Interpreting HOA Banking Trends in a Changing Rate Environment

HOA lenders change rapidly, it's our job to understand this market and to help guide our clients. Learn about the decline of value in HOA lending and the surge in HOA deposit gathering

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HOA Loan Services

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Over the past few decades, there has been a steady decline in interest rates. This trend persisted for 40 years until it reached its lowest point in 2020. As interest rates decreased over this period, many banks expanded their loan portfolios, which included extending loans to Homeowner Associations (HOAs).

Market Yield on U.S. Treasury Securities at 10-Year Constant Maturity
Market Yield on U.S. Treasury Securities at 10-Year Constant Maturity

HOA Loans in a Sinking Interest Rate Environment

These loans typically featured extended repayment periods and fixed interest rates, ensuring that interest income remained constant throughout the loan's duration. Engaging in long-term lending with fixed interest rates proved to be a lucrative endeavor for lenders.

Lenders experienced a steady stream of interest revenue from the interest accrued through loan payments. Most lenders established their pricing models based on a risk-free alternative use of their funds plus a credit margin. In simpler terms, if the risk-free Treasury note yielded 5%, an HOA loan would likely be priced around 7% (reflecting a 2% credit and liquidity charge).

Liquidity Charges

Banks knew they could invest in Treasury notes, earn a risk-free 5% return, and enjoy considerable liquidity. Liquidity refers to the ability to sell Treasury notes at any time to generate cash. Conversely, HOA loans carried more risk than US Treasury obligations and offered virtually no liquidity. Therefore, lenders believed they should be compensated appropriately for assuming risk and sacrificing liquidity. The interest earnings served as compensation for banks, and a two percent rate premium seemed equitable. These principles reflect the fundamental tenets of banking.

The Unexpected Dual Advantages of HOA Loans

Banks reaped a twofold advantage from the decline in interest rates. Initially, they anticipated earning a 2% yield advantage over Treasury notes when extending loans to HOAs. However, as Treasury note rates decreased while the interest rates on their HOA loans remained fixed, their yield advantage grew. Loans issued at 7% (while Treasury notes yielded 5%) suddenly became doubly profitable when the Treasury note yield plummeted to 3%. With a 7% interest rate, these loans now stood 4% higher than the risk-free Treasury notes.

HOA Deposits Gained Value

Banks derive revenue not only from loans but also from the deposits made by their customers. These deposited funds serve as the capital base from which banks extend loans to other customers at higher interest rates. Typically, banks aim to minimize the interest paid on deposits to maximize their income from loans. Historically, when interest rates were low, many banks showed little interest in accumulating additional deposits since they already had an abundance of interest-free deposits. Consequently, banks had little incentive to adjust their pricing strategies to attract more deposits.

In recent years, there has been a notable shift towards prioritizing deposit accumulation over lending, which has had repercussions for HOA banking. Many banks found certain fixed-rate HOA loans had become unprofitable as interest rates increased. Loans extended at long-term fixed rates of 3% or 4% were no longer financially viable as Treasury yields rose to 5%. While banks expected a favorable spread of 2% on their HOA loans, they are now experiencing a negative spread or a loss of 2% on these loans.

With risk-free Treasury notes offering yields of 4% or 5%, banks can lucratively redirect low-cost deposits into government-issued bonds. As higher interest-rate opportunities emerge, many banks have intensified their competition to attract HOA deposits. Unfortunately, this heightened focus on deposit gathering has led several banks to revise or discontinue their HOA loan programs.

Shift in HOA Lending Principles

Banks typically have two avenues for exiting lending programs. The first method involves halting the acceptance of new applications outright. While this straightforward approach may strain existing relationships, it remains an honest albeit uncomfortable tactic. The second method entails offering uncompetitive rates, which can signal borrowers that the lender is seeking to phase out its involvement in the business. 

However, if a borrower is willing to accept a higher-than-market rate, the lender may still extend a loan. While this second approach may come across as disingenuous, it is entirely within legal bounds.

As HOAs navigate their financial management, they must remain cognizant of the evolving landscape. A financial institution that once aligned with their needs may no longer be the best fit. Like other vendor relationships, banking affiliations warrant periodic reevaluation to ensure they remain conducive to the HOA's objectives.

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