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Helpful Remodeling Tips

Home Remodeling in an HOA? Ask Permission First (not Forgiveness Later)

Homeowners Associations (HOAs) are very common in Reston and the surrounding area, so if you’re reading this, the likelihood is you live in one right now and/or your home also falls under the jurisdiction of Reston Association (RA). Although HOAs are nothing new, living in a “cluster” neighborhood creates unique challenges when it comes to making exterior changes to your home. Approvals may also be needed for any interior changes for many condos (and even in some townhomes) in the area, so let’s take a look at what it means for your home remodel.

The primary intent of an HOA is to ensure the neighborhood is well maintained and that usually starts with rules about the exterior appearance of your home. The biggest consideration for any home remodel, therefore, is understanding what restrictions are in place when it comes to proposed exterior (and in some cases, interior) changes. However, HOA rules may also impact how a construction project is managed – from vehicle parking to hours of work to required neighborhood notifications, so it’s important you know what these are and your home remodeling company or general contractor follows the rules.

Mina and Mark, Synergy’s owners, are going through this process themselves as this year’s Pro Remodeler Model ReModel! Like many in Reston, they have not one but two associations to work with. In addition to their specific neighborhood HOA, the area of Reston where they reside is governed by Reston Association (RA).  As one of the largest community associations in the USA, RA enforces adherence to design standards as defined by the neighborhood HOA bylaws. This means any proposed exterior changes or new materials being used must first be approved by the neighborhood HOA and then presented to what’s called the Design Review Board (DRB) at RA. Only then may homeowners proceed with the changes.

Although it can make construction projects a little more tricky, living in an HOA brings advantages to homeowners by providing well maintained community areas such as this neighborhood dock located near Mark and Mina’s home.

Sounds challenging – and can be for a homeowner or remodeler who has no experience in working within the confines of an HOA. Luckily for Mark and Mina, they have completed many home remodels over the last 12 years of Synergy Design & Construction and know how to manage and navigate the processes and protocols.  

Here are their five tips for ensuring a smooth home remodel when working with an HOA:

  1. Get out that copy of the HOA rules you were given when you purchased your home (your HOA may even post them to your neighborhood website). Familiarize yourself with the content. Some HOAs (like in this year’s Model Remodel) stipulate everything from roof materials to the color the front door can be painted. If landscaping falls within the scope of your project, look specifically for any restrictions or approvals required for the removal and/or replacement of existing trees.
  2. Partner with your home remodeler or general contractor and get samples of any new products you plan to use or renderings of any changes on the exterior of the home to facilitate a smoother approval process
  3. Talk about timelines with your contractor! Getting approvals for exterior changes WILL take longer when an HOA is involved. Find out when your HOA and/or RA DRB meetings are held and discuss who will present the proposed changes – you as the homeowner? Your chosen contractor? Both? 
  4. Hold off purchasing any exterior construction materials until you are confident they will be approved by your HOA/RA.
  5. Don’t try to turn a blind eye to HOA/RA approvals. Although it is difficult to take legal action against you, liens can be put on your home which will prevent you from selling or refinancing your home in the future. In this short video, Reston Association explains the actions that may be taken if a homeowner tries to sell a property with unapproved exterior changes.

Many HOAs were created decades ago with the good intention of maintaining the property values of the houses in the neighborhood. However, advances in the construction industry with the development of more energy efficient and durable materials means some of these rules and restrictions are increasingly outdated. However! Don’t assume HOAs are not open to change: as homes age, many local HOAs (and Reston Association) understand the value of evolving with the times. Property values will only continue to increase in this area with the acceptance of new materials so it’s worth the initial upfront legwork to plan and prepare. 

Ready to work with a company who has years of experience advising clients and guiding them through HOA approvals and/or Reston Assocation’s DRB process?  Get in touch!

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