News and notes from Reston (tm).

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Coming Soon to a Cluster Near You: Dudes With Clipboards

home-inspector.jpegThose of you who bothered reading the raft of documents when you closed on your little piece of earth-toned paradise in Reston know that before you can sell said property and "upgrade" to that fancy one brick-side McMansion in Ashburn, the Reston Association will send out people wearing snazzy official-looking jackets and clipboards to make sure all your exterior lights are working, the house hasn't been painted bright orange, etc., etc. And as a special going away present for your neighbors, they'll send them nastygrams, too, if they see something awry while they're eyeballing your house.

Apparently, that's not the only way that the RA enforces its standards. Confidential Restonian Operative "P" tells us that the RA has embarked on a grand 30-40 year quest to inspect every property in Reston, cluster by cluster.

Basically they have 4 inspectors who are in charge of doing 1 cluster per year. My cluster (Purple Sage in 20194) was one of the first ones chosen, people aren’t happy about the results. Some of the ramifications are significant…i.e. Your siding is faded you need to paint it (you don’t paint siding) or replace it (even though there is no dents or physical problem with the siding).... The inspector did a good job…she nailed every property for something.
This is different from RA's annual common property inspections, where they tromp around the woods looking for severed heads grass clippings and other affronts to our ecosystem. But we're not entirely sure this is something new, as the helpful "How Are Violations Found Or Reported?" section of the Reston "web site" says that "RA staff also conducts cluster or neighborhood inspections on a periodic basis," right below the easily downloadable complaint form people can use to anonymously snitch on their neighbors. But is this a new, systematic approach to cluster inspections? If they're starting in North Reston, they're going to need a few new boxes of pens by the time they get to the older neighborhoods south of Baron Cameron.

Of course, rules is rules, and in theory this is a Good Thing, as it's a way to make sure a couple of lazy property owners don't bring down home values in an entire neighborhood. But there's about a million miles' difference between a house with faded, peeling paint and one with an improper light covering near the back door -- both of which could get the DEFCON 1 treatment.

According to "P," his cluster was notified before inspections began. Cited homes were given three months to correct any defects, though that can be extended to six months due to the limitations on outside work posed by the winter. Which gives us time to remove the giant neon sign we've erected in the front yard of Restonian World Headquarters and maybe find a nice earth-toned mailbox to replace the one that looks like a clown's head we know our neighbors love so much.


  1. It is also worth noting that if your neighbor is trying to sell their house and there is a party wall, your entire property will also get inspected. They make a point of saying in the notification letter that they can usually not go to the trouble of inspecting all of a neighbor's property if a party wall is involved, but that's BS. We recently got our entire property inspected because of the neighbor's upcoming sale, even though they could clearly inspect the party wall just by looking at the neighbor's property.

    And we did get cited for a porch light that did not match cluster specs.

    Guess they have to justify that fabulous new building.

  2. When I bought in Reston I knew that I was subject to strict rules, and I appreciate that the RA enforces them. They may seem nit-picky, but they are looking out for the property values of the community as a whole. If you take a drive through some old neighborhoods in Sterling, Herndon and Centreville you'll see what a lack of rules and enforcement can lead to.

  3. In this case I agree with 11:42. When you bought here you signed the covenants. Don't like covenants, don't move to the biggest HOA in the country.

  4. "30-40 year quest to inspect every property in Reston, cluster by cluster"

    Hmmm. I wonder why they are doing it now.

  5. Yeah, with there diligence property values are so stable in Reston. I think they should make the inspections more frequent, Everyone these days have so much extra money why not put them into needless repairs to there house.

  6. Can we buy off the inspectors with Macaroni Grill gift certificates?

  7. It actually make a little sense. In a down-turned economy, people are less willing to make cosmetic repairs to their home. In order to keep Reston's housing market more appealing, RA is making sure we are all in tip-top shape.

    That being said, I am not looking forward to any unforeseen repairs either.

  8. Fukker sets foot on my property unannounced he's going to meet my close friend Mr. Remington. The second amendment trumps HoA rules.

  9. Is that you Mr. Grouchy (Anon. 4:21)Pants? Someone needs a nap.

  10. Our cluster went through this process over the last few months. Biggest takeaways? You're responsible for BOTH sides of your shared fences (and yes, you are allowed to go on someone else's property to pressure wash the bejeebers out of it). And, if you have a wood pile in your yard, cover it with a brown tarp, not blue. Brown good, blue bad.

  11. Now, I want to know why they'll cite a bit of green mold and moss growing on the shingles but leave my neighbors white colonial door and coordinating white rocks unnoticed?

  12. Brooklyn Bridge SalesmanDecember 14, 2010 at 6:25 PM

    Reading some of the comments here makes me wonder if the RA shouldn't be retitled the AR, as in anal retentive. I don't think anybody would be opposed to reasonable [and I know reasonable people can disagree on the meaning of 'reasonable'] regulations, like no chain link fences, no junk piled high in the driveway, no cutting of healthy, mature trees, etc. But to cite the examples given by Anons 5:50 and 6:02 about blue tarps and a bit of moss, do those issues spell the end of earth-toned civilization as we know it? I mean, come on, it's not like I.M. Pei or Santiago Calatrava designed the buildings here and that Reston is some architectural masterpiece that needs to be declared a national historical landmark. As Anon 11:42 said, I also don't want my neighborhood to look like the downside of Herndon or Sterling, but can the RA just use some common sense and not sweat the small stuff when it comes to the goal of keeping up property values, a goal we presumably all share? Please?

  13. What RA should be inspecting is the commercial rental properties, not homeowner clusters. Many landlords are getting away without doing essential maintenance on their rental units, their common grounds, etc. This diminishes the value of Reston's property more than blue tarps, nonconforming light fixtures, and the rest.

    Focus on what's important to Reston, RA, not what's easy pickins'.

  14. BB Salesman -- I think the problem is what is
    small stuff to some is not to others. I have neighbors who leave their Christmas (not holiday) lights up all year long . . . and leave them on according to some random schedule. Their kids play in the street though because their backyard is one huge non-native-English-Ivy sinkhole. There's probably a 57 Studebaker in there somewhere, but RA can't see it . . . heh heh

    Another neighbor has 'grey' rocks. Okay, they're grey when it rains. The rest of the time they're BRIGHT WHITE...

    I like my neighbors, so I don't really care, but I'm not trying to sell my house right now. And IF we're going to agree to live by rules, we need to agree to live by ALL of them...otherwise we might be like those people who cross into the US illegally and then want to live as "upstanding citizens". In other words, picking and choosing which rules/laws you want to obey sort of negates the idea of having any at all!

  15. What actually brings down property values more than blue tarps is neighbors short selling their houses and influencing the neighborhood market so the bankses can charge higher interest rates which forces people to pay less which brings down property values which causes people to invest in tarps instead of nice tawny colored sheds which causes property values to go down even more.
    There's no relationship between a down-turned economy and a persons willingness to make cosmetic repairs. Purely speculative theory at best.

  16. 4:21, I have not gone over my covenant recently, but I'd wager 100 quatloos that in there somewhere you consented to allow RA to enter your property a reasonable times.

    And VA is not TX, you cannot kill someone, nor brandish your firearm menacingly for trespass.

  17. Hickory Cluster Knuckle DusterDecember 14, 2010 at 10:35 PM

    Blue tarps all over someone's yard makes it look like Haiti. The brown ones sold at Home Despot serve the exact same purpose and don't stick out like a blue tarp.

    I'm constantly amazed that we all as RA homeowners (if you are renting, then these issues really don't apply to you, they do to your landlord)
    knew full well or should have known, that being part of the largest HOA in maybe the known universe has certain expectations.

    Don't go crying when you get dinged for your mossy tiles, or the blue tarp on your log pile, or the non-spec. light fixture you installed because it was cheaper than finding the right one. You knew these going in.

    If you don't like these rules.... Well there is always particlebordia next door. (but I bet all those Toll Bros. developments have HOAs too)

  18. Visiting friend who had moved out of Reston. She crowed happily about being out from under the restrictive Reston covenants. Then without taking a breath began to bitch about her new neighbor's above-ground pool.

    I just smiled.

  19. HCKD
    Amen. I moved to Ashburn and the grass is not any greener here. More rules, covenants, and the shared fence with my neighbor. All issues I have to deal with and at $75 a month, and still have to pay seperate for the 3 pools. Not complaining. Just reality.

  20. "I also don't want my neighborhood to look like the downside of Herndon or Sterling"

    Was Cocaine Drive suddenly transferred to Herndon or Sterling? Well, maybe RA inspectors know better than show anywhere near it...

  21. "This diminishes the value of Reston's property"

    The only thing that "diminishes the value of Reston's property" is the fact that Reston is full of subsidized housing.

  22. The only people I saw in my neighborhood were those clipboard huggers who decided it necessary to inspect the common properties, and to determine whether or not any of our own trees were impeding upon their precious land space. The funny thing is, they NEVER take care of the common property, WE DO. They should be writing us all a letter of gratitude, instead of attempting to lecture us on our handiwork.

    @ the last Anon, you are correct. Be very weary of future proposals around here regarding "Affordable housing". Not long after they first brought such a thing to North Point Village Center for instance, drug dealing and robberies skyrocketed. I see FFX 1 circling overhead sometimes seven nights a week at times, and on New Years they actually had so much action around here, they ran into their reserve fuel supply. That never used to happen before all of the subsidized housing built up, although admittedly, the overall population has skyrocketed too.


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