By: Derek Porter
Loan types – SBA 7(a) Loans
Loan amount – $30,000 to $5 million
Repayment Terms – 10 years for an SBA working capital loan; 25 years for an SBA Commercial Real Estate Loan
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.
SmartBiz at a Glance
Founded in 2009, SmartBiz LoansÒ is a marketplace of preferred SBA bank lenders that uses its superior technology to pair potential borrowers with the lender most likely to approve their loan. SmartBiz focuses on Federally-backed SBA 7 (a) loans for refinancing debt, obtaining working capital and even financing the purchase of owner-occupied commercial real estate. Business owners can get pre-qualified for a low-rate, long-term SBA loan in minutes, though SmartBiz preferred SBA lenders set the bar high when it comes to credit and revenue requirements. While not directly a lender, the SmartBiz intelligent technology platform streamlines the application process for established small businesses with proven financial performance and connects them to a network of large, reliable institutional lenders that are likely to extend the best terms.
Best for Whom?
SmartBiz’s cutting-edge system for quickly matching borrowers with lenders works because the company specializes in SBA loans that have relatively stringent requirements for potential borrowers. Only those small businesses in operation for 2+ years that can prove a healthy annual revenue and have a great credit score will be approved. Additionally, SmartBiz’s lenders only provide SBA 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 types of SBA 7(a) 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 25 years.
For obtaining working capital, SmartBiz offers SBA loans up to $350,000 with similarly low rates and a 10-year term. 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 Application Process
The process of applying for a loan with SmartBiz begins with a short series of online pre-qualification forms, that are easily completed within 5 minutes and has no impact on your credit score. After pre-qualifying, a SmartBiz loan consultant will get in touch with the potential borrower to walk them through the application process and answer any questions about the required documentation for their business before referring them to one of their preferred SBA lending banks. 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 the SBA eligibility requirements involves uploading at least 10 individual documents to the SmartBiz online platform, so borrowers who need financing quickly should be well-organized beforehand. SmartBiz will then match the approved borrowers with the bank most likely to fund their particular business.
Loan Terms – Good Businesses Get Good Loans
The SBA 7(a) loans facilitated by SmartBiz for commercial real estate usually require a down payment between 10% and 15% depending on the credit profile of the business or by putting down additional collateral. These loans also have a rent-replacement option with minimal down payment as long as the loan payment does not exceed the current monthly lease expense of the business. Commercial real estate loan terms run up to 25 years with no balloon payments and no prepayment penalties after 3 years. These loans also require 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 2 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% and no balloon payments or re-qualification required. 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. For these companies, SmartBiz can facilitate loans between $30,000 and $350,000 for 10 years, at a rate ranging between 7.00% and 8.00% and no prepayment penalties. 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 preferred SBA lenders that are part of the SmartBiz marketplace can be more confident in the quality of their borrowers. In fact, approximately 90% of the loans SmartBiz refers to its bank partners are approved.
SBA loans facilitated through the SmartBiz marketplace typically have long terms and follow a straightforward monthly payback schedule. Terms differ depending on the kind of loan, with commercial real estate loan terms of 25 years while working capital and debt refinancing loans have a 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 prepayment penalties for Commercial Real Estate Loans during the initial 3 years. 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. There are no prepayment penalties for working capital or debt refinance SBA loans.
How Safe Is It?
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 eligibility requirements imposed by the SBA and its lenders on approved borrowers. These lenders are large, reliable banks that provide federally-backed loans to small businesses, so the only risk to them 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.
Help & Support
The loan consultants, 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 the information hosted on the 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 and a blog that tackles numerous topics related to running a small business on their website.
Deep Dive into Pros and Cons:
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, pay down existing high interest debt, meet growth goals, purchase the space they currently occupy, hire more employees, or satisfy new demand, SmartBiz provides fast and easy SBA loans at among the best rates around. While these inexpensive financing options require proven performance and great credit, this is necessary because of the SBA eligibility requirements and the credit criteria of the preferred SBA lenders in the SmartBiz Loans marketplace. The result is a proven way to speed up the once-lengthy process of obtaining an SBA loan with favorable terms and great customer service. Overall, SmartBiz is a worthwhile option for any small business that need a loan to achieve growth without being subjected to an overly burdensome approval process.