Not all subdivisions are created equally, even though they make look alike and be just down the street from one another. Most, but not all, are regulated by a set of covenants, codes, and restrictions which are enforced by a homeowners’ association. Whether buying into an existing subdivision or a new home community, buyers should spend the time to read the CCRs which are part of either a resale certificate or a public offering statement. One significant restriction is the number of pets allowed per household. Pets are now considered family members and are a multi-billion dollar business. Most CCRs limit the number of pets to two. Some include restrictions as to size and weight. All require pets to conform to MOA regulations. Given the popularity of pets, three may become the new norm. Exceptions for the number of pets must be made to the HOA governing board. If you are a pet lover, do not ignore this regulation. It is not unusual for a sale to be lost by this restriction, or a homeowner having to lose a pet.

Landscaping is also a covenant requirement. New CCRs may specify the type of tree, its trunk caliber, height, and when it must be planted. Specific trees, such as mountain ash and shrubs like cotoneaster, may be identified in order to obtain a certain aesthetic look to the streetscape. Developers can also require that dead trees and shrubs be replaced in a timely manner by the homeowner and that lawns be kept up or otherwise fines can be imposed on owners by the HOA. Although some restrictions sound onerous, the value of a community is frequently judged by its streetscape. Mature and well-maintained landscaping can and does create added resale value.

The first home built on a lot is approved by an architectural control committee that is controlled by the developer of the subdivision who has also created a set of design standards that every new home must conform to. Those design standards can include the width of the window trim, whether or not stone and/or shakes are required on the front elevation and exterior colors, as an example. Height restrictions must confirm to MOA regulations. Side yard setbacks also must conform to MOA regulations but may be superseded by additional restrictions. For example, one popular new home community requires eight-foot side yard setbacks rather than the MOA five feet. It is always difficult for a committee to turn down a buyer’s favorite color. However, they must take into consideration the overall streetscape. We’ve all driven through subdivisions and wondered how that canary yellow or bright blue exterior got approved. Most new home communities are looking for a fairly monochromatic look, highlighted by differences in roof pitch and three types of siding on the front elevation.

Whether or not you can have an RV on your lot, and for how long, is also an important regulation. In addition, some subdivisions require you to park your vehicles in the garage and limit on-street parking. This includes motorcycles! Also, look for restrictions regarding the storage of boats, snow machines, four wheelers, or other recreational apparatus.

There is however, a trend developing, particularly on the hillside, for less, or no, architectural restrictions. Usually these are in areas zoned R6, large lots, and have only a handful of home sites. There is a segment of our Alaskan home buyers who want that storage shed, detached garage, chickens, or simply don’t want to be told how they should live. Whether you’re buying into a community with strict CCRs, or none, know what you are purchasing.