing selling price increases, so the market may be much different now compared to when your property was last for sale. Here are some statistics, according to California Regional Multiple Listing Service data: Long Beach average home prices rose by 6.6 percent, and the median home price rose 8 percent, over the last 12 months through December 2016. The California home price average is expected to increase by 4.6 percent in 2017.
2. The inventory of available homes for sale continues to decrease from what it was just one year ago, making the competition among sellers considerably lower. The local market as of December is at 1.6 months or less of inventory (6 months is the traditional norm). 
3. Mortgage interest rates are still at record lows, in December only slightly higher than the lowest of all rates which was also in 2016, making homeownership more affordable and bringing new buyers into the market. And where are sellers moving to? There were over 24,000 sales in the top 50 master-planned communities in the country in 2016, an increase over 2015.
4. Rental rates are still rising dramatically for tenants. And if you bought a rental property after 2008-2010, you probably have some price increase in case you're thinking of a 1031 exchange.
5. While we cannot predict the affordability of the 2017 market completely, more millennial buyers (under 34 years) and buyers returning to the market from years of renting are entering the homebuying market. I handle the headache and also work closely with clients in selling homes for out-of-state owners. You can even leave your tenant in the home in many cases.
Contact me for a free valuation of your property or to find out what makes me different from my competition.


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