Is there a difference between a POA, HOA, COA?

Understanding what each one is important as a home buyer.

What is a POA, HOA or COA

HOA, POA, and COA are all owner associations. You might wonder what's the difference? Here's a closer look at how they differ in meaning, what each of them are and which one you might be a part of in the future.

Whether you are a first-time home buyer or looking to move or upgrade, understanding the difference between a HOA, POA, and COA is important. Let’s first define what each on is.

  • POA stands for Property Owner's Association
  • HOA stands for Home Owner’s Association
  • COA stands for Condominium Owner's Association

The only true common element among the three is the last two words: owner's association. While each type of association deals with property on some level, the exact terms of membership and services vary form location, from state to state, sometimes from city to city. Let's take a closer look at each.


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POA (Property Owner’s Association)

A Property Owner's Association or POA is a governing body that encompasses HOAs and COAs. Its primary purpose is to be supportive of other associations and their members. POA fees are combined with HOA or COA fees. Serving as a type of umbrella organization, a regional POA often provides legislative, educational, and networking opportunities for property owners. A POA is not as regulated as an HOA or a COA. Members are not only homeowners but may also be business owners or property managers who contribute to the real estate industry. POA fees are typically only paid once a year and range in price depending on what the POA owns and manages and maintain the community as a whole.

HOA (Home Owner’s Association)

An HOA community is the most common and well-known type of association. The definition of HOA - A Homeowner's Association is for homeowners who own their lots and homes. An HOA governs and manages regulations for a residential community. It also manages and maintains common areas such as pools and playgrounds. Membership may be required, depending upon the location. Homeowners follow regulations ranging from lawn upkeep to outdoor decorations. Homeowners oversee the maintenance and provisions of community facilities and enforce various restrictions and covenants.

HOA fees contribute to services that benefit the entire membership, such as trash removal. Any alterations, additions, or exterior improvements must be approved by a board of directors. The overall goal of an HOA is to set and manage certain standards for the residential community which is important to a home's resale value.

Everything You Need to Know About HOA Documents

The governing documents used by the HOA are known as CC&Rs, or Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions. These documents are recorded in local records. When a buyer purchases property within an HOA community, they automatically become a member of the HOA. While they don’t own any interest in the common area of the community, they are responsible for its maintenance and care. To learn more about the different types of HOA Documents, click here.

Learn more about HOA Documents here

COA (Condominium Owner's Association)

COA or Condominium Owner's Association is similar to a homeowner’s association, is comprised of condominium owners and by purchasing a condominium, you automatically become a member of the association. Condominium owners own their individual units and have joint ownership in the building and grounds with other units. COA fees not only cover common areas but the fees also cover building repairs and maintenance.

A condominium association differs in that individual units within a condo association are divided into apartment-style residential units, or townhouses. Owners own everything within the wall of their own personal unit; however, they are not responsible for the main pipes, wiring, and walls of the common area. There may be some exceptions from one community to another, but some condominium associations may also include the cost of utilities.

Another difference is within the condominium association, there are "common elements" and "limited elements". Common elements include things like recreational spaces, pools, tennis courts, hallways, sidewalks, and elevators. These are accessible for use by all residents within the community. Limited elements are things like reserved parking spaces, driveways, and balconies.

BONUS: Housing Cooperative, or “Co-Op”

Similar to a condominium community, a housing co-op is shared buildings with common areas. However, the biggest difference between a housing cooperative and a condominium association is you buy into a co-op, you’re not purchasing a specific unit; instead, you’re buying into the co-op as a whole. Your ownership entitles you to lease a specific unit within the community.

Housing cooperatives have the right to be more selective when it comes to who can purchase within them.

When you join a co-op, you invest some amount of money in the co-op. You become a member and an owner. As a member-owner, you’re concerned about whether the business is meeting the needs of its members. By contrast, in an investor-owned business, the owners or investors are concerned mainly with making money.

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Understanding the Acronyms

The purchasing process for any form of real estate can be overwhelming but by understanding the meaning of the acronyms POA, HOA, and COA, you'll be prepared to ask better questions. Questions regarding an association's services, regulations and fees are very important when considering a new home as a monthly fee adds to your overall expenses.

A homeowner or condominium association has value in governing standards greatly impact resale value. It is reassuring to know that your neighborhood or community is in agreement via membership consensus about such issues as lawn care. Should a neighbor or resident not comply with regulations, there is a board in place to enforce the rules. An HOA board of directors is a requirement for a homeowner’s association to function properly. These elected volunteer officials are responsible for all operations of the association and ensuring the community governing documents are followed and enforced.

Common areas, like playgrounds and pools, are great places to connect with fellow residents and enjoy. Knowing that your association fees maintain these spaces is good to know.

When it comes to a condominium owner's association, membership fees are important for any building maintenance and repairs. Similar to an HOA, members of an COA pay fees that pay for maintenance and repairs, as well as services such as landscaping, trash collection, and snow removal. COA’s, much like a homeowner’s association, unit owners typically pay these on a monthly basis, though there are also associations that charge them on an annual basis.

When it comes to fully understanding a POA, an HOA, or a COA, understand that there's no such thing as too many questions. By educating yourself in advance and asking the right questions, you'll be better equipped to choose your next home.

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