Home sales are at the lowest rate in years and the majority of properties that are moving are foreclosures and short sales. This has left one Berryville subdivision questioning the need for a Home Owners Association, in particular the fees associated with it.
The town of Berryville was contacted by the board of directors of the Darbybrook Homeowners Association which indicated that the HOA intends to dissolve. The group informed the town that there are currently 6 homes in the subdivision which are in foreclosure/short sale status which represents 13% of the total number of homes in Darbybrook. Their position is that the existence of the HOA puts the home sales in Darbybrook at a disadvantage. Darbybrook is the only new subdivision in Berryville that has an HOA. Buyers looking for a home in Berryville can bypass Darbybrook and find a similar home in Hermitage or Battlefield Estates where there are no HOAs to avoid the additional monthly cost. The current HOA fee in Darbybrook is $29.00 per month for each property in the subdivision. It is unclear whether the bank owned properties have been paying the fees, but typically they do not. Often the fees are ignored during the foreclosure proceedings and then accounts are settled when a buyer takes possession. However HOA fees typically fall behind the mortgage in priority and therefore are rarely paid.
The catch that the board of directors faces is that in order to dissolve the HOA, provisions must be made to liquidate the property that the HOA owns, namely the storm water retention pond and the community playground. Currently the HOA is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of these areas. The board of directors for Darbybrook would like the town to assume ownership of these two properties. The town would then be responsible for maintenance and mowing of the properties in question. In a follow up email to the town, a representative for the Darbybrook HOA added that they would be willing to bulldoze the existing playground for use as open space if it made more sense for the town. Mayor Wilson Kirby agreed to put the matter before the town council for discussion and it has been scheduled for the meeting tonight, but the prospects do not look good.
Town staff is not recommending that the Town Council accept the property. In the information packet distributed for tonight’s meeting town manger Keith Dalton stated,”The owners in Darbybrook agreed to maintain these parcels when they purchased their lots and transferring that responsibility to the rest of the citizens of Berryville does not appear warranted.”
Options if the town refuses are unclear. Many communities have had developers abandon HOAs and leave residents holding the bag. When HOA property is involved the process can be particularly cumbersome. In this instance the economic realities of a real estate bubble have left the residents in an uncomfortable position.
The council will discuss the matter and hear comments tonight. The meeting will be held at 7:30 in the Main Meeting Room at Berryville-Clarke County Government Center.