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Before you buy property in a community with an HOA, there are nine things you should do.

Number 1, learn its rules. Look online, ask your real estate agent, or contact the HOA directly. Pay close attention to fines and the HOA’s capabilities. Can it foreclose on your property if you don’t pay your dues?

2, make sure the home you want to buy is not already out of compliance with HOA regulations. Buying into a problem will be a headache.

3, assess environmental practices. HOAs may require fertilizers, pesticides, sprinklers and whatever else it take to keep your lawn green. It may forbid xeriscaping and limit garden size.

4, consider your temperament. If you hate being told what to do, HOAs may frustrate you.

5, find out about fees. How are increases set? How often do they occur, and by how much?

6, try to get a copy of the minutes from the last meeting, or sit in on one. You’ll hear what conflicts arise and how they’re resolved. HOAs have lots of politics and drama, so be ready.

7, watch for under-management. With some HOAs, no one really cares. No one maintains buildings or takes the board seriously. Residents may be randomly appointed to preside over it, so be ready for that, too.

8, find out what catastrophe insurance the HOA has on the buildings. Homes in areas prone to floods, fires and other disasters are especially in need of the right insurance.

And 9, consider the impact of HOA fees on your finances. High HOA fees on a condo may cost as much as the house you don’t think you can afford.

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