SmartBiz Review: A Lending Marketplace for SBA Loans
Lenders approved 62,431 SBA 7(a) loans in 2017.1 SmartBiz plans to increase that number.
You may have heard horror stories of small-business owners applying for SBA loans—how they spend months locked in a back-and-forth with lenders, trying to figure out what documents they need and how to get those documents into the right hands. And after all that effort, they get denied.
SmartBiz believes there’s a better way: one streamlined application that goes to many SBA lenders, speeding up and simplifying the whole process.
But does SmartBiz have the one SBA application to rule them all, or are you better off applying elsewhere? Let’s investigate.
SmartBiz is best for businesses that want a simpler way to apply for SBA loans
SmartBiz wants to help you get an SBA loan without giving yourself a stress ulcer. Its guided process helps business owners easily complete their application.
That’s right—no more playing phone tag with a bank’s loan specialist. With SmartBiz, you can finish your SBA loan application before your funding needs become dire. Plus, one application with SmartBiz can match you with several SBA lenders.
Now, SmartBiz makes the SBA application process easier, but it doesn’t make it easier to actually qualify for SBA loans. Whether you use SmartBiz’s wizardry or you head down to your local bank, you’ll have to meet similar qualifications:
- At least two years in business
- Sufficient cash flow to repay your loan
- No foreclosures or bankruptcies within the past three years
- Good credit history and a personal credit score of at least 640
Note that there are no specific annual revenue requirements; it all comes down to the cash flow—do you have enough cash flowing in that you can repay the loan amount you’re applying for?
If you can’t qualify for an SBA loan, or you simply don’t want one, you might want to look at one of our picks for the best business loans instead. While SmartBiz can and will match you with non-SBA loans, that’s like going to a sushi restaurant for a hamburger. You can—but you’re missing the point.
Applying for a loan with SmartBiz
But what do we mean when we say SmartBiz has simplified the SBA loan application process?
It all starts with SmartBiz’s online application. This brief application won’t get you an SBA loan, but it will tell you if you prequalify—or rather, if it’s worthwhile taking the time to complete a real application.
SmartBiz’s application works exclusively for SBA 7(a) loans. If you want an SBA 504 or SBA Microloan, look elsewhere.
If SmartBiz decides you don’t prequalify, it will offer to match you with non-SBA term loans. But if you do prequalify, you can start your real application.
That means giving SmartBiz more information about your business and uploading lots of documents. With a traditional lender, this part of the process can take weeks or even months as you go back and forth trying to figure out what documents you actually need.
But since SmartBiz has the process down to an SBA science, you should be able to do this all faster. SmartBiz even uses an automated process to decide what documentation applies to your business, so you won’t waste time hunting down 10-year-old tax returns you don’t actually need.
Once your application gets submitted, SmartBiz shops around with its lending partners to find a match for you.
Then, ta-da! You’ve got yourself an SBA loan. Within as little as one or two weeks, you can get your funding. What kind of funding, you ask?
SmartBiz’s small-business loans
SmartBiz offers two categories of SBA 7(a) loans: working capital/debt consolidation loans and commercial real estate loans.
As you might guess, the commercial real estate loans come in (much) higher loan amounts. Unsurprisingly, that means the real estate SBA loans also have stricter application criteria.
But either SBA 7(a) category will get you access to long terms and low rates. Which loan you should get depends wholly on how you intend to use your financing.
Aside from 7(a) loans, SmartBiz can also hook you up with non-SBA small-business loans. While the rates on SmartBiz’s non-SBA loans get quite a bit higher than the rates on its SBA loans, even the non-SBA rates at SmartBiz are pretty competitive—probably because the application requirements are still relatively strict. But since other lenders offer lower rates and faster funding, we recommend SmartBiz primarily for SBA loans.
|Product||Min/max loan amount||Learn more|
|SBA 7(a) working capital or debt consolidation||$30,000/$350,000||Apply Now|
|SBA 7(a) commercial real estate||$500,000/$5 million||Apply Now|
|Non-SBA loans||$30,000/$200,000||Apply Now|
Data effective 11/16/18. At publishing time, pricing is current but subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.
SBA 7(a) working capital and debt consolidation loans
This SBA 7(a) loan can help you consolidate the debt you already have, or it can give you working capital to improve your business. You can use that working capital for pretty much any needs you have: buying equipment, stocking up on inventory, doing some marketing, hiring new employees—basically anything except paying back taxes.
SmartBiz’s working capital loans have slightly higher rates and come in smaller amounts than its real estate loans, but the application requirements are a bit looser: you’ll only need a 650 credit score, and again, you can justify your funding needs in a lot of ways.
SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loans
As the name implies, you can get these SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loans exclusively to get real estate. There’s some strict criteria on the kind of real estate that qualifies: you can’t use these small-business loans for new construction, you can’t buy property to flip or invest in, your business must occupy more than half of the square footage, and you can only get property worth at least $500,000.
In addition to those stricter use requirements, these business loans require a personal credit score of at least 675. But if you meet all these requirements, you can get up to $5 million, along with lower rates and longer terms.
If you don’t qualify for either of SmartBiz’s SBA loans, SmartBiz offers to match you with a lender for a non-SBA loan. While not a true short-term loan, these small-business loans come with shorter terms (just two to five years) and higher rates than SBA loans.
On the other hand, SmartBiz’s rates for non-SBA loans are lower than many online lenders; plus, SmartBiz offers monthly payment plans, unlike most alternative lenders that insist on weekly payments. So if you’re looking for a way to get funding while building business credit, you could do worse than SmartBiz’s non-SBA loans.
We don’t want to be the bearers of bad news, but all these very nice small-business loans come with fees you should know about. The exact fees will depend on the type and amount of the loan you get.
Fees you should know
For 7(a) working capital and debt consolidation loans, SmartBiz adds a referral fee and a packaging fee of up to 2% each. You’ll also pay the SBA’s guarantee fee, which ranges from 2% to 3.75%. Finally, you’ll have closing costs from the bank, which SmartBiz estimates at $450.
On 7(a) commercial real estate loans, SmartBiz charges referral and packaging fees of up to 0.5% each. The SBA’s guarantee fee still amounts to 2% to 3.75% of the loan. Closing costs on commercial real estate loans run higher, though, with SmartBiz estimating somewhere around $5,000.
Non-SBA SmartBiz loans come with a 3% referral fee and a 3% packaging fee, as well as bank closing costs. SmartBiz suggests these closing costs should only run between $200 and $300.
How SmartBiz fees stack up
That might sound like a lot of fees, but remember this: you’ll pay SBA guarantee fees and closing costs no matter where you go for your SBA loan.
As for SmartBiz’s referral and packaging fees, you can think of them like an origination fee—and they’re pretty comparable with the origination fees you’d find elsewhere.
So while you should definitely know all the fees you’ll pay before you finalize your SmartBiz loan, its fees shouldn’t scare you off entirely.
FAQs about SmartBiz
How fast is SmartBiz, really?
While SmartBiz claims to have made SBA applications fast and painless, the actual speed still largely depends on you. SmartBiz can tell you what documents you need, but you still have to go digging in your closet to find them.
So applying for SmartBiz loans could take a matter of days, or it could still take months—and customers report both experiences. But if you’re willing to put in the work to speed up the process, SmartBiz’s innovative application should help you submit an application in a matter of one or two weeks. That’s still better than many traditional lenders.
Do SmartBiz loans require collateral?
SBA loans through SmartBiz (or anywhere else) require a blanket lien on your business assets. Fortunately, you don’t have to have a minimum asset value for that blanket lien; whatever assets you have will work.
Non-SBA business loans through SmartBiz require a personal guarantee. With a personal guarantee, your lender can go after your personal assets if you default on your loan.
Either way, you only need to worry about your assets if you default on your loan. Borrow wisely, and you won’t have any collateral issues.
What does it mean to prequalify for a SmartBiz loan?
Prequalifying for an SBA loan through SmartBiz does not guarantee you’ll actually get approved for a loan. Rather, it means that you have a real shot at getting approved.
Think of it this way: even with SmartBiz’s simplified process, SBA loan applications require a lot of effort. Pre-qualifying simply means that effort could pay off, so you should go ahead with the application.
For the record, SmartBiz claims that somewhere around 90% of applications it submits to bank partners get approved.2
What do customers say about SmartBiz?
SmartBiz customers have largely positive things to say about the company. It has an A+ Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating and a 9.4 TrustScore on Trustpilot.
Positive reviews say that SmartBiz makes the SBA application process easy. They also praise its customer service. Some small-business owners even claim that SmartBiz got them accepted for an SBA loan after other lenders had rejected them.
The few negative reviews mostly complain about just what you’d expect: applying for an SBA loan is still time consuming and sometimes frustrating. Some business owners also complain that they got prequalified but then denied for an SBA loan, and a few people say SmartBiz’s fees weren’t clear up front.
For what it’s worth, SmartBiz actively responds to customer complaints on Trustpilot and the BBB.
SmartBiz wants to help small-business owners get an SBA loan without spending months of their lives on the process. Its streamlined application process and marketplace approach can help you get approved for the SBA loans you want.
Just remember that you’ll have to meet some strict requirements—like a good credit score, high annual revenue, and strong cash flow—to qualify for a SmartBiz loan. If you don’t meet those requirements, you should probably look elsewhere for funding.
At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don’t guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.
- SBA, “Small Business Administration (SBA) Loan Program Performance”
- SmartBiz, “SBA Loan Approval”