Large fee surprises New Mexico home sellers, new law hopes to bring change

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ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — Don Doran got quite the shock just before he signed the paperwork to sell and move out of his Albuquerque house. He was socked with a $404 fee from his homeowners association and its management company, to transfer a few documents into the new homeowners’ name.

“I don’t mince words a lot of times,” Doran said. “It pissed me off.”

The charge is part of the 2013 Homeowners Association Act that allows for a “reasonable fee” for the documents. Homeowners are finding out when they sell their houses that “reasonable” is a subjective term that is open to the interpretations of HOAs.

“It’s unrealistic to think that answering 10 items on a document could cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000 and, in some cases, they were charging a percentage of a sales price,” state Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, said in an interview.

Youngblood, who is also a real estate agent, proposed HB380. It would cap the disclosure fee at $150.

Doran lived in the Volterra subdivision near Four Hills. He designed the home and had it built in 2012 with the intent to sell it. He was getting ready to retire from Kirtland Air Force Base and knew he wanted to move to Texas to be closer to his family.

Every month he paid $75 to his homeowners association.

“Overall, it’s a good idea. But they’re just too heavy-handed,” Doran said.

This isn’t the first time the Volterra Homeowners Association has been under the microscope. It’s the same organization that forced a homeowner re-paint her garage door a lighter shade of red to correspond with the HOA’s regulations. The color change was so slight, it was almost unnoticeable.HOA Status Letter

Doran knew there was a charge for this HOA resale disclosure certificate — to change the HOA paperwork from the seller’s name to the buyer’s name. He’s sold two previous homes and paid about $100 to change the HOA paperwork to the seller’s name. This time, his real estate agent budgeted for $100.  Both were surprised when they saw it would cost $404.

“I don’t have money to burn, and it’s the principal of the thing. It irks the crap out of me,” he said.

Each HOA can charge a different price.

In Doran’s case, three companies took a cut: $21 for the company that holds the documents on file, $50 for the Volterra Homeowners Association and $404.46 to Homeowners Association Management Company for the disclosure certificate.

The price break-down is coded with acronyms that neither Doran nor other sellers would understand. KRQE New 13 contacted Paul Skojec, the director of operations in New Mexico for the management company.

Skojec refused an on-camera interview. But over the phone he said $400 is the cost for “all the work needed” to update and maintain the documents.

Representative Youngblood disagrees.

“The term ‘reasonable fee’ was all the sudden a marketing center for some of these association and management companies,” she said.

Doran paid the fee to sell his house, but he isn’t happy about it.

“If I have to pay the $404 so be it. But I’d like at least make it better for the next guy so they’re not gouging other people,” he said.

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