You bought it. You love it. You keep it looking great. So why does someone else get a say in the color of your paint, door, deck or polymer roof? Many of the millions of Americans living in a community governed by homeowners associations (HOA) have found themselves asking that question.
If asked before you’ve painted your home or installed that gorgeous new roof – great question. After the fact, it may just be the beginning of a headache. To keep you from having to reach for a bottle of aspirin here are a few tips for getting your HOA to approve your home improvement project.
Start by digging out the copy of the CC&R's (covenants, conditions and restrictions). You were mostly likely given these at the time you closed on your home. Don’t worry you don’t need to read all of the Rules and Regulations just the ones referring to areas of property restrictions. This should give you an idea of what is acceptable and what isn’t in your community.
Don’t stop there, however, because some things may have changed. Even if you have kept your binder up-to-date with revisions you’ll want to check with your neighborhoods property management company about the current protocol for getting your project approved.
Call or stop by their office and ask them to explain the entire process and how long it will take to get an approval. Find out what forms need to be filled out and where to find them.
Also ask if there are pre-approved colors that must be used or if you are free to make your own selection. Also ask them if there is any guidance they can give you on color selection based on their experience. Their answer may just give you more insight on how to have your plans accepted than any written guidelines. It is well worth your time to ask.
You may think that if you have pre-approved colors that all you have to do is pick one and done. Not so fast. Even if the color is pre-approved it might not be approved for your home if it is identical to your neighbors. Look around and make sure your colors don’t mirror another home close by.
If you are on your own for choosing colors, look for colors that will express your personality or give your home a unique look but don’t deviate too far from what is the norm for your neighborhood. The ideal color scheme stands out while still fitting in. If you keep that idea in mind as you select your color scheme you’ll be well on your way to getting an HOA approval for your plans.
In my experience, it takes anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months to get an approval for your colors and design. Don’t expect to decide to paint one day and be doing it the next when you’re in an HOA. You must allow for the time it takes to get approval.
As I alluded to earlier, asking for approval on a project after you’ve already completed it is often times a headache. On several occasions I have been hired to give my professional opinion to resolve a color dispute. From these experiences I can tell you that it is much easier to gain approval prior to beginning your project.
Keep in mind that the main goal of a HOA is to protect the property values of individual homeowners. By enforcing the rules, the HOA helps maintain the aesthetics of the neighborhood and property values of all the homes in the community.
In a perfect world this is a good thing for everyone. In the real world you may find that your HOA’s architectural review board has little knowledge of design and is only comfortable approving something that is very much like what is there now. If that is the case and you have your heart set on stepping beyond their color comfort zone you are will have to build a convincing case.
Often showing the committee rather than telling them is the best way to go about convincing them that your plan is a good fit for both your home and the neighborhood. Photos, samples, drawings or anything that can help them visualize the end result can be much more convincing than anything you can say.
Here are some related stories that may give you idea for putting together your presentation to the committee:
Getting your colors approved in most cases isn’t difficult. If you just take the time to understand the process and follow the steps, your request will be back to you in no time marked APPROVED!