Small Business Administration (SBA) loans are some of the most desirable and sought-after financing options available for small business owners. SBA loans are known for affordable interest rates and generous repayment terms that can help small businesses grow and reach their financial goals. At the same time, SBA loans are also somewhat notorious for featuring tedious application processes and slow funding speeds. If you plan to apply for an SBA loan, it’s important to have realistic expectations regarding the overall timeline for these financial products. The SBA loan process can take much longer than traditional and online business loans. Often, it takes weeks to apply for an SBA loan, and the underwriting and funding process for an SBA loan can last as long as 60 to 90 days. The guide below will walk you through the steps borrowers need to take to get various types of SBA loans. You’ll discover how to find an SBA lender, the documentation you need to gather for your loan application, and other important details about each loan option. SBA 7(a) Loans: 60-90 Days The SBA’s most common loan program is the SBA 7(a) loan. This general purpose loan can provide borrowers with up to $5 million in funding. Eligible business owners can use SBA 7(a) loan proceeds for a variety of business expenses, including the purchase of commercial real estate, working capital, business supplies, furniture, and fixtures, and to refinance existing business debt. Getting Matched With a Lender: 2 Days The federal government guarantees a portion (up to 85%) of SBA 7(a) loans. However, the Small Business Administration itself does not issue loans to business owners. Instead, SBA loans come from the same lenders you would seek out for traditional business loans. If you’re interested in applying for an SBA 7(a) loan, the first step you’ll need to complete is getting matched with an SBA lender that’s capable of meeting your needs. You can complete this step online via the U.S. Small Business Administration’s lender match tool. The lender match process requires you to complete a brief questionnaire. After you do so, it could take a few days for the system to locate a lender match for your business (though sometimes the process is faster). Gathering Documentation and Applying for the Loan: Up to 30 Days The next step in the SBA 7(a) loan application process is typically the lengthiest and the most difficult for you, the business owner, to complete. SBA loans feature extensive paperwork and documentation requirements. Below is a sample—though certainly not a comprehensive list—of items your lender may want you to include with your SBA loan application. Business licenses Detailed list of debts Current income statement Personal income tax returns (previous three years) Business income tax returns (previous three years) Business financial statements (profit and loss statements, cash flow projections, etc.) Loan application history Resumes for principal owners Real estate appraisals (collateral) Lease agreements (collateral) Franchise, asset purchase, real estate purchase, or other purchase agreements (based on loan purpose) Depending on the loan purpose and your business’ record-keeping habits, this step might take anywhere from a few days to an entire month. Waiting for a Loan Decision: 1-3 Weeks Once you submit your loan application, it can take several weeks for a lender to review your documents and underwrite your loan. During the application review and underwriting process, the lender will analyze your creditworthiness (aka your likelihood to repay debts) and your capacity to repay (aka whether you can afford additional debt). Other details a lender may evaluate include: Value of collateral provided Business revenue Credit history (personal and business) Credit scores (personal and business) Personal and business debts If your application passes through the underwriting process and a lender approves your application, the next step will be to schedule a loan closing date. Receiving Your Loan Proceeds: 1-2 Weeks (Sometimes Up to 90 Days) Once a lender approves your application for an SBA 7(a) loan, it will put together some paperwork to finalize your loan agreement. This process also takes time. (Note: For commercial real estate transactions, you might also have to hire an attorney to facilitate appraisals and title work, and process other legal documents that could add more complexity and time to this process.) It’s common for an SBA lender to need several weeks to prepare the paperwork you will need to review and sign before you can receive your loan proceeds. That time frame can easily be doubled, tripled, or more with commercial real estate transactions. And some banks warn that the loan closing process for SBA 7(a) loans could take up to three months. SBA Express Loans: 30-60 Days Another popular Small Business Administration loan program is the SBA Express loan. With the SBA Express Program, qualified borrowers can receive up to $500,000 worth of funding for their businesses. And for loans of $25,000 and under, lenders do not have to require collateral from borrowers. After you complete your application for an SBA Express Loan, you can expect to receive a response from the Small Business Administration within 36 hours. However, the lender makes the final eligibility decision. From application to funding, the entire SBA Express Loan process could potentially take as little as 30 days. It is important to note that the federal government guarantees only up to 50% of SBA Express loans. By comparison, the SBA 7(a) loan features an 85% guarantee that lenders can rely on in the event of a default. As a result, SBA Express loans are riskier for SBA lenders to issue. So, they might not be as easy to qualify for, depending on the details of your loan application. SBA 504 Loan: 60-90 Days SBA 504 loans can be a helpful financing option for small business owners who need affordable financing options for certain types of commercial real estate purchases, machinery, or equipment. Eligible borrowers may receive up to $5 million in funding. For certain energy projects, the maximum loan amount may extend to $5.5 million. 504 loans are backed (in part) by the SBA and made available through Certified Development Companies, also called CDCs. These are nonprofit corporations that aim to promote economic development in local communities. Around 50% of the total project is typically financed through a private business lender as well, along with at least a 10% down payment from the business owner (sometimes up to 20% down). The SBA-backed portion of the loan comes in the form of a second mortgage for up to 40% of the eligible project costs. You can start the application process for a CDC/504 Loan by searching for a local CDC on the SBA’s website. In general, SBA 504 loans can take several months to process. Most borrowers will wait at least two to three months from the time they submit their initial loan application before they receive their loan proceeds (assuming all goes well and they qualify for funding). Note that you cannot use a 504 loan for working capital, inventory, consolidating or refinancing debt, or investing in rental properties. However, these SBA loans may work well for purchase of real estate assets or equipment that can promote job creation or business growth. Companies that will use funding to improve or modernize existing facilities, land, streets, landscaping, etc., may also be eligible for this SBA loan program. SBA Microloan: 30-90 Days Small business owners can use the SBA microloan program to borrow up to $50,000 to cover eligible business expenses. The average size of an SBA microloan is $13,000. Even though most microloans feature smaller loan amounts, the intermediary lenders that issue the loans (typically nonprofit community-based organizations) may require collateral, plus a personal guarantee from the business owner. Although lenders issue microloans for smaller amounts, the loan process can still be slow. If your small business qualifies for funding, it’s common for it to take between 30 and 90 days between the initial loan application and the receipt of your loan proceeds. Remember, both the SBA and an intermediary lender will have to approve your loan application. Eligible microloan borrowers can use the funding they receive to support their small business in a variety of ways including to purchase inventory, equipment, supplies, machinery, furniture, and to provide essential working capital. However, business owners cannot use SBA microloan funds to purchase real estate or consolidate existing debts. Bottom Line The U.S. Small Business Administration provides many attractive financing options to support small business owners throughout the country. And when it comes to the cost of the loan and loan terms, SBA loans tend to be generous in both areas. With a proprietary application platform that makes uploading documents fast and easy and a dedicated SBA team on call to answer any questions you have and assist you throughout the funding process, we’ve made it as easy as possible for business owners to access an SBA loan. Learn more about applying for an SBA loan.