The Best Loan for your Community Association

https://www.hoalendingxchange.comAs a banker specialized in the community association industry, I have paid close attention to the shifts of the banking industry since the beginning of the 2007 recession. The 2007 recession! Hmmmm… Has it ended yet?

One very significant point that the “man-on-the street” does not appreciate is the hyper level of new regulatory control that has been heaped upon banks since the beginning of the recession. As much of the “man-on-the-street” perspectives coalesce to; “a lot of Wall Street Bankers should have gone to jail”. The reality is that they did not. The government responded with enhanced bank regulations, which had the unintended consequence to restrict ease of access of capital to every-day people and businesses. Where does that leave you as a community association leader?

The bank regulators are formula driven versus being common sense driven.   They, as individuals, also are nearly impossible to discharge from their positions so they are not worried about making business mistakes. For efficiency reasons the regulators perceive to be accurate, the regulators are focusing on the bigger banks.   The bigger the bank, the more intense the regulatory oversight. A common perspective within the financial services industry is that the large banks have been privatized by the Federal government. Business decisions are being guided.

Enough of my whining and on to the answer for your community association. The point is that the platform for how banks operate has changed from how you have understood how they operate. Large banks have been interrupted due to regulatory inflexibility to operate in what one would consider as a “consumer service methodology”. I define a large bank as any bank over $5.0 Billion. A bank under that amount has been impacted by the regulatory environment but they still retain the “desire” to service the consumer. It has been my experience that banks over that level have largely capitulated to governmental demands.

So what is the best loan for your Community Association? It is likely a loan that is negotiated with a bank that is less than $5.0 Billion in Assets. It is a bank that is a member of Community Associations Institute (CAI) because they have decided to specialize in providing financing to this industry. The last and most important qualifier is skills. The first question that you need to ask the banker is: “How many years have you been a Community Association Specialized Lender?”   If their answer is 7 years or less, keep shopping…

Why is the year 2008 an important pivot point? The regulatory impact is the key. A banker entering any business activity guided by the hyperactive pressure of the government’s regulatory pressure since the recession does not actually understand the community association industry. They understand government control.

If you find a banker that has been active in the market more than 7 years, you have a community association lending hero. A person that has many years of skills honed by the growth years, survived the recession and been managing against the regulatory environment.

A lot of this conversation does not seem to address the article’s title. The point is that there is much more to a community association loan than the interest rate. It is my experience that Community Associations are notorious for gravitating to everything that is cheap for the exclusive reason that it is cheap. The reality is that “value” is what is important, not “cheapness”. Getting good service and good quality products at a fair price is Value. If you deal with banks with bankers that have not been in the industry prior to 2008, chances are that you not getting a proper value. The banker may not understand your business (Association). The bank will not likely be the lower cost. The bank will most importantly be the providing the best Terms & Conditions because they have “Lawyered –Up” per their regulator’s requirements. Negotiating the Terms & Conditions of loan is far more important than negotiating a ¼ % interest rate difference between one bank and another. Terms & Conditions can cost the Association far more than a minor interest rate deferential.

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Q&A with the HOALendingPro: What’s the difference between a bank loan and an HOA loan?

https://www.hoalendingxchange.comI was recently presented with the following question from one of my clients. I am publishing it here, along with my answer, in hopes of sharing the knowledge. It is a common question that all of us within the HOA lending field should be able to answer.

Question:
What are some differences between a construction loan or line of credit from a “normal” bank and an HOA loan or line of credit as a specialized lending option? I’m having trouble understanding the pros and cons between them.

Answer:
The differences are very stark. A construction loan handled by a traditional bank reflects that there is real estate involved. The financing provided might be to construct a building, expand a building or recondition a building. In all cases, the real estate has different degrees of value during the build out period. The bank’s collateral is the value of the real estate. Depending on the bank’s loan policy, the borrower will need to provide 20% to 30% cash into the project in advance. Consequently, the bank has a vested interest in the value of the property during its various stages of change. Therefore, the bank will monitor the project in some way and they will release money from the credit line once stages of build-out have been achieved based on a budget submitted in the beginning of the project.

A construction line of credit to a community association from a bank that is skilled at providing such financing operates on an entirely different logic. There is no real estate interest in a community association. The community association has common elements that are not separable from the association and the property owners have an indivisible interest in the common elements. Consequently there is no real estate value. The financing does not rely on the value of real estate as does a traditional construction loan discussed above. What is being financed is the lack of reserves. In essence, the association should have accumulated cash reserves over time in order to pay cash for any project that needs to be done. The collateral for such a loan is the Assignment of the Association’s right to levy and collection regular and special assessments. It is a cash flow based loan. The bank looks to the level of budget increase that needs to occur to support the loan in order to make a credit worthiness judgment. It is typical for a community association specialized bank to provide 100% financing of the project. Depending on the loan policy of the bank, the bank might simply provide the funding to the association as a lump some and want to have any interest in the construction activity of the project. Other banks might provide a line of credit that is available to be drawn on at the sole discretion of the association. In other cases, the bank might want to see evidence that the project is being performed before they release funds from the credit line. Not because they have a value concern but only to be sure a project is being done at all.

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Storm & Catastrophic Preparation – An Emergency Line of Credit

https://www.hoalendingxchange.comWe are in an age of dramatically more devastating natural events: frequent and expansive wild fires, intense hurricanes, stronger tornadoes and historic rains/snowfall resulting in record flooding. As never before, establishing catastrophe planning strategies supported by adequate insurance coverage is a critical element to restoring the facilities impacted.

There is a banking program specific to community associations that is particularly valuable for the environmental changes being experienced. The program has traditionally been referred to as a “Standby Line of Credit for Named Storm Damage”. The reason such a bank facility becomes valuable has largely to do with expediency and unforeseen dilemmas with insurance coverage. The general description of such a program is that it is an existing availability of cash specific to the occurrence of a particular catastrophe. The funds may be needed to protect damaged property from further deterioration, restore the property while waiting for insurance proceeds or to restore uninsured portions of a property. For instance, many communities have landscaping and ground cover features worth thousands if not millions that are not insurable. There may be unanticipated loopholes in coverage such as damage to a swimming pool from a flood not being covered.

An emergency Line of credit for named storm damage typically is structured as follows. The association applies with a community association specialized bank.    The loan amount is determined based on what level of restoration the association may want to accomplish in an immediate time period versus waiting for insurance proceeds. For instance, NOAA identifies the East Coast hurricane season as being from June through November. Consequently, a bank would establish an annually renewable line of credit for the time period of May 1st through April 30th. This allows for a community association to experience the catastrophe, draw on the credit line and hopefully have enough time to repay the amount advanced before the next hurricane season starts. A properly structured credit facility will have a term loan function built into the loan documents. Meaning, if the credit line is not paid off by the April 30th expiration date of the credit line, the principal amount outstanding will automatically convert to being an amortizing transaction. The term of this amortization period may be 3, 5, or 7 years. It is likely that if such a conversion occurs, the renewal of the credit line may not occur. Although this is the traditional product structure based on Named Storm Damage, the concept can be adjusted to accommodate regions susceptible to wild fires, flooding or tornadoes.

Approval for such a bank program may have some unique credit review criteria.   As insurance coverage is the anticipated appropriate payout resource, a bank may require review of the Association’s insurance coverage by a licensed public insurance adjusted to be sure the property is adequately covered. It is likely the association will need to have reserve balances that are sufficient to support the level of insurance policy deductibles. Other standard community association loan approval criteria will likely apply: delinquency level within an appropriate range; investor/owner ratio with an appropriate range; collateral being a first position assignment of assessments.

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Capital Maintenance Loans Can Provide Funding for Community Association Projects

https://www.hoalendingxchange.comCapital maintenance loans are available to condominium and homeowner’s associations to fund projects when there is a lack of adequate financial reserves. Whether you are a Property Manager, Board President or a service provider to a common interest community, there will likely come a time when there just isn’t enough money to fund the next big project. Inflation, failure to plan, unforeseen expenses and more can create a cash drain on even an otherwise successful community association. In the past, special assessments seemed to be the only way a community could quickly raise capital to fund these projects. Today’s savvy community association leader knows that a capital maintenance loan is almost always a better choice to fund such projects for so many reasons. HOALendingXchange can help!

Upfront benefits include the ability to act on behalf of the association as a whole rather than relying on the special assessment process of levying and collecting assessments. Owners within the association will be asked to increase their monthly payments instead of having to come up with a lump sum all at one time. This is more in line with how they pay for other expenses in the association and will not, typically, create an undue burden, unlike the special assessment which brings with it an ominous “pay now or else” collection approach. Once the capital maintenance loan is secured, the association can get on with the business of evaluating bids, hiring contractors, purchasing materials, and spending their efforts where it is most needed in bringing the capital maintenance project to successful completion. They can do so with the confidence that they have the ability to pay their vendors and suppliers, which savvy negotiators can even use to their advantage to get a better price.

The types of projects that are eligible for capital maintenance loans are extensive. They range from everyday items such as roof replacement to far more complicated projects like marina restoration. Capital maintenance loans could be used for sidewalks and walkways that need repair or a complete parking lot installation. The one thing all of these projects have in common is a large price tag. Even communities with healthy reserves should consider the value of financing their capital maintenance projects with a loan instead of draining the reserve fund. It allows the community to remain fiscally strong and complete its capital maintenance projects.

HOALendingXchange was designed with community associations in need of capital maintenance loans in mind. Our community association lenders are experts at working with community association leaders and designing capital maintenance loan programs that are right for them. Every community association loan we arrange is as unique as the community our banks loan to. We make it easy for communities to apply. To learn more and see if your community association qualifies for a capital improvement loan, get in touch with HOALendingXchange today!

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Reserve Studies: Preparing for the Inevitable Maturation of Building Components

https://www.hoalendingxchange.comSome things just get better with age. Wine or cheese, for example, may actually improve as they get older. The same cannot be said for the common elements of a condominium or community association. From the moment the first unit is built, the battle to maintain, protect, and enhance the building components begins. A well thought out Reserve Study is the proper guide to win this war. It can be the difference between success and failure in the struggle to keep the community’s common elements in great shape as it battles the process of maturation of the building components. HOALendingXchange always recommends association’s keep their Reserve Study current and active.

One way to assure that your community association is properly prepared is to hire a Reserve Specialist to review or prepare your community’s Reserve Study. Reserve Specialists have a unique set of skills that combine engineering (typically construction management, architecture, or civil) with financial planning. This allows them to not only summarize a community association’s current state of affairs but to also offer advice on how best to plan and save for future projects. While no Reserve Specialist can guarantee your community’s success by following the Reserve Study guidelines, it is far more likely that your community will thrive under its guidance.

Speak with a qualified Reserve Engineer. The Community Associations Institute (CAI) offers the Reserve Specialist (RS) designation to qualified professionals who have prepared at least 30 Reserve Studies within the past 3 years. They require the RS candidate to hold a bachelor’s degree in construction management, architecture, or engineering (or equivalent experience and education). Some states actually require common interest communities to conduct proper Reserve Studies and to adhere to their guidance in developing common fee schedules and contributions to the Reserve Fund. Finally, designated Reserve Specialists must adhere to the Professional Reserve Specialist Code of Ethics.

Reserve Studies cannot completely predict when building components will fail but they can provide solid financial advice on how those components can be paid for once they fail within a specified timeframe. Just as insurance is there in case Mother Nature deals your community a blow, a Reserve Study will help you prepare for Father Time’s visit. It is not a question as to “if” but rather “when” with regards to repair and replacement of building components in your community association. Without a Reserve Study, your community is relying on luck and gut feel of the Board to make financial decisions that will have a major impact on all members of the association. If your community association doesn’t have a proper Reserve Study, there is no better time to start one than now. And if your community association finds itself in need of an HOA loan to pay for revitalization or replacement of aging common elements, we’ve made it easy to seek the funds for the project. Simply fill out our inquiry form and our HOA loan experts will get busy preparing their very best HOA loan concepts for your consideration.

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Lending to Condominium Associations

https://www.hoalendingxchange.comLending to a condominium association is not unlike lending to a municipality. No loan losses from condominium associations have been reported by those banks with the most lending experience, most notably in Florida and California. There are special considerations when lending to a condominium association, several of which are discussed in this article.

Common Interest Realty Associations (routinely referred to as CIRAs) are legal entities formed from the organization of real estate property owners, generally as non-profit stock corporations. They proliferated in the 1960’s when condominiums became the most common form. This concept evolved into other forms of CIRA structures, including cooperatives, home owner associations (HOAs), and time shares. HOALendingXchange.com services all of these types of CIRAs.

Items that can be funded are diverse. The unifying issue is that the funding be project-specific. Typical funding projects are such items as roof replacement, conversion to vinyl siding, driveway resurfacing, and central mechanical system upgrades. Associations have sought funding for expanding recreational facilities and purchasing adjacent land as a buffer for easement controls.

Whatever your financing needs are, you can be certain that a lender at HOALendingXchange.com has experience in your area of need. Simply fill out our inquiry form and our HOA loan experts will get busy preparing their very best HOA loan concepts for your consideration.

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HOA Loan Structures & Long Term Budget Shortfalls

https://www.hoalendingxchange.comHOALendingXchange.com has made financing for community association capital maintenance needs easily accessible.  Financial institutions that are truly skilled in serving this unique industry can be particularly flexible to the differing needs of each community. Not only does each association have a unique culture but the projects all need to be approached in a tailor-made fashion to suit what they desire to have accomplished.  The financing available is typically low cost because the transactions are acknowledged to be of low risk and the associations often provide the institutions with deposits that allow for buying down the interest rate or loan fees.

The one aspect that permeates the vast majority of all communities is the handling of financial affairs.  However, a very important responsibility has been broken in most communities. I know this to be true by virtue of years of experience as a lender financing communities throughout the country and my involvement with the Community Association’s Institute.  As well, interacting with professional Reserve Study professionals that reflect most associations are typically not more than 20% funded. That is to say that Reserve Studies indicate that a certain level of reserves is needed to support expired common elements but only 20% of that specified funding level has actually been accumulated.

The reason is also very consistent. No one wants to spend any money. A culture of “keep monthly association fees minimal” exists almost universally. Now, I am not a spendthrift. But, I have witnessed nothing but adverse effects to this “ostrich head in the sand” mentality. The reality is simply this: a community association regardless of size is a very complicated miniature town. The buildings and infrastructure are a sophisticated system of structural materials that are constantly in a state of deterioration and components are becoming obsolete.

Because of the desire to keep the annual budget low for the sheer sake of it, there is typically a huge cost impact put upon the unit owners when a project needs to be addressed. Because of the prevalent under-funding issue, the cost has typically been accomplished via large special assessments.  The availability of obtaining an association loan has smoothed the impact. Get started with your own HOA loan by simply filling out the HOALendingXchange inquiry form and HOA loan experts will get busy preparing their very best HOA loan concepts for your consideration.

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Is Condominium Association Financing Right For Your Homeowners Association?

https://www.hoalendingxchange.comIn recent years, many Condominium and Homeowner Associations have turned to financial institutions for loans to fulfill their duties to protect, enhance, and maintain their association’s common assets. The challenges faced by these associations is that many traditional banking institutions are not currently equipped to sell and service this specialized loan or line of credit request. Further, some Condominium and Homeowner Associations have found that their governing documents may prevent them from obtaining the simple financing they need.

To determine if Condominium and Homeowner Association Financing is right for you, you must first make sure that you have removed the barriers to successful loan negotiations with your lender. HOALendingXchange’s Condominium and Homeowner Association lending professionals are ready to talk with you about your Condominium and Homeowner Association Financing needs. Simply fill out our inquiry form and our HOA loan experts will get busy preparing their very best HOA loan concepts for your consideration.

Talking to the right lending professional makes all the difference in the world! Our HOA lending professionals handle nothing but Condominium and Homeowner Association loans. You can rest assured that your inquiry will be treated politely and professionally by a knowledgeable expert who will efficiently assist you in turning your loan request into the needed capital for your association project.

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Beware the Bank Lenders. They are here to help…

https://www.hoalendingxchange.comI have been a lender to community associations for more than 20 years and I suspect that some of my banking colleagues are going to string me up after reading this article. When I started lending to this market, there were very few banks that were providing such a lending instrument.  That is to say very few had a defined program with a marketing effort. There were very few community association managers who thought that getting a loan was a possibility. Equally, few associations had an interest in obtaining a loan. Associations were either building appropriate levels of reserves or resigned to levying special assessments as their only other option of raising capital. It is my understanding that banks providing loans to associations may date back at least 30 years in states like California and Florida. Largely, banks that have programs to provide loans to community associations are relatively new phenomena of the past 15 years.

I am a perpetual student at heart so I have been spending my more than 20 years of involvement in the industry quizzing other banks on their views to providing such loans. I looked to appreciate differing points of view. I wanted to expand my knowledge of unique methods that successful lenders have engaged in to keep themselves safe. I became a member of a community association banking professionals networking group whose primary goal has been self education. A group first started under the auspices of Community Association Institute later spun off as a separate group. With all this open-minded investigation over many years, I have seen “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” when it comes to community association lending practices.

People need to keep in mind that there is nothing holy about the lending philosophies of banks. Just because you can obtain financing from a bank does not mean that you should have been given the money or that the borrowing was in any way a smart step. As we have seen through this current horrible recession, it has been the poor lending practices of financial institutions and unconstrained borrowing attitudes of governments that have collapsed our nation’s economy. It is excesses in sovereign borrowing that is threatening the financial stability of several countries around the world.

A community association must always first keep in mind that the correct step to take in paying for capital maintenance improvements is to build adequate reserves based on a professionally prepared reserve study that is updated periodically. If the association has not taken that basic step, what is left are only painful and more costly options:  special assessments and long term financing. I have yet to hear a valid argument as to why building a proper level of reserves over time is not the least cost option or the fairest option spread across all unit owners that enjoy use of the building common elements for varying periods of time.

Needless to say, building appropriate levels of reserves has been the exception versus the rule. Enter the financiers. A very important lesson to appreciate in obtaining a loan for a capital maintenance project is that the loan is not to fund the project. The loan is in reality replacing the lack of reserves that should have been in place so the association could self fund the project.

The next unfortunate mistake that a community association makes is trying to take the loan out for as long a possible because of the desire to keep assessment dues low. The real result of that desire is the cost of the project is increased via higher total loan interest costs. This issue is turning out to the most dangerous problem that the banks are creating for themselves and the associations they have stepped forward to help. The variations of this unfortunate evolution have been the advent of interest only loan, loans that amortized over 25 or 30 years and balloon payment structures. One of the worst financing tools that has been brought forth in recent years is the idea of a bond structure. Such a structure allows for interest only payment for 20 years with the principal coming due in full at maturity. If you appreciate the nature of community associations, it is highly unlikely that the association will create what is referred to as a sinking fund that accumulates the cash needed to pay off the bond after 20 years. It is far more likely that the debt will be refinanced by some willing banker over some long term. The end result really is a seemingly never ending life of paying interest on a debt that financed a common element replaced that has expired and needs to be replaced again.

This is the crux of why poorly provided financing tools are not a help to a community association that truly wants to keep its budgetary costs low. Keeping budgetary costs low should not be viewed a circumstance of the moment. It should be viewed as a series of steps that keep costs low over the long term. As a loan is to replenish reserves that should have been organically grown, there needs to be an appreciation that there are multiple common elements that are in varying stages of deterioration. The loan needs to be paid off as soon as possible in order for the association to recapture its cash flow. That debt service needs to disappear so that the association can use that cash flow for self funding future projects or perhaps to support a new loan for the next cycle of common elements that need to be upgraded. The intrinsic failure of loan structures that are too long, that have balloon payments or are interest only is that they do not recognize that the many common elements are at varying stages of needing be replaced and that the common elements upgraded with the provided financing will once again need to be replaced. A loan that outlives the lifecycle of the common element that it was put in to replace is dangerous. The association is going to have to come up with new money to replace that once again worn our common element. The cash flow strain on the unit owners may put the bank at risk for having the original loan repaid. After all, the life, safety and enhancement of property values are the first priority of the association. Servicing a debt that no one remembers what it was originally provided for is going fall into question as capacity to perform becomes strained.

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A Loan for your Community Association – Some Real World Mechanics

https://www.hoalendingxchange.comAs we head into budget season it is time to think about where all the money for all of the maintenance and capital improvements is going to come from. A primary activity of operating a community association is planning for the repair and maintenance of the property and budgeting for those large cost capital improvements that will be demanded.

I am a major proponent of having a Reserve Study performed and updated at least every 3 years. I further believe that community associations should be required by regulation to properly fund themselves based on that Reserve Study. Of course, that is a utopian concept that rarely exists in the real world. The fact that so many community associations have not properly saved for the major capital improvement projects their communities need has actually created my career. The lack of sufficient reserves to fund capital maintenance projects has created a demand for community association lending. I have been providing community association loan products at a national level for almost 20 years, I have taught numerous banks how to build successful community association lending programs. I offer the following dialog to provide guidance to borrowers when it comes to getting the best deal from those banks that profess to be desirous of your business.

Here is a proven banking fact about the community association lending industry. Community Association lending is one of the safest asset classes a bank can loan to. Such loans rarely, if ever, become a problem. This fact has resulted in many banks entering the market over the past 10 years. It is easier than ever to find a bank that is active in community association lending. Just reference the vendor directories of your local chapter of CAI, ACTHA, FCAP or CACM. It is equally easy to get multiple banks to compete for your business. That competition will result in a competitive cost financing product for your community.

However, as is often the case, the devil is in the details. The devil in this case, so to speak, is the current state of commercial banking. The post-recession banking environment has left banks emotionally shell shocked and massively over regulated. The most influential departments in a bank these days are the Regulatory Compliance and Internal Audit Departments. That information is important to you because there is no longer such a thing as having a bank “relationship” which suggests understanding, trust and human compassion.

The reality is that the very nice person who comes to give you a sales pitch, brings cookies into the office, buys you drinks after an educational seminar, takes you out for golf, and so on is not the decision maker when it comes to approving your community association loan. That person has absolutely no power, no authority and only nominal influence over whether or not your loan is approved or over the terms and conditions of that loan. The back room of a bank, operating under tight FDIC regulatory controls and review, approves and structures loans without emotion or sense of “relationship”. It is a purely mechanical process based on the bank’s loan policy and staff skills. The point being is that it is a good idea to negotiate with multiple banks. Be firm with the lenders you do pursue and do not waste time with banks that you feel are being impractical.

To make a case of why your association qualifies for a loan, you need to have performed some due diligence. Know the projects that you want to have funded and get multiple bids. You are not going to get very far with any bank if you do not have a defensible perspective on what the project is going to cost. If the project is going to require a Special Assessment or increase in the Budget, be able to show the bank a communication stream that validates the unit owners are aware of the coming financial impact. Be prepared to communicate to the bank the additional future capital maintenance projects that might need to be addressed during the loan term. A bank is going to want to know that you are aware of the condition of the property and are prepared to support funding those future projects. These are the core talking points to be able build confidence with the bank’s credit analyst.

Supporting material for a complete loan application will be 2+ years of financial statements, the year-to-date financial statements and the current year budget. A clear report that reflects the age of delinquent unit owner accounts is crucial. A document that shows the number of units rented in the community is important. Beyond these core items, different banks will ask for other types of readily available information.

A unique difficulty has developed in the loan approval process which is a function of banker stress during the recession and currently existing unskilled credit underwriters. Some banks are measuring the ratio of the loan amount to the average retail value of the units. Banks have set arbitrary limits of 10% to 15%. There is no valid basis for this credit approval metric as there are no community association loans that have become troublesome while a high ratio existed. None the less, before you spend much time with a bank, you should come to appreciate their stance on this matter because it may cap your level of access to the funds needed.

In summation, the good news is that bank financing of community association financing is readily available. The challenging aspect is that banks are going to require well-considered financial plans for getting a project done and for the success of accomplishing future projects.

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