The 8 Best SBA Lenders for 2021

The 8 Best SBA Lenders for 2021

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Is an SBA Loan?

The SBA makes private lenders’ loans more affordable and attractive by guaranteeing a significant portion of the loan amount. Because the SBA’s guaranty substantially reduces the lenders’ risk of default, they are willing to make SBA loans with lower interest rates and fees, longer terms, more flexible qualification requirements, and/or lower down payment requirements. 

SBA loans come in various flavors, but by far the most prominent is the basic 7(a) loan. It can be used as working capital; to acquire land; to purchase, construct, renovate, or expand buildings; to purchase supplies, inventory, or fixed assets; and even to start or purchase a new business.

Among the other common SBA offerings are smaller loans called microloans, and larger loans with longer terms called 504 loans, which are often targeted for investment in fixed assets and real estate.  

What Is an SBA Preferred Lender?

To offer SBA loans, a financial institution or organization must become certified as an approved SBA lender. But there is another tier of lender status within the SBA program, and it has a big impact on the borrower.

Some institutions are elevated to the Preferred Lender Program (PLP). These lenders have a successful track record of processing and servicing a large number of SBA loans and have demonstrated their solid understanding of effective SBA loan underwriting. Consequently, they are granted the status of Preferred Lenders, which allows them to do their own loan approvals in-house and get a streamlined approval from the SBA to finalize the loan.

In contrast, standard SBA lenders must send their applications to the SBA for underwriting and approval taking as much as a month to review. Since most business owners are anxious to have their loans approved and funded as quickly as possible, choosing a Preferred Lender will deliver the fastest turnaround.

Who Should Get an SBA Loan?

Businesses that meet eligibility requirements that need funding should apply for an SBA loan. Eligible businesses must be incorporated as a for-profit enterprise, do business (or plan to do business) in the U.S. or its territories, demonstrate that there is reasonable owner equity to invest in the business, and show that other funding sources have been used or attempted before seeking SBA funding.

On the flip side, some business owners should not waste their time even exploring SBA loan options. If you have bad credit, have defaulted on a government loan in the past (including a government-backed student loan), or have a criminal record, you are highly unlikely to be approved for an SBA loan of any type. Additionally, some business types are ineligible, such as those involved in gambling, illegal activities, and pyramid schemes, as well as real estate investment firms, religious organizations, and nonprofits.

How We Chose the Best SBA Lenders

We began our research by looking at the past year’s most active SBA 7(a) lenders, filtering the list to about the top three dozen by both largest amount loaned and highest number of SBA loans processed.

We then filtered by Preferred Lender status, so as to avoid leading readers to any SBA lenders whose process would require an extra month in the timeline for SBA loan approval.

Next, we researched the geographic range of the remaining lenders, opting for those providing nationwide loans or, alternatively, covering as many states as possible. Some analysis was then conducted to compare program features, loan limits, number of available financing choices, the steps involved, and (via the SBA’s annual lender activity report) what the average interest rates were from the lenders last year.

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