Tell your Mayor and Planning Commission – stop force feeding HOAs

Home buyers: Don’t want to pay HOA fees on top of property taxes? Not interested in private community amenities and the rules that come along with them? Prefer to choose your own contractor to provide landscape and exterior maintenance?
Ask your Realtor to show you single family homes with no HOA.

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


Millennials now represent the largest share of home buyers in the U.S. But the real estate industry has not shifted to meet the needs and market demands of first-time home buyers.

Just as in the past, many first time buyers are young couples and families with young children. They seek neighborhoods that are safe, close to good schools, and welcoming to children.

However, unlike past generations, younger buyers bristle at the thought of Big Brother dictating what they can do with their own home. They appreciate character and individuality in home design, and, indeed, many harbor distaste for “cookie cutter” houses and yards with a uniform and bland appearance.

Millennials live on tight household budgets, and, having watched their parents struggle with homes they could barely afford, or having watched family and friends lose their homes and life savings to foreclosure in the most recent real estate crash, younger buyers are wary buyers.

As a group, millennials are relatively uninterested in paying for costly, exclusive neighborhood amenities, and prefer to pay for a variety of experiences available beyond their own neighborhood enclave, if and when they can afford to do so.

And through the power of media – especially social media – millenials are learning about the undisclosed realities of owning a home with the burden of an HOA.


Millennials in Brandermill urge others to research HOA before buying in (VA)


CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. — No matter your age, everyone knows everyone within the Brandermill Community in Midlothian.

“We have great neighbors,” Justin Riegler said.

Named the best planned community in America back in 1977 by Better Homes and Gardens and the National Association of Homebuilders, Brandermill was the first planned community in Chesterfield County.

Today, 13,000 people live there, including Justin Riegler and his wife, Liz.

“It just seemed like a really family friendly place to live,” Liz Riegler said.

They bought their house nearly four years ago after finding the community online before moving to Brandermill from California.

“It gives you a sense of community at first,” Justin said.

Justin said he likes the community itself, but he has issues with its Board of Directors and community amenities.

“We literally would not stay in Brandermill for another year if it wasn’t for our neighbors,” he said.

Read more (Video):


In this WTVR report, the Rieglers say that, personally, they are willing to pay for a better community pool. But since membership to the pool is currently optional, and the pool is not that appealing in its present condition, the Reiglers have opted out of paying fees. Isn’t that contrary to their desire to support a refurbished pool?

Yes, it is clear that the board is made up of older residents who probably rarely use the pool, and who are uninterested in paying for an overhaul. And it can be difficult to replace the old guard in well-established HOAs, especially if younger homeowners do not have the time or inclination to serve on a committee or the board itself.

According the report, Brandermill HOA requires a 75% vote of approval for capital improvements. But there simply are not enough homeowners interested enough to fork over extra money. Mr. Reigler laments the fact that getting 75% of 13,000 members seems unrealistic. Yes, it is a difficult standard to achieve, but with good reason. Back in the 1970s, when Brandermill was conceived, there was still a modicum of civic awareness, and a desire to prevent the tyranny of the majority that would result from allowing 51% of members to dictate spending obligations for the other 49%.

Overall, the interview with Riegler makes two important points:

  • Do not rely on photographs on a website as an accurate depiction of the condition of common areas and amenities.
  • The real estate industry deliberately fails to disclose many material facts about the obligations and liabilities that go along with living in a common interest, association-governed community.


And that leads into the next report from Tennessee. (Thanks to Andrea, a long-time reader for passing along this article.)


Why does the industry continue to mislead housing consumers with regard to the perceived value of HOAs?

Well, basically, they get away with it because they can and they must, in order to sell new homes.

You see, the real estate industry is both enabled and mandated by local governments to build planned communities subject to association governance.

Don’t believe me? Read for yourself.

You will note from the following article a typical example of a local planning commission that does everything in its power to drive up the value of its tax base with densely packed, relatively expensive homes. At the same time, many misguided commissioners seem to believe that adding community amenities will command higher home prices and, of course, higher assessed values.

But there is also a clear desire to force new communities to form a perpetual HOA to take care of ongoing maintenance of amenities, whether taxpaying homeowners want them or not. Note the comment from one commissioner who fears homeowners in the future might decide to dissolve their HOA if the only reason it exists is for a tot lot and a little green space.


Fairview to take second look at super-sized subdivision

Nancy Stephens | The Tennessean
2:45 p.m. CT May 3, 2017

Otter Creek back on planning commission’s May 9 agenda

Residents along Old Nashville Road in Fairview may soon have new neighbors – if one of the city’s largest proposed neighborhoods in history can find favor with the Fairview Municipal Planning Commission (PC).
“I believe this is the single largest development you have seen in some time,” City Engineer Will Owens announced to the planning board.

Enough amenities?
Addressing proposed amenities, Butler said, “With 268 lots, you would hope to see more.” Reed said they plan to include a walking trail. However, Mayor Patti Carroll said, “I would love to see a full neighborhood, a nice subdivision come in with a pool, clubhouse…that would be desirable.”
Her comments were met with a difference of opinion by developer Tony Cavender, who said residents are less likely to want to pay the Home Owners Association fees 12 months for a pool they can only use three months out of the year.

Cavender suggested people that want pools can install their own. However, Commissioner Derek Burks responded, “Realistically, with these lot sizes and home sizes, they are probably not putting in pools.”
Carroll repeated, “I think the pool would be nice. You go to Brentwood, Franklin, they are the ones with neighborhood pools…and they are desirable.”
Butler said he has a greater concern about HOAs dissolving when nice amenities are not included in the package. “If it all goes to maintenance for tot lots and some grass cutting, it is kind of hard to justify an HOA payment.” He also noted three open roads with potential additional lots, “When this is completed, who knows how many homes there will be.”
While Cavender agreed it makes sense, he added, “We would love to do the clubhouse. It’s great, but people are not going to pay (HOA fees).” Noting the plan offers more open green space than the city requires, Cavender said, “We could squeeze more houses in (the plan instead of green space).”

Read entire atricle:


So, what if you are a home buyer, and you are not interested in getting entangled with an HOA?

What if you are not personally in the market to buy a home, but you have children or grandchildren that are actively house hunting, or will be in the future? Do you want the next generation to have the choice to opt out of association-governed housing?

What if you are not enthusiastic about buying into common interest ownership? What if you believe recreational opportunities should benefit the wider community in the general public?

The answer: speak up and be heard.

Specifically, here’s what you can do.

Tell your Realtor, your Mayor, your planning commissioners…

…that you do not want the added costs and unpredictable liabilities that go along with common interest housing. Tell them you do not want to be forced to pay for amenities you may rarely, if ever, use in the future.

…that if you want access to a community pool, you will visit a public pool offered by the city or nearby state park.

…that if you are interested in access to private recreational amenities, you will pay for membership to a commercially-owned pool, tennis, or fitness club located in a nearby commercially zoned district, well away from private homes.

…Alternatively, you might be willing to pay membership fees to a nonprofit conservation district with walking and bicycle trails.

Make it clear that you see no reason to have exclusive recreation areas integrated into a residential neighborhood, forcing every owner to pay for them, and put yourself and neighboring homeowners at risk of foreclosure if they are unable or unwilling to pay for the so-called privilege of buying into an HOA.

Tell your local planning commission and zoning board that government is supposed to be serving the interests of its constituents, not real estate special interests, and certainly not its own interests. Housing policy needs to provide what people need and want, at price points that people can afford. It shouldn’t be all about maximizing tax revenue.

And furthermore, tell your planning commissioners that…

…forcing a developer to use expensive, high end finishes to drive up the value of new construction just prices out first time buyers, empty-nesters, and retirees looking for modestly priced housing.

…on the other hand, allowing a developer to build an entire neighborhood on steep terrain, too close to river banks, practically on top of the watershed, on sites with a known history of geological movement or instability, or on reclaimed industrial sites is grossly irresponsible and downright foolish for the long-term health of cities and counties.

Pose the tough question: How can you justify exposing taxpaying constituents to easily avoidable economic and environmental risks?

In summary, taxpayers and housing consumers need to object to the force feeding of association-governed, common interest development, and demand housing options that do not compromise private property rights.

3 thoughts on “Tell your Mayor and Planning Commission – stop force feeding HOAs

  1. Follow up article on Brandermill HOA’s pool

    Brandermill residents upset over pool closures, lack of communication

  2. Government created the problem when they privatized maintenance of public infrstructure, dumping long-term problems and financial liabilities on unsuspecting homeowners. Dissolving the HOA would force the local government to repair and maintain infrastructure issues, although owners in the HOA would be assessed via property taxes to cover the cost. The difference is that the local government can finance the work over 20-30 years and has access to paid experts and construction companies that would be out of reach for many private HOA communities. Paying for infrastructure work over 20-30 years reduces the monthly costs for homeowners to a manageable level, and it certainly takes the heat off of volunteer board members caught between a rock and a hard place.

    As for owners expecting to run the HOA like a private club — that is how it used to be, before the indsutry lobbied for more power and profit potential through lopsided legislation. So perhaps it is time to return to the norm of voluntary associations and civic organizations, where owners are not legally obligated to pay dues or participate if they are not inclined to do so.

    You want good news, you have to create it with appropriate change.

    When HOAs became mandatory, homeowners were effectively drafted into an extra layer of private quasi-government, ruled by contract law rather than the rule of law as constrained by the U.S.and state Constitutions.

  3. On article about Channel 12 news’ report in Richmond about Brandermill and the young couple, I watched the complete interview.

    I grew up in Chesterfield where Brandermill is located, live in Henrico now, am on board of a townhouse property owners association the same age. Brandermill is huge with a lot of amenities, they were cutting edge when the sections were developed. They also are on a lake, have clubhouse, and a lot of other things. I am pro homeowners and also understand the importance of POA/HOA – especially when after the fact an association can’t just divorce itself from everything – still responsible for private roads etc. We have “inherited a wetlands with a lot of problems,” adding to our costs and nightmares. I think Brandermill deals with some of that also.

    Also, on the pools…. it isn’t open pool time, and the cover was on it. What do they expect? I grew up with a pool and taking care of it. Gripe, gripe, gripe…. as far as the front’ entrance, the couple never said what they expected. It wasn’t the front entrance to the community, maybe to their section. I have been out there. Maybe since they are young, they could offer to take care of it, or at least present their details of what they would like. I heard nothing but generalized complaining.

    All of those amenities there in Brandermill are aging, cost more. I don’t remember if the roads are privately maintained or anything else – like utilities. While I heard the homeowners complaining, it didn’t sound like they knew facts, just complaining. Certainly boards need new people involved, but getting on a committee and going to every board meeting is the best way to learn what is going on. There wasn’t any discussion of financial issues etc. The amount of money they are paying for assessments for that community is a laugh – way too low.

    We have to pay that every month and will increase, and we don’t have the amenities, and we have huge growing costs of infrastructure, regulations, and more. If they wanted to do more with the association there, they could start by learning more and getting involved. Start interest groups that feel the same way. The report commented on what younger people want – and commented on other communities that provide a bus to wherever you want to go etc. That is ridiculous, so everyone is supposed to go where they want to go all the time? Some communities here in the Richmond area charge over $500 a month for association fees. Maybe that is warranted for those amenities, maybe that is what the couple wants to pay. I haven’t ever heard of an association refuse money.

    Many of the older subdivisions like ours are trying to deal with all the newer laws, all the sudden problems we inherit with wetlands and other things. We have huge infrastructure costs (most people don’t see because underground or take for granted) that haven’t even hit us yet, and suddenly we have more. People gripe because they want optional things like they used to get…. sorry. If the money from those optional things had been put into a reserve fund, then maybe the association would be in a better place.

    Boards can get too possessive, not want things to change, wanting everything secretive, not permit elections, and many many other things that are illegal or not right. I have dealt with plenty of these issues. On the other hand, homeowners need to learn more about what is really going on instead of griping. People will ask me why something is happening, and I will start to explain and they will get angry and walk away…. almost every time it is because of government regulations. Most people here don’t care a thing about laws, they just want to run this place like a private club. The old governing documents are too difficult to change and update, and get rid of archaic and stupid language – all of that means more huge costs. People don’t want to pay those huge costs, so then the arguments persist.

    I have told the board I would gladly surrender the association to the state or dissolve it, but that wouldn’t solve our problems, it would only increase the problems.

    For one day, I would like to get good news!

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