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, and there’s usually an HOA board that is responsible for setting the rules and regulations.

Each HOA is different, but most have the same core elements. You’ll typically pay your HOA fees either monthly or annually, and it’s an important factor to consider when you’re weighing your options for a new home. 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 fund for unexpected repairs to damaged community property—think damage from weather or accidents.

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, snow removal, and trash/recycling services.

Be active in the association
There may be a board of directors, 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.

Five Ways You Can Get Earnest Money Back

Earnest money is a deposit you pay when you make an offer on a home—it’s a way to show the seller that you mean business. Usually you can’t get it back, but there are several circumstances that allow you to recover your earnest money.

Appraisal contingency: With an appraisal contingency, you can recover your earnest money if the home is appraised for less than your offer. This gives you a better negotiating position—if the seller doesn’t agree to a lower price, you can get your earnest money back and walk away from the deal.

Major problems with the home: It may be your dream home at the surface level, but an inspection could reveal major, major problems—such as issues with the foundation, or flood damage. In that case, you can get your money back if the seller doesn’t agree to a lower price.

The seller backs out: Obviously, if the seller changes their mind about the transaction—maybe they decide not to sell, or accept a higher offer—you get your earnest money back.

Your house hasn’t sold: Many buyers can’t afford a new home if they’re still financially responsible for their old one. In this case, you can work a sale contingency into the contract, and get your earnest money back if the home doesn’t sell soon enough.

Financing issues: Though there are some limits on financing contingencies, you can get your money back if you’re unable to get a loan.

What You Need To Know About Refinancing Your Mortgage

Refinancing your mortgage can have many financial benefits when done at the right time in the right way. Here’s what you need to know about this type of transaction.

What is refinancing your mortgage?

When you refinance your loan, you essentially pay off your remaining mortgage with funds from a new one. The process is fairly simple and similar to when you applied for your initial mortgage. You’ll gather quotes from multiple lenders, file an application, gather and provide financial documentation, like paystubs, bank statements, etc., then close like you did when you first purchased.

Why should you refinance?

Refinancing your home loan is an option available to most homeowners. This decision can allow a homeowner to reduce their monthly mortgage payments, negotiate a shorter payment term, switch to a different type of loan, cash out on home equity, and consolidate debt.

When should you refinance?

Timing is key when it comes to refinancing your home. The best time to take this step is when interest rates drop lower than the rate you closed at. Another good time to consider refinancing is if your current credit score could allow you to qualify for better interest rates than your time of purchase.

What are the costs to refinance?

Unfortunately, refinancing isn’t free. Your refinanced mortgage will come with similar fees to your original, such as appraisal, title insurance, closing costs, and more. Because of this, when deciding to refinance, make sure the money saved outweighs the fees your will incur.