An Overview of SBA Loans

SBA Loan Program Overview

The SBA has two primary loan programs. The most commonly used is the 7(a) program – which we focus on here – and the 504 program.   The 7(a) program is frequently used for working capital expansion or to fund the acquisition of an existing business.  In fact, as a business valuation firm, we are most often involved with the SBA 7(a) program in the context of business acquisitions.

One important distinction is that the SBA is not actually a lender.  The loan is extended by a bank, and the SBA in turn guarantees a portion of the loan.  Thus it’s somewhat of a misnomer when someone suggests “getting a loan from the SBA” – as it is only guaranteed by the SBA.

We very frequently hear directly from borrows that are looking to secure an SBA loan, so we thought it would be apropos to provide a quick overview of the program and its key elements.

Eligibility: What Can a 7(a) Loan be Used For?

SBA Loans are provided to businesses, but it is both the character and nature of both the business and the borrowing principles that dictate eligibility.  Key considerations include what the business actually does, as well as the character and creditworthiness of the borrower.

To be eligible businesses must:

  • Operate for profit
  • Be small, as defined by SBA
  • Be a US based business
  • Have reasonable invested equity (Yes, this sounds like a future article, right reader? )
  • Use alternative financial resources, including personal assets, before seeking financial assistance
  • Be able to demonstrate a need for the loan proceeds
  • Use the funds for a sound business purpose
  • Not be delinquent on any existing debt obligations to the U.S. government

Certain types of businesses are declared ineligible by default by the SBA.  While there is actually quite a lengthy list, suffice it to say that if you think the government wouldn’t really want to be involved in a type of business, it’s probably not eligible for the 7(a) loan program.  Some examples of ineligible businesses include:

  • Banks and Lenders
  • Businesses engaged in illegal activities
  • Lobbyists
  • Businesses principally engaged in teaching, instructing, counseling or indoctrinating religion or religious beliefs, whether in a religious or secular setting


7(a) Loan Limits: How Much?

The 7(a) program has a cap of $5 million.  That being said, many lenders do not consider loans approaching the upper threshold of size limits.  In fact, loans tend average between 300k and 400k.

That being said, some lenders prefer larger loans (and likewise some trend smaller).  It makes sense, then, to understand what the appetite a particular bank has for loans by size before starting the application process.

Proceeds:  What Can You Use a 7(a) loan for?

  • To provide long-term working capital to use to pay operational expenses, accounts payable and/or to purchase inventory
  • Short-term working capital needs, including seasonal financing, contract performance, construction financing and exporting
  • Revolving funds based on the value of existing inventory and receivables, under special conditions
  • To purchase equipment, machinery, furniture, fixtures, supplies or materials
  • To purchase real estate, including land and buildings
  • To construct a new building or renovate an existing building
  • To establish a new business or assist in the acquisition, operation or expansion of an existing business
  • To refinance existing business debt, under certain conditions


Typical Terms

Amount Term Loans from $25,000 to $5 million.
  • Working Capital: up to 7 years.
  • Equipment: up to 10 years (or useful life).
  • Real Estate: up to 25 years.
Maximum Interest Rates
  • Fixed or variable.
  • Terms less than 7 years: Wall Street Journal Prime + 2.25%.
  • Terms equal to or greater than 7 years: Wall Street Journal Prime + 2.75%.
Collateral The bank will take a lien on  business assets and/or a mortgage on real estate.
Fees SBA Guarantee Fees:

  • Loans up to $150,000 — no guarantee fees.
  • Loans from $150,001 to $750,000 — 3% of the guaranteed portion of the loan.
  • Loans from $750,001 to $5 million — 3.5% of the guaranteed portion up to $1 million and then 3.75% for guaranty above $1 million.
Underwriting Requirements
  • Personal guaranties by all owners of 20% or more.
  • Adequate business collateral, or personal assets securing personal guaranty, i.e. mortgage on a home.
  • Hazard Insurance.
  • Loans less than or equal to $150,000 — SBA provides 85% guarantee.
  • Loans greater than $150,000 — Guaranteed amount is 75%.



A Great Program

The 7(a) program is truly a great offering.  It provides access to much needed capital that ordinarily wouldn’t be available to smaller companies.  This, in turn, spurs growth in the economy.  If you need help with a valuation – or access to a lender – give us a ring.  We do a vast number of business valuations for 7(a) loans, and have a broad network of lenders that we’d be happy to put you in touch with.



Dan is the Founder of Quantive and Value Scout. He has two decades of experience in leading M&A transactions. Additionally oversees Quantive's valuation practice and has performed thousands of business valuations.



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