Understanding HOA Loan Interest Rates

Learn about the factors affecting HOA loan underwriting and interest rates. Get assistance securing competitive options for your association.

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HOA Loan Services

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When trying to determine interest rates for HOA loans, one thing is clear: one size does not fit all. Most of us understand that different financial institutions offer different rates and terms depending on the product being offered (car loans, mortgages, student loans etc...). Moreover, each institution operates with distinct underwriting guidelines and risk thresholds. As a result, rates at one bank may differ from those at another.


HOA loans for homeowners associations and condo associations are subject to the same considerations. Each lender employs a unique formula to assess creditworthiness, and each institution has varying risk thresholds, resulting in different rates and terms they are prepared to offer.

Residential Mortgages Differ from HOA Loans

It's important to point out that a homeowners association loan is not the same as a mortgage and the underwriting process, rates and terms differ greatly.


An HOA loan is a type of commercial loan typically used to cover capital improvements, common area improvements and unexpected expenses. It is often employed by an association as a tool to help avoid a special assessment and pay to help pay for these improvements over time. The loan is made to the entire community and secured by the associations' monthly assessments. With this type of loan, there is no physical property used as collateral.


With a mortgage or traditional home loan, the lending institution holds the property (in this case the house or condominium) as collateral for the loan. A mortgage is not a commercial loan and is usually an agreement between one lender and a borrowers. 


Most financial institutions use Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac guidelines to underwrite residential mortgage loans. Their proven credit standards help to facilitate relatively uniform pricing. In other words, residential mortgages can look similar when comparing offers from multiple lenders. Uniformity is by design because lenders ultimately sell most residential mortgage loans in the secondary market.


On the other hand, lenders typically do not sell HOA loans. Individual lenders have unique and proprietary formulas for determining risk profiles, interest rates, and structures that apply to HOA loans. Because credit assessments and underwriting protocols are unique, lenders typically hold these loans on their balance sheets in their commercial loan portfolios. As a lender adjusts their targets for risk and assets, their interest rates for potential loans can explicitly change.


Credit Assessment

Since each lending institution creates unique underwriting criteria, they often assess and weigh risk differently. While each lender's process and tolerance levels are unique, most underwriting teams will still evaluate credit risk based on a few key factors such as community delinquency rates and owner concentration.


In addition to having unique funding sources and credit underwriting models, lenders may assess the riskiness of HOA loans through very different lenses. How a lending institution views the probability of default or risk is critical in pricing HOA loans.


Because each lender weighs their underwriting components differently, multiple lenders could price the same loan request with wildly different rates. One might approve a loan while another lender declines it, this is why it's important to consult with an HOA loan professional who knows the banking landscape.


For example, one lender may emphasize the number of unit owners while another focuses on total monthly dues. It's easy to see how different underwriters can look at the same data and arrive at different conclusions about potential risks.


Rate Components

Virtually all lenders view HOA loan rates with two discrete components: the base rate or index and the credit segment or margin.


The index sets the foundation for the loan's rate. The actual indices can vary depending on the lender. Most banks prefer a Treasury note or bond index as their base. While many Savings and Loans often refer to the Federal Home Loan Bank advance rate as their index. A substantial and sophisticated transaction may even refer to the USDS rate as its index.


The credit segment or margin is the other HOA loan rate-setting puzzle piece. The margin or credit component reflects several factors, such as the bank's required profitability, assessment of risk, as well as their view of the competitive landscape.


Lenders add these two components together to determine the actual interest rate for the HOA loan. Although the process may appear overly complicated, it makes perfect sense once explained.


The base rate or index reflects how a lender could deploy its assets as an alternative to the loan. For example, if the yield on a Treasury bond with a 10-year maturity is 3%, a lender understands they can earn 3% virtually risk-free. As a bonus, they would enjoy the liquidity of a Treasury note investment. Moreover, their regulatory body won't require them to set aside a portion of their investment into a loan loss reserve fund. Consequently, it's unlikely that a lender would set HOA loan rate below base rates or indices. Lenders need compensation to make a loan with more risk than a Treasury Note.


The margin or credit component is lenders' secret sauce to account for risk and future profitability. One lender may view an HOA loan as relatively low risk and require a margin or credit spread of 2%. In contrast, another may view the same loan with more scrutiny and require a 3% or 4% margin. In either case, a lender will add credit margins to the base rate to establish the "all-in" HOA loan rate. Since the margin is critical to the loan's interest rate, it is vital that the lender view the borrower or HOA in the best possible light. A lender will likely reduce or tighten their credit margin if they consider an HOA borrower exceptionally creditworthy.


On the other hand, the lender's credit spread increases with perceived borrower riskiness. Many lenders have a low tolerance for risk. They will only make loans when their risk assessment shows enough repayment confidence. In other words, most lenders only approve loans when the creditworthiness of an HOA is strong enough.



To further complicate HOA loan and condo association loan pricing, some lenders limit their HOA loan maturities. For example, one lender may have internal policies prohibiting HOA loans with maturities beyond 5 or 7 years. Depending on the project, others may lend up to 10 years or even longer.


Lenders will likely adjust the underlying index and the credit spread to match the loan maturities. As a rule, longer maturities have higher interest rates. However, as maturities push further out, monthly payments will likely decrease. Conversely, a shorter maturity may have a lower interest rate, but higher monthly loan payments.


There are other types of loan terms that can be considered as well. An HOA loan might be a traditional term loan, a converting term loan with a non-revolving lines of credit, an adjustable rate loan or some other more creative setup.


As a result of these variables, measuring all loan rates with the same ruler is difficult. A loan rate of 6% may be uncompetitive for a loan with a five-year term but ultra-aggressive for a 15-year loan proposal.


Many factors go into pricing an HOA loan request. Assessing potential risk from an HOA can be nuanced. Different lending institutions have varied capital structures that result in varied capital costs. To complicate matters even more, the same lending institution may have different loan targets that influence their pricing models at different times.


As you can see, setting interest rates on HOA loans is an imperfect science at best. It's always a good idea to get the perspective of an HOA loan expert before entering into a commitment. We can provide market color to help the board determine if a proposal is reasonable or if they should try to find another provider. HOA Loan Services can also help identify loan requirements as well as provide guidance through the entire loan process. Contact us today for a free loan consultation.

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