So, probably all of you have heard the term HOA before, but what is it exactly?
HOA = Homeowners' Association. If you're living in a condo or an exclusive community, they're the people who make and enforce the rules while also maintaining the building.
When you live in a building with an HOA you're going to pay a monthly fee. This money goes towards the maintenance and amenities of the building. This money goes into the HOA's reserves (think savings account). The more upscale the building, the more your HOA dues will likely cost. Now if a major project like a new roof or tuckpointing needs to occur, and there isn't enough money in the reserves to cover it, the HOA will issue a special assessment (additional HOA payment) that can sometimes run into the thousands.
Paperwork & then some
The Declaration: The Grand Poobah, if you will. It establishes the basics: the association, use restrictions, maintenance requirements, the common elements, etc. At the end of the day, this supersedes everything listed below.
Bylaws: This sets up the HOA and how it's run. It goes into the board of directors, who is eligible, what the duties are, how they are elected, and what their powers are.
Rules and Regulations: Pretty self explanatory, this sets up the general guidelines and rules for owners/tenants to follow and reiterates/clarifies pieces of the Declaration in simpler terms. Follow these unless you want to be fined by the association. (P.S. they're not shy about giving those out.)
Sales Packets: A lot of times when people move into a new building, the HOA will request that the buyer fill out a sales package. This gives the association all of the pertinent information they need about who you are: name, contact info, emergency contact, what you want your name on the buzzer to be, etc.
HOA's vs Co-op's
This is always a tough one for people. The major difference between a co-op and condos is the fact that in co-ops, residents do not actually own the unit itself; with a condo, that bad boy is yours. To think of it like stocks, you own shares in the co-op corporation that allow you to live in the unit. You'll also tend to find higher monthly fees here because those fees will include property taxes, insurance, property upkeep, etc. One isn't necessarily better than the other, but people generally prefer condos.