The 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program is one of SBA's primary lending programs. It provides loans to small businesses unable to secure financing on reasonable terms through normal lending channels. The program operates through private-sector lenders that provide loans which are, in turn, guaranteed by the SBA -- the Agency has no funds for direct lending or grants.
Most lenders are familiar with SBA loan programs so interested applicants should contact their local lender for further information and assistance in the SBA loan application process. Information on SBA loan programs, as well as the management counseling and training services offered by the Agency, is also available from the local SBA office.
Loan Amounts Available
Effective December 22, 2000, a maximum loan amount of $2 million has been established for 7(a) loans. However, the maximum dollar amount the SBA can guaranty is generally $1 million. Small loans carry a maximum guaranty of 85 percent. Loans are considered small if the gross loan amount is $150,000 or less. For loans greater than $150,000, the maximum guaranty is 75 percent.
What the SBA Seeks in a Loan Applications
Repayment ability from the cash flow of the business is a primary consideration in the SBA loan decision process but good character, management capability, collateral, and owner's equity contribution are also important considerations. All owners of 20 percent or more are required to personally guarantee SBA loans.
SBA Loan Maturities
SBA loan programs are generally intended to encourage longer term small business financing but actual loan maturities are based on the ability to repay, the purpose of the loan proceeds, and the useful life of the assets financed. However, maximum loan maturities have been established: twenty-five (25) years for real estate and equipment; and, generally seven (7) years for working capital.
Loans for working capital purposes will not exceed seven (7) years, except when a longer maturity (up to 10 years) may be needed to ensure repayment. The maximum maturity of loans used to finance fixed assets other than real estate will be limited to the economic life of those assets - but in no instance to exceed twenty-five (25) years. The 25-year maximum will generally apply to the acquisition of land and buildings or the refinancing of debt incurred in their acquisition. Where business premises are to be constructed or significantly renovated, the 25-year maximum would be in addition to the time needed to complete construction. (Significant renovation means construction of at least one-third of the current value of the property.)
Interest rates are negotiated between the borrower and the lender but are subject to SBA maximums, which are pegged to the Prime Rate.
Interest rates may be fixed or variable. Fixed rate loans of $50,000 or more must not exceed Prime Plus 2.25 percent if the maturity is less than 7 years, and Prime Plus 2.75 percent if the maturity is 7 years or more.
For loans between $25,000 and $50.000, maximum rates must not exceed Prime Plus 3.25 percent if the maturity is less than 7 years, and Prime Plus 3.75 percent if the maturity is 7 years or more.
For loans of $25,000 or less, the maximum interest rate must not exceed Prime Plus 4.25 percent if the maturity is less than 7 years, and Prime Plus 4.75 percent, if the maturity is 7 years or more.
Variable rate loans may be pegged to either the lowest prime rate or the SBA optional peg rate. The optional peg rate is a weighted average of rates the federal government pays for loans with maturities similar to the average SBA loan. It is calculated quarterly and published in the "Federal Register." The lender and the borrower negotiate the amount of the spread which will be added to the base rate. An adjustment period is selected which will identify the frequency at which the note rate will change. It must be no more often than monthly and must be consistent, (e.g., monthly, quarterly, semiannually, annually or any other defined, consistent period).
Fees Associated with SBA Loans
To offset the costs of the SBA's loan programs to the taxpayer, the Agency charges lenders a guaranty and a servicing fee for each loan approved. These fees can be passed on to the borrower once they have been paid by the lender. The amount of the fees are determined by the amount of the loan guaranty.
Effective October 1, 2002, when the loan amount is $150,000 or less, the guaranty fee will be 1 percent of the guaranteed portion. Lenders are permitted to retain 25 percent of this fee (50 basis points). This is only applicable to loans of $150,000 or less. For loans more than $150,000 but up to and including $700,000, a 3 percent guaranty fee will be charged. For loans greater than $700,000, a 3.5 percent guaranty fee will be charged.
In addition, all loans will be subject to a fifty basis point (0.5%) annualized servicing fee, which is applied to the outstanding balance of SBA's guaranteed portion of the loan.
Prohibited Fees: Processing fees, origination fees, application fees, points, brokerage fees, bonus points, and other fees that could be charged to an SBA loan applicant are prohibited. The only time a commitment fee may be charged is for a loan made under the Export Working Capital Loan Program.
For those applicants that meet the SBA's credit and eligibility standards, the Agency can guaranty up to 85 percent of loans of $150,000 and less, and up to 75 percent of loans above $150,000 (generally up to a maximum guaranty amount of $1,000,000).
Effective for all loans where the applications were received by the lender on or after December 22, 2000, a new prepayment charge paid by the borrower to SBA ("subsidy recoupment fee") has been added for those loans that meet the following criteria:
- have a maturity of 15 years or more where the borrower is prepaying voluntarily;
- the prepayment amount exceeds 25 percent of the outstanding balance of the loan; and
- the prepayment is made within the first 3 years after the date of the first disbursement (not approval) of the loan proceeds.
The prepayment fee calculation is as follows:
- during the first year after disbursement, 5 percent of the amount of the prepayment;
- during the second year after disbursement, 3 percent of the amount of the prepayment; or
- during the third year after disbursement, 1 percent of the amount of the prepayment.
Information courtesy of the Small Business Administration.