A little history
Most subdivisions created since the late 1960’s have included some level of restrictions regarding the exteriors of homes. The goal of the developer was to protect the appearance of the neighborhood by ensuring that the homes built would be consistent with the developer’s “vision” and let the early buyers know that subsequent homes would have to meet similar standards. The early covenants typically dealt only with minimum construction standards and set-backs.
Read covenants from new subdivisions and you will find that residents must have the approval of a “Design Review Committee” for any exterior additions and/or changes to the structure or the landscape. Sometimes they must use the HOA mandated trash collection company. Leaving garage doors closed is frequently a requirement. Certain species of trees and bushes are excluded. Parking of RV’s and boats is prohibited. You get the idea. The goal is always to “protect” the neighborhood values. At the same time some prospective residents do not want that much control over their use of their home. The only option then is to go to an older neighborhood or to move to large enough property that it is not part of an HOA. When I visit some of those older neighborhoods with clients they often comment about the number of large RV’s, some “unusual” exterior color choices and an overall lack of continuity. We are soon back to newer areas. As to the large site option, these are often more miles from work and other activities as well as more expensive.
So, read before you purchase.
Covenants are usually pretty straightforward. If you need a 6′ high privacy fence for your own comfort or to restrain a large dog, look carefully for fence limitations. Do NOT trust what you see. That other 6′ fence may be in violation. If you plan to replace a deteriorated wood shake roof with a composition roof be sure that the covenants do not limit your choices AND that the “design review committee” is allowing your choice. For the first time, I have just found covenants that severely limit the display of the American Flag. My client finds that to be very objectionable but loves the home. They will try to effect a change to the covenants after they move in. I am also working with a client who is purchasing a property where they can keep horses and am finding that just because horses are “allowed” that does not convey the number. That number may be county mandated or, as I found recently, at the discretion of that same “design review committe”. That group gets to decide how many horses your site can support.
Be sure you are working with a broker who is on your side and who will obtain those covenants for you to review well ahead of any deadline for objection. Be open with “your” broker regarding your need and projected use of the property so that you can look for clauses that might limit your enjoyment.