By: Derek Porter
Loan types – Small business loans
Loan amount – $30,000 to $5 million
Repayment Terms – 10 to 25 years
Top Pro – Low APR financing
Top Con – Strict qualification requirements
Best for – Small business owners who want the best chance of being approved for a loan at great rates, from a network of partner banks.
Founded in 2009, SmartBiz is a service that uses its superior technology to pair potential borrowers with suitable lenders quickly, including large traditional banks. SmartBiz focuses primarily on Federally-backed small business loans for refinancing debt, obtaining working capital and even financing the purchase of owner-occupied commercial real estate. Business owners can receive pre-approval for a low-rate, long-term loan in minutes, though SmartBiz sets the bar high when it comes to credit and revenue requirements. While not directly a lender, SmartBiz can swiftly connect mature businesses with proven financial performance to a network of large, reliable institutional lenders that are likely to extend the best terms.
SmartBiz’s cutting-edge system for quickly matching borrowers with lenders works because the company offers fewer types of loans, and has relatively stringent requirements for its potential borrowers. Only those small businesses in operation for some years that can prove a healthy annual revenue and have a great credit score will be approved. Additionally, SmartBiz’s lenders simply provide loans for attaining increased working capital, purchasing owner-occupied commercial real estate, and refinancing debt. Therefore, small businesses with a solid performance history and relevant needs will find SmartBiz’s approach advantageous. Whether to expand into new territory, hire more employees, or increase equity by purchasing space that is currently being rented, small businesses can get what they need with some of the market’s best terms.
There are two main categories of loans that SmartBiz offers to potential business borrowers. The purpose of the first is simply to buy commercial real estate that the borrower already occupies. Owners that are looking to increase equity in their business, refinance an existing real estate purchase loan, or avoid incoming balloon payments can access between $500,000 and $5 million from SmartBiz’s lender network. While they cannot be used to construct new offices, SmartBiz real estate loans offer some of the industry’s lowest APRs and longest terms – from as low as 5.75% annually for up to 25 years.
For obtaining working capital, SmartBiz offers loans up to $350,000 similarly low rates, though terms are shorter. These loans cover a wide variety of purposes, such as inventory purchases, new hires, marketing campaigns, advertising expenses and more.
Highlights from our SmartBiz review:
The process of applying for a loan with SmartBiz begins with a short series of online pre-approval forms, which are easily completed within 5 minutes. After a soft credit check, a SmartBiz loan agent will get in touch with the potential borrower for the specific statistics that are required before connecting businesses to their institutional lender network. While the application and approval processes can take as little as 7 days, it often takes longer for those who are not prepared with the necessary paperwork. Providing proof that a business meets all of SmartBiz’s standards requires at least 10 individual documents, so borrowers who need financing quickly should be well-organized beforehand. SmartBiz will then allow approved borrowers to pick from the various banks who are willing to lend to them, each with rates and terms that are among the best in the industry.
The SBA loans provided by SmartBiz for commercial real estate require a down payment of 15.00%, though one can likely pay just 10.00% with an exceptional financial history or by putting down additional collateral. Commercial real estate loan terms run up to 25 years, but one should be wary of prepayment penalties. These loans also operate on the condition that the borrower occupies more than 51.00% of the property’s space at the time of approval. Additionally, potential borrowers must show that they have been in operation for 3 years, have minimum annual revenue of $250,000 and a credit score of over 675. In return, borrowers that meet these strict requirements can access a 25-year loan with rates as low as 5.75%. Variable rates apply at prime plus 1.50% to 2.75%.
Small businesses that need working capital loans or want to refinance debt must show just 2 years in business, and a credit score of at least 600. In turn, SmartBiz will provide a loan between $30,000 and $350,000 for 10 years, at a rate ranging between 7.00% and 8.00%. Variable rates apply at prime plus 2.75% to 3.75%. While it may be difficult for a younger or less successful business to obtain such a loan, the strict standards plus the company’s efficient processing technology help maintain a fast and inexpensive approval process that passes savings to borrowers. This is mainly because the large institutional lenders that count themselves among SmartBiz’s network can be more confident in the quality of their borrowers.
Loans from SmartBiz’s lender network are typically lengthy and follow a straightforward monthly payback schedule. Terms differ depending on the kind of loan, with commercial real estate loan terms available for up to 25 years while working capital and debt refinancing loans have a maximum duration of 10 years. No balloon payments over the course of the term means that borrowers will make manageable payments each month and not be on the hook for a lump sum reimbursement of the principal amount. Though this is a nice feature, there are some penalties for prepayment. Paying the full amount of the loan within the first year adds 5.00% of the principal amount as a fee, a charge that decreases to 3.00% in the second year and 1.00% in the third.
Per the Small Business Administration, SmartBiz was the number one provider of non-express SBA 7(a) loans under $350,000 in 2016. The high processing costs that used to make smaller loans not worthwhile are significantly defrayed by SmartBiz’s technology alongside the strict requirements that its lenders have imposed on approved borrowers. These lenders are large, reliable banks and other financial institutions that provide federally-backed loans to small businesses, so the only risk is a business’s ability to repay their obligations. Additionally, SmartBiz is very transparent in how it stores and shares customer information, and employs the highest measures of digital security available.
The loan agents, also known as Relationship Managers, assigned to each borrower are extremely easy to get in touch with and very knowledgeable about the entire process. Customers will be pleased with the quality of service given via email and telephone, and be made to feel extremely comfortable even when asking the most basic questions. During every step of the process, SmartBiz’s commitment to easing the traditionally lengthy SBA loan process is evident from their representatives and information hosted on thee website. All the most pertinent data about the types of business loans and terms are immediately available, while with much of the competition, it may be difficult to find exact details. Finally, the company hosts a useful FAQ that answers the most common questions while tackling numerous topics related to running a small business on their website.
While we found the bulk of SmartBiz’s offerings to be equitable and worthwhile, there were a few areas that could have been improved:
Despite these minor drawbacks to their services, there were many reasons to appreciate SmartBiz’s solution for small businesses seeking capital:
For small businesses that want to expand their offerings, meet growth goals, purchase the space they currently occupy, hire more employees, or satisfy new demand, SmartBiz provides fast loans at among the best rates around. While these inexpensive financing options require proven performance and great credit, this is necessary because of the network of traditional lenders that SmartBiz connects applicants with. The result is a proven way to speed up the once-lengthy process of obtaining a small business loan without sacrificing favorable terms or customer service. Overall, SmartBiz is a worthwhile option for any small business that needs a loan to achieve growth without being subjected to an overly burdensome approval process.
417 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94104