Most Controversial HOA Moves of the Year

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Homeowners associations, commonly referred to as HOAs, are famous for getting under the skin of residents who feel that their bylaws are intrusive. But sometimes these governing bodies, which purportedly exist to maintain community values, landscaping and resources, enforce their statutes with such rigidity that they don't just annoy residents, they ignite firestorms of controversy that reverberate across the country. This year provided its fair share of homeowner outrage. Below, AOL Real Estate recaps the best (or worst) of the bunch.

An incident took place this past summer when an HOA filed a cease-and-desist order on a home that was about to be built for a wounded Army vet in Evans, Ga. Homes for Our Troops, a nonprofit that builds homes for injured vets, was just about to start construction on the house for Army Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens (pictured above), who was partially paralyzed by an IED blast in Iraq.

The HOA claimed that it filed the order because Homes for Our Troops had not submitted the necessary paperwork, but the nonprofit insisted otherwise. A spokesperson for the association let slip that some property owners were worried that the home's relatively small size and customizations (the house was designed to accommodate Gittens' disability) would drag down home values. That raised some suspicions over what the HOA's true motives were. Gittens' wife, Sharon, took particular offense to the HOA's request that builders add a second floor to the home.

"My husband doesn't need that. He's wheelchair bound," she said. The Gittenses later decided to leave the HOA and explore options elsewhere. Homes for Our Troops agreed to build the home in a new location, but Sharon Gittens said the experience left a bitter taste in her mouth.

In another case of an HOA going head-to-head with a veteran, one association in Macedonia, Ohio, demanded that Fred Quigley, a retired Army chaplain, remove an American flag that he had been flying on a flagpole in his front yard. The HOA said the flag violated a community rule prohibiting flagpoles in common areas, and it threatened legal action if Quigley did not remove it. Quigley stood his ground. And it paid off. After a media backlash and a groundswell of local support from fellow veterans, the HOA agreed to allow the flag to fly.

Like Quigley, a couple in Lexington, Ky. also battled an HOA to defend something near and dear to their hearts. In this case, it was the well-being of their child (pictured below). The Andover Forest Homeowners' Association had demanded that the Veloudis family remove a therapy playhouse for their 3-year-old, who suffers from cerebral palsy. According to the child's mother, Tiffany, the home had proved vital to the toddler's development. "Since we got this, he can walk stairs on his own," Tiffany told WMBF News. But following the public backlash against the demand, the HOA, as of Dec. 15, had agreed to allow the family to keep the playhouse temporarily. Meanwhile state lawmaker Richard Henderson said that he planned to propose a bill that would make it illegal for an HOA to ban such things when necessary to therapy.

While in the previous cases, HOAs stopped short of enforcing their rules after pushback from the public, one in Pittsburgh, Pa., took matters into its own hands. Accusing the Vasko family of violating a rule against displaying objects on "common ground" of the community, the HOA removed a 150-pound Virgin Mary statue from the spot where the Vasko family had placed it in their front yard. The HOA had said it would not return the statue until the family paid fines totaling $4,000.

"Would that be extortion or kidnapping?" Steven Vasko asked TV station KDKA 2. "You tell me, I don't know."

Considering there were an estimated 62 million residents living in HOAs or other association-governed communities in the U.S. as of 2010, odds are that there are some of you out there that have your own compelling HOA stories to tell. Fill us in by sharing them in the comments below.

Also see:
Celebrity Real Estate Trends of 2011

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Most Controversial HOA Moves of the Year

Metro movers index: 1.87
Median home price: $142,000
Home value decline from peak: -53.4%
Unemployment: 10.2%
Forecast change in home price through 2Q 2012: -11.4%

Like most of the state of Florida, the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford statistical area was hit hard by the housing crisis. More than one in five homes in the region is vacant, and more than half of all owned homes are now worth less than the mortgages on them. Real estate prices have declined 53.4% since the 2006 peak. By the second quarter of next year, Fiserv projects median home values will decline an additional 11.4%. For every person in the region looking for a home elsewhere, 1.87 people are looking at real estate in the area.

Click through to see what the median price buys in Orlando. 

Location: Orlando, Fla.
Price: $140,000
Beds/Baths: 3/3
Sq Ft: 1,510

This single family delivers comfortable living on the cheap. A sophisticated interior boasts arched doorways and hardwood floors. Features include an eat-in kitchen, backyard patio and one-car garage.

See a slide show of this home or see other homes for sale around the median price in Orlando, Fla.

Metro movers index: 1.88
Median home price: $135,000
Home value decline from peak: -59.2% (8th biggest decline)
Unemployment: 13.6% (13th highest)
Forecast change in home price through 2Q 2012: -15.9% (2nd biggest decline)

Almost two out of every three homes with a mortgage in the Las Vegas-Paradise metropolitan area is underwater — meaning the home is worth less than the mortgage on it. This is, by far, the highest rate in the country, and it is 10 percentage points greater than the metro area with the second highest rate. Since the first quarter of 2006, the median home value has dropped nearly 60% in this statistical area, and it is expected to drop another 15.9% by the middle of next year. Nearly 40% of the homes sold in the area had previously been foreclosed upon.

Click through to see what the median price buys in Las Vegas. 

Location: Las Vegas, Nev.
Price: $135,000
Beds/Baths: 3/2
Sq Ft: 1,234

This cozy home is an economical choice whose low price sheds light on just how much of a hit Vegas took from the housing meltdown. The home offers mountain views, neat landscaping, ample lighting, access to a community pool and exercise facilities, marble kitchen countertops, a two-car garage, a backyard patio and an decent supply of appliances.

See photos of this home or see other homes for sale around the median price in Las Vegas, Nev.

Metro movers index: 1.92
Median home price: $400,000 (9th highest)
Home value decline from peak: -39.9%
Unemployment: 10.1%
Forecast change in home price through 2Q 2012: -6%

The Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura area of California forms part of the Los Angeles suburbs, and is one of the wealthier regions in the country. It also features some of the most expensive and desirable retirement homes in the country. The median home value is $400,000 — the ninth-highest in the U.S. But even that high price is nearly 40% down from its peak in the second quarter of 2006. Foreclosures in the region are up 24% from last quarter. Many wealthy individuals close to retirement are looking to this area for second homes at bargain prices.

Click through to see what the median price buys in Ventura. 

Location: Ventura, Calif.
Price: $395,000
Beds/Baths: 3/2
Sq Ft: 1,878
Ventura, Calif. is a tad more upscale than some other buying hotspots, so it follows that homes are costlier. This 1,878-square-foot single family features a garage, patio and fenced backyard. 

See the listing or see other homes for sale around the median price in Ventura, Calif.

Metro movers index: 1.97
Median home price: n/a
Home value decline from peak: -5.9%
Unemployment: 8.3%
Forecast change in home price through 2Q 2012: +2.7%

Fort Worth is unlike most of the areas on our list in some key respects. It is the only one of the 10 where home prices are expected to rise by the second quarter of next year, and the only city with an unemployment rate below the national average. The subprime mortgage crisis appears to have completely missed the Fort Worth area altogether. Home prices are down just 5.9% from their peak in 2009. According to Trulia, the biggest reason for the high rate of inbound searches is the large number of people looking to move from the nearby city of Dallas.

Click through to see what the median price buys in Fort Worth. 

Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Price: $140,000
Beds/Baths: 4/2
Sq Ft: 2,106

This new traditional offers quite a bit of space for its price tag and enjoys some charming landscaping. The home shows just how much bang for your buck home buyers enjoy if they opt for this city in the Lone Star State.

See the listing or other homes for sale around the median price in Fort Worth, Texas

Metro movers index: 1.99
Median home price: $205,000
Home value decline from peak: -50.2%
Unemployment: 11.1%
Forecast change in home price through 2Q 2012: -9.6% (19th biggest decline)

Homes in the West Palm beach area are worth less than half what they were before the recession. Many people have been unable to sell their homes, especially as values are projected by Fiserv to decline an additional 9.6% by the second quarter of 2012. Last year, West Palm Beach had more listings than all but a handful of major U.S. cities. However, inventory will likely be drawn down as foreclosures decline and people begin purchasing dirt-cheap real estate. Nearly one in four of the home sales in the region in the last 12 months was on a formerly foreclosed upon home.

Click through to see what the median price buys near West Palm.

Location: Riviera Beach, Fla.
Price: $205,000
Beds/Baths: 3/2
Sq Ft: 1,480

You can live on the water for just over $200K if you purchase this gleaming, tile-floored condo. The unit offers three bedrooms and access to facilities including an expansive swimming pool and tennis courts.

See a slideshow of this home or see other homes for sale around the median price in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Metro movers index: 2.09
Median home price: $106,000
Home value decline from peak: -59.3% (7th biggest drop)
Unemployment: 11.2%
Forecast change in home price through 2Q 2012: -12.2% (6th biggest decrease)

There is arguably no single housing market with a worse outlook than southwest Florida, and Cape Coral-Fort Myers is the hardest-hit area. Housing prices here have already dropped 59.3% from their peak, and Fiserv projects a further decline of 12.2% by the second quarter of next year. According to Corelogic, 47% of the homes in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area are worth less than their mortgages. Foreclosures have increased 35% in the last quarter. However, the long-term outlook may be better than these figures suggest. Real estate agents are giving “foreclosure tours” to show homes that are now worth 40% or less of what they were just five years ago, and the number of people looking for homes in the area is nearly double the number looking to leave.

Click through to see what the median price buys in Fort Myers. 

Location: Fort Myers, Fla.
Price: $110,000
Beds/Baths: 2/2
Sq Ft: 1,441

This thrifty condo has lake views, a well-decorated interior and a glass-enclosed pool. Just watch out for the alligators.

See a slideshow of this home or see other homes for sale around the median price in Fort Myers, Fla.

Metro movers index: 2.15
Median home price: $199,000
Home value decline from peak: -48.4%
Unemployment: 10.6%
Forecast change in home price through 2Q 2012: -9.2%

Just five years ago, the median home price in the greater Fort Lauderdale area was nearly $400,000. As of last quarter, it was less than $200,000, and still falling. Prices are projected to fall an additional 9.2% by the middle of next year. The area is, however, one of the most popular retirement destinations in the country, and many see the current lows as an opportunity to purchase a cheap second home.

Click through to see what the median price buys near Ft. Lauderdale. 

Location: Sunrise, Fla.
Price: $200,000
Beds/Baths: 4/2
Sq Ft: N/A

Sited on a generous, fenced lot, this four-bedroom boasts a recently upgraded kitchen and breakfast area and hardwood floors. Sliding glass doors open up to a wood deck in the back. HOA fees are low.

See the listing or see other homes for sale around the median price in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Metro movers index: 2.25
Median home price: $200,000
Home value decline from peak: -23.3%
Unemployment: 9%
Forecast change in home price through 2Q 2012: -1.6%

The Charleston-North Charleston area saw home prices drop nearly 23% since the 2007 peak. Nearly 10% of homes are vacant — one of the highest rates in the country. Charleston has been, and remains, a popular retirement destination. According to Trulia, most of the people looking at homes in Charleston are from other parts of the state and other southern cities.

Click through to see what the median price buys in North Charleston. 

Location: North Charleston, S.C.
Price: $199,000
Beds/Baths: 3/2
Sq Ft: 2,016

Sheesh, that's a lot of room for $200K! The home sits on a quarter-acre landscaped lot and enjoys vistas of a nearby river viewable from the home's backyard porch. The interior has vaulted ceilings and hardwood floors. 

See photos of this home or see other homes for sale around the median price in North Charleston, S.C.

Metro movers index: 4.36
Median home price: $180,000
Home value decline from peak: -55.4% (14th biggest decline)
Unemployment: 13.4% (15th highest)
Forecast change in home price through 2Q 2012: -14.8% (3rd biggest decline)

This is one of the largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S. It also has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country — 13.4%. Poor economic conditions have led to a massive drop of over 55% since home prices peaked in 2006. Prices are projected to fall an additional 14.8% by the second quarter of 2012. The area has had massive foreclosures in the past few years, and nearly 40% of the homes sold in the last 12 months were previously foreclosed upon.

Click through to see what the median price buys in San Bernardino. 

Location: San Bernardino, Calif.
Price: $225,000
Beds/Baths: 3/3
Sq Ft: 2,166

This affordable contemporary comes with a three-car garage. So if you're ready to splurge on wheels, but keep the digs cheap, this place  could be just what you're looking for. 

See the listing or see other homes for sale around the median price in San Bernardino, Calif.

Metro movers index: 6.03
Median home price: $170,000
Home value decline from peak: -51.4%
Unemployment: 11%
Forecast change in Home price through 2Q 2012: -6.5%

Last quarter, the rate of foreclosures in the North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota area jumped 57%, the third-greatest increase in the country. Since the first quarter of 2006, home prices have dropped 51.4%. Foreclosures are likely to increase for some time unless economic conditions improve, as 40.84% of regional homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Further, prices are expected to drop an additional 6.5% by the second quarter of next year. For every person looking to leave the area, six others are searching for homes here.

Click through to see what the median price buys in North Port. 

Location: North Port, Fla.
Price: $199,000
BEds/Baths: 4/3
Sq Ft: 2,257

At $88 per square foot this home -- which may have given its builder quite the headache since it was constructed just prior to housing meltdown -- seems like quite a bargain. It offers the usuals and a two-car garage. Throw some palm trees into the mix too. 

See the listing or see other homes for sale around the median price in North Port, Fla. 

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