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Finally, a government program that we can all agree is cool. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is a federal agency built solely for the purpose of helping small businesses get the funding they need. The SBA doesn’t actually foot any of the cash. Instead, it establishes the guidelines for loans and then guarantees a portion of those loans. Because lenders have much less risk in the case of a default, they’re more likely to provide funds to entrepreneurs like you.
Seriously. You can find an SBA loan option to cover just about every nook and cranny of your small business. Some of the most common SBA loans are the 7(a), 504, and SBA Express. We’ll break ’em down here so you can get an idea of which one might be best for your small business.
The 7(a) is one of the most flexible SBA loans. You can use it to:
SBA 7(a) loans of less than $25,000 may not require collateral but higher loan amounts likely will. For loans of $350,000 or higher, the SBA requires your lender to ask for the maximum possible amount of collateral to limit risk of default. If you don’t have enough business collateral to cover it, that’s okay – many forms of personal collateral will also help you qualify.
If you’re looking for a lot of cash, you can get a 7(a) loan for up to $5 million if you meet all the qualification requirements.
504 loans can be a bit more complicated than 7(a)s. Because you would use a 504 to fund a project, a thorough examination of your project costs will come into play. When your loan is funded, the lender will initially cover 50% of your costs and the SBA will cover 40% – that means you’re responsible for covering at least 10% right off the bat. You’ll also be required to personally guarantee at least 20% of the loan.
You must use your SBA 504 loan to finance fixed assets, although some soft costs can also be included. Examples of qualifying projects are:
There are some cool perks to the SBA 504 loan. For example, you’ll benefit from 90% financing, longer amortizations, no balloon payments, and fixed interest rates.
To qualify for an SBA 504 loan, your business must have a tangible net worth of more than $15 million and an average net income of $5 million or less for the two years prior to your application.
If you need cash in a jiffy, the SBA Express is the loan for you. Unlike the somewhat slower review process you might encounter with other SBA loans, SBA Express applications are reviewed within 36 hours. This doesn’t mean that you’ll get access to funds that fast though – it often still takes at least 30 days to get your SBA Express loan funded.
You can finance up to $350,000 with an SBA Express. If your loan amount is more than $25,000, your lender may require you to secure your loan with collateral. The loan can be used as working capital (5-10 year term) or a line of credit (7-year term), or as a commercial real estate loan (25-year term).
Because each type of SBA loan is government-backed, many people erroneously assume the government is funding your small business loans. As much as we’d love to see the US go all-in on government small business loans, that’s not quite the case. Instead, the SBA guarantees the loans. This limits the risk for the lender and makes SBA loans more appealing to lenders.
SBA loans offer enviable rates and terms for small businesses that might not usually qualify for a traditional bank loan. The benefits don’t end there. These government-backed loans offer monthly payments, fixed interest rates, and long repayment terms.
SBA loans are an excellent way to build and improve your credit, which puts you in a stronger position the next time you need financing. Better credit can qualify you for higher amounts and different forms of financing.
While SBA loans are significantly easier to attain than a traditional bank loan, they’re still more difficult to acquire than most loans from non-institutional lenders. They’re known for being more paperwork intensive with a much longer time to funds and a higher percentage of rejection than direct online lenders.
You’ll need to provide enough information to assess your loan application for a pre-approval letter. In addition to providing the standard items like your business license, rounding up these documents can speed up the process and make it easier for you to get approved:
Don’t worry—more paperwork doesn’t necessarily equal more hassle. Our proprietary application platform lets you upload copies of your documents with just a click, which means you don’t need to tote around a mountain of paperwork to get approved. And our personal funding managers can walk you through the whole process if you need a little extra help.
SBA loan interest rates are some of the lowest in the business. Because SBA loan interest rates are based on the prime rate, SBA interest rates change whenever the Federal Reserve moves the needle. You can find current SBA interest rates on our SBA calculator page, where you can also calculate the estimated cost and monthly payments for your SBA loan.
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