Small-Business Loans – A Comprehensive Overview

A Small Business Administration loan is a long-term small business loan guaranteed by the government.

At a Glance

A Small Business Administration (SBA) loan is a government-backed loan that can guarantee billions of dollars each year. Under the SBA’s various loan programs, funds may be available for purchasing inventory or equipment, adding to working capital, buying commercial real estate, funding the acquisition of other businesses, or refinancing other debts in some cases.

Funding Options APR Do you qualify? Time in Business Annual Revenue
Funding Option
Lendistry SBA
Estimated Apr
Do you qualify?
Time in Business
At least 1 year
Annual Revenue
At least $150K
Get Started

Advantages & Disadvantages

  • Relatively long payment terms
  • Appropriate for a variety of business purposes
  • SBA loans are guaranteed by the federal government
  • Lengthy process
  • Relatively long wait
  • You may be required to provide collateral

Who are SBA Lenders?

We touched on this in the overview, but growing businesses can secure an SBA loan through various institutions, including banks, credit unions, or online lenders.

Remember, a small business loan is going to be a long-term part of your business plan, so working with a financial institution you trust and an interest rate you can manage is ideal.

One big distinction to make is that the Small Business Administration does not extend financial help to businesses directly.

It helps businesses secure funding through outside lenders who are legally obligated to adhere to the SBA's requirements.

Funding Options APR Do you qualify? Time in Business Annual Revenue
Funding Option

Lendistry SBA

Estimated Apr
Do you qualify?
Time in Business
At least 1 year
Annual Revenue
At least $150K
Get Started

Types of SBA Loans

There are several loans that may be available through the Small Business Administration...

Let’s start by taking a quick look at some of the most common options, and from there we can go into the specific costs associated with each loan type.

  • The SBA 7(a) Loan Program can work for many general business needs. It may provide loan guarantees up to $5 million. It could be paid back over a period potentially as long as 25 years.
  • The CDC/504 Loan Program can be used for purchasing equipment or commercial real estate. It provides fixed interest rates with long repayment periods. These loans are often used for expansion and growth.
  • The Microloan Program is for small businesses that are looking for a loan of $50,000 or less. The average loan size in this program is $13,000. These loans could be used for things such as machinery, furniture, inventory, and supplies.
  • The SBA Disaster Loan Program can give startups, established businesses, non-profit corporations, and homeowners low-interest disaster loans. These could be used to replace or repair any of the following that are damaged in a disaster: personal and business property, machinery and equipment, business assets and inventory.

How Small Business Administration Loans Work

Even if you’ve heard of SBA loan programs and understand that securing one could help your business, you may not know how they work.

And let’s be honest, there’s quite a bit involved in the process.

Let’s break it down to make it easier to understand.

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These business loans can allow you to borrow money for many different business purposes, from purchasing real estate or office buildings to machinery and equipment.

These are designed to help growing businesses get their hands on capital.

SBA programs can cater to business owners who, for one reason or another, might not be eligible for a loan through other lending institutions.

Most banks and alternative lenders participate in an SBA loan program, which makes them readily available for some business startups and allows some businesses to work with their preferred lender.

What Will It Cost You?

Let’s talk fees and interest rates, because how much a SBA loan costs can impact cash flow, bottom line, and ultimately, overall business.

Have a look below at some loan terms and general fees that may be associated with each type of loan.

7(a) Program

Fees: 7(a) loans come with a fee that is based on your loan’s maturity. The lender will initially pay the fee, but they do have the option to pass that fee on to the borrower. These fees can range from 0 percent for loans under $150,000 to 3.5 percent for loans over $700,000. There’s an additional 0.25 percent fee on any guaranteed portion over $1 million.

Interest: Interest rates can be fixed or variable like other conventional loans. The lender will determine the rate, but the SBA protects businesses by putting a cap on 7(a) interest rates, thereby restricting how much the lender can make off a loan.

Repayment terms: Payments can last up to 25 years for a commercial real estate loan, 10 years for an equipment loan, and 7 years for working capital. These are the longest terms, so your repayment period could be shorter.

CDC/504 Program

Fees: 504 loan fees are about 3 percent of the loan amount and can be financed along with the loan. Be aware that for real estate loans, the project being financed is often used as collateral. Personal guarantees are also required.

Interest:  These types of loans may cost somewhere between 3 percent and 6.5 percent. Interest rates are fixed, and they are set at an increment above the current market rate. The 504 loan program is actually a combination of two loans: One from your bank and one from the Certified Development Corporation, which get pooled together and auctioned to investors.

*You won’t know your exact rate until that CDC pool closes about 45 days after your loan closes.

Repayment terms: Payments may last from 10 years for a major fixed asset purchase to 20 years for a commercial real estate purchase.

Microloan Program

Fees: None

Interest: The rate varies and depends on the lender and the costs to that lender. Interest rates could range between 8 percent and 13 percent.

Repayment plans: The maximum repayment term is six years. The actual term varies according to several factors, such as the amount of the loan, how you plan to use the funds, and specific requirements that your lender sets forth. Like many small business loans, you can expect to make monthly payments.

SBA Disaster Loan Program

Fees: The Small Business Administration determines whether an applicant has credit available elsewhere. For applicants unable to obtain credit elsewhere, the interest rate will not exceed 4 percent. For those who can obtain credit elsewhere, the interest rate will not exceed 8 percent.

Interest: Interest rates for SBA disaster loans can be as low as 4 percent for businesses and 2.625 percent for private nonprofit organizations

Repayment terms: SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in many cases up to 30 years. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon each borrower’s ability to repay.

How To Qualify

Now that you know that securing an SBA loan isn’t necessarily a walk in the park, how do you know if you will even qualify?

The truth is that many businesses— big, small, old, and new— can qualify for an SBA loan.

Your credit score is the biggest determining factor.

In addition, your business needs to have been turned down for other private financing.

According to the law, the Small Business Administration can’t guarantee loans to businesses that can obtain a loan on their own.

How Can I Ace the Application Process?

The biggest question on your mind is probably about the SBA application requirements.

We aren’t going to lie— the application process is a bit lengthy.

Personal Trustworthiness

You will need to complete additional forms, including a Statement of Personal History and a Personal Financial Statement.

The information that you provide will help the SBA determine your eligibility.

Demonstrate Ability to Pay

Lenders will ask you for proof that you have the ability to repay the loan.

You will need to submit current financial statements, such as profit and loss statements, and projected financial statements.

Also, be sure to prepare projected financials to illustrate future growth.

Full Transparency

You may be asked to include a list of any affiliates and subsidiaries, a copy of your business license, your loan application history, tax returns, your resume, your business inventory, and your business lease.

Use this checklist to help you figure out what documents you may need to complete the application process.

If you’re purchasing an existing business, you may also be required to submit a current balance sheet, a profit and loss statement, and past federal tax returns of the business you want to purchase.

You should include the bill of sale and the asking price with your application to the lender.

Review Your Credit Score

The biggest factor in determining your eligibility is your credit score, so don’t forget about that.

Check it to see if there’s anything you can do improve your score.

Have a Business Plan

Don’t let lenders catch you off-guard.

Have a well-developed business plan prepared and use it to carefully detail what you plan to do with the loan.

Even if you don’t need it, creating a business plan is a great exercise for any business owner.

What About Personal Guarantees?

You may need to submit a personal guarantee to potentially secure your business loan.

This guarantee basically states that if you can’t repay the loan for any reason, your lender can come after your personal assets.

Whether or not lenders require you to sign a personal guarantee can depend on the age of your business, credit history, and eligible collateral.

What are the Repayment Terms?

Your repayment terms will be dependent upon your loan terms, loan amount, and interest rate.

Be sure to read any fine print before signing a business loan, no matter who your lender is.

How to Choose the Right SBA Loan Program

The purpose for which you plan to use these funds and the total amount you need will weigh in heavily in determining which loan to request.

You should also look over the specific terms for the type of loan you’re considering, because the SBA provides different loan guarantees for different business purposes.

  • Operating a small for-profit business in the USA? The 7(a) SBA Loan may be worth considering.
  • Need $50,000 or less to start-up/expand your small business or non-profit? An SBA Microloan is an option to look at.
  • Can’t get your for-profit company qualified for private loans to purchase real estate or equipment? Maybe you should explore a CDC/504 Loan.
  • Is your business trying to recover from a declared disaster like an earthquake or a hurricane? An SBA Disaster Loan may be able to help.

How to Get Started

In order to expedite the process, you should have certain documents ready.

Here’s just some of what you’ll need to request an SBA Loan:

  • Driver's License
  • Voided Business Check
  • Business Plan
  • Business Debt Schedule
  • Bank Statements
  • Balance Sheet
  • Profit & Loss Statements
  • Credit Score
  • Business Tax Returns
  • Personal Tax Returns

Funding Options APR Do you qualify? Time in Business Annual Revenue
Funding Option
Lendistry SBA
Estimated Apr
Do you qualify?
Time in Business
At least 1 year
Annual Revenue
At least $150K
Get Started