DEAR BRUCE: When I purchased my home several years ago, I had to sign all kinds of papers acknowledging that we were buying a home in a deed-restricted community, and that we would follow all the guidelines in a packet we received from the homeowners association. I have since found out that while we have a homeowners association, no one is assigned to enforce the covenants.
What is the point of signing all of this paperwork when there is no way to enforce everything? We have neighbors who are not following the rules and guidelines, and there's no one to follow up. – Reader in Florida
A: Here in Florida, where you and I both reside, deed restrictions are a big part of the lifestyle. I know of a community that has people who drive around in homeowners association cars and write down infractions. Then letters go out to those homeowners. It is written in the association's covenants that if you don't take care of these infractions in a certain amount of time, you can actually lose your house to the homeowners association through a legal process.
There are many subdivisions that go far and beyond to enforce their covenants, and then there are some that don't do anything. These restrictions can be enforced by going to court, but there are expenses involved that fall back to the homeowners' responsibility.
I think if you push the homeowners association enough with complaints, it will be forced to do something. Deed restrictions are simply a contract among a group of people who have purchased in a given area. Without an enforcement agency such as a deed restriction committee of the homeowners association, nothing will happen unless an individual or a group of individuals takes the bull by the horns.
Q: I have an opportunity to purchase a house at a very good price. The house is being offered way below market value and is a great deal. My quandary is, should I pay cash, which I can afford, or get a mortgage, which won't be a problem as I have excellent credit and the income to back a mortgage. Which way would you recommend we go? – Reader, via email
A: The easiest thing for you to do is to figure out the math. Say the house costs you $100,000, and it will cost you 4 percent for the mortgage. Now say you can invest that same $100,000 and earn 5 percent a year. If that's the case, keep the money invested and get a mortgage. Not only will you be earning 5 percent, but you can deduct the mortgage costs on your taxes every year.
This doesn't have to be rocket science; it's simple math. It's a matter of what is the least expensive way to go, and which way will give you the most for your money.