What are HOA fees?

We're looking at buying a house & we've been looking on like remax.com and stuff and some of them say they have HOA fees. We're looking at single family homes, not townhouses/condos. I thought HOA fees were for like... the maintenance done around the property (mowing the lawn, trimming bushes, cleaning... show more We're looking at buying a house & we've been looking on like remax.com and stuff and some of them say they have HOA fees. We're looking at single family homes, not townhouses/condos. I thought HOA fees were for like... the maintenance done around the property (mowing the lawn, trimming bushes, cleaning the community pool, etc.). But some neighborhoods have them too...

Is that what HOA fees are? Does a neighborhood w/ HOA fees require homeowners to get approval before doing things like building a privacy fence or a swing set for their kids? And say the HOA fee is $80 or whatever, is that per month or per year?
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