SmartBiz SBA Loans Review: The Professional SBA Lender

By Daniel Lewis
Advertiser disclosure

SmartBiz loans are easier to obtain in comparison to traditional banking loans. They provide easier access to SBA loans. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that these rules are still quite strict – applicants should have strong financial fundamentals before they consider applying. The SBA loan requirements have to be met and these are independent of the lender.

Even so, SmartBiz has streamlined the process as much as possible, so applicants have a better chance of getting an SBA loan now more than ever. The application process is automated and processed online, drastically reducing application times. This has always been a huge drawback of SBA loan applications – with long wait times and multiple interviews.

SmartBiz also offers SBA Commercial Real Estate Loans and standard term loans. It also offers customized financial solutions, though most of its business is from SBA loan applications. Keep in mind that SmartBiz does not generate the loan – they merely facilitate/process it. 

SmartBiz connects lending institutions with loan applicants and does away with much of the bureaucracy and paperwork. 90% of SmartBiz referrals get funded and over $1.5 Billion in small business loans has been funded by their network.

Editor’s Note: SmartBiz is the ideal lender for a business looking for an SBA (7)(a) loan or an alternative low-cost loan from the Small Business Administration. It is one of the quickest and safest means to get this kind of loan, though it does come with some additional fees attached. 90% of referrals get funded in the network, so you have an excellent chance with this provider once you meet minimum requirements.

Highlights

requirments_icon1Loan Amount
$30,000 – $5,000,000

Terms
2 – 25 Years

Funds received
7 – 14 Days

Pros

  • Fantastic customer service
  • The easiest place to get SBA loans
  • Faster loan approval process

Cons

  • Lien and personal guarantee required

Good for… Bad for…
Businesses looking for the lowest interest rates available Businesses that are just starting out
Businesses looking for longer-term lengths (5 years plus) Businesses that are looking for a loan of less than $100,000
All businesses looking for an SBA(7)(a) Businesses that are looking for cash quickly, with a fast turnaround
All businesses looking for an SBA(7)(a) Commercial Real Estate loan
Businesses with a high credit score, long history, and impressive turnover

SmartBiz SBA Loans - Hom

Advantages

The advantages of getting a loan with SmartBiz is that it still offers great SBA and bank rates, but speeds up the application process. There is typically a tradeoff between interest rates and ease of application. SmartBiz offers a neat middle ground between the two.

An online lender is often far easier to deal with in comparison to a bank, and often far less intimidating. You won’t have to go into the bank and deal with a formidable opponent in the banker! With the whole world becoming automated and digitalized, Smartbiz is making it easier to access the SBA loan, a financial option that is typically quite elusive. It also has very long repayment terms so lenders have some breathing room.

SmartBiz also offers a free online tool known as SmartBiz Advisor. This demonstrates the probability of loan success and how to increase chances of success. In addition, SmartBiz works with a number of alternative lenders to provide lines of credit and invoice financing. The eligibility requirements for these loans are much lower.

Disadvantages

SmartBiz is simply not for businesses with a low credit score or a poor financial foundation in general. You need a high credit score and solid backing in order to qualify for the SBA loan and bank term loan. This means many small businesses are not a match for this lender. To give you a taste of how hard it is to qualify, consider that the average Smartbiz lender had 10 years in business, annual revenue of $1 Million, and a credit score of 705. 

In other words, it is more suited to large businesses and corporations as opposed to small US businesses. In addition, to facilitate the loan, SmartBiz takes a 4% cut, which is quite hefty. Bank closing costs of around $450 are passed to the borrower, and the loan still has to be approved by the SBA.

SmartBiz Loan Features

SmartBiz mainly offers two products, the SBA(7)(a)loan and the standard bank loan – the Commercial Real Estate Loan is a subcategory of the (7)(a). To qualify for the loan, applicants need to have a good credit rating, no recent bankruptcies, be in business for at least 24 months, and have no outstanding tax liens. A personal guarantee and lien is also a pre-requisite for qualification. 

Loan Criteria SmartBiz SBA (7)(a) Loan SBA (7)(a) Real Estate Bank Term Loan
APR (estimate range) 8% – 10% 7% – 8% 6.99% – 23.99%
Funding Range $30,000 – $5 Million $500,000 – $5 Million $30,000 – $350,000
Term Length 10 – 25 Years 25 Years 2 – 5 Years
Minimum Credit Score 640 675 640
Funding Time 7 – 14 Days 30 Days Less than 7 Days
Typical Payment % (Monthly) 1.1% Varies 2.25%

Fees, Rates, and Penalties

Fees with SmartBiz tend to be quite steep. However, such fees are offset by the improved application process which is far quicker than normal. For the SBA(7)(a), the SBA (7)(a) Commercial Real Estate, and the standard bank term loan, the APR will often range between 4% – 8%. This range is far lower than other online options, including the online term loan or business line of credit from online lenders. The APR from an online loan is typically somewhere between 8% – 12%.

Get an SBA Loan with SmartBiz

However, there are many other fees with the SmartBiz loan. The lender takes a 4% cut from the approved loan for ‘referral and packaging fees’. Bank closing costs will add $450 or so to the customer. Banks in the SmartBiz network can charge a one-time application fee of $3,000 – $5000, depending on the loan type. All these fees add up, so make sure you understand the APR of each loan. The APR is a figure that takes all rates and fees into account for customers to make informed decisions.

Loan Type SBA (7)(a) SBA (7)(a) Commercial Real Estate Standard Term Loan
Origination Fees No No No
Prepayment Fees No Yes No
Late Payment Fees               Yes Yes Yes
Maintenance Fees Yes Yes Yes
Bank Closing Costs $450 $5000 $450
One Time Application Fee $3000 $5000 $3000
Variable Interest Rate ~7% 4% – 6% 7%
Total Average Estimated APR 10% 5% 10%

Estimated APR

According to the SmartBiz site, the average APR range is 5% – 10% for SBA loans and 12% – 32% for bank term loans. These are inclusive of all fees and definitely on the low side, but come with higher conditions and a much lengthier process.

Obviously, the APR you can expect will depend on your credit score, the size of your business, the history of your business, the loan type, and the loan amount. 

All things considered, if you do qualify for the SBA(7)(a) loan, expect your total APR to be between 7 – 10%. If you qualify for the SBA Commercial Real Estate loan, expect your total APR to be 6 – 8%. For a banking term loan, expect your total APR to be 12% – 18%.

Eligibility Requirements

For the SmartBiz SBA(7)(a), the minimum requirements include a 640 credit score, two years in business, no outstanding liens or bankruptcies, and evidence of cash flow to support the business.  A 20% personal guarantee on loans is a pre-requisite with SmartBiz. These eligibility requirements are similar for both standard bank loans and SBA (7)(a) loans.

The requirements for the SBA(7)(a) Commercial Real Estate Loan are a little different. This is because the loan is often larger and more complex, involving special terms and conditions in the purchase of the real estate. The minimum credit score is 675, and the business must be older than 72 months. 51% of the property (per square foot) must be owned and used by the business.

The estimated purchase price must be at least $500,000 for the loan to be processed. These loans are taken out primarily for the purchase of commercial real estate or the construction of new buildings. A dedicated property manager will have to assess the value of the property.

Average Borrowers With SmartBiz

Average borrowers with SmartBiz will have very high eligibility thresholds given the nature of the loans on offer.

  • The average SBA loan amount was $425,000 in 2016.
  • The average borrowers will have at least 3 years in business (often far more).
  • The average SBA (7)(a) borrower has a credit score of 680.

Keep in mind there are many SBA variants, including CAPlines, Export, Express, Microloans, and 504 commercial real estates. The Microloan and Express are more relevant to the small business owner, and a credit score of 620 – 640 might be a reasonable average.

SmartBiz also offers the term loan and line of credit, though it is most often cited as primarily being an SBA (7)(a) provider.

The SmartBiz Application Process

Applying for a loan is quite straightforward with SmartBiz. It takes less than 5 minutes to fill out some details and see if you pre-qualify. After this, there is only a single application process while SmartBiz matches you to the appropriate bank. While the application process could take months with a bank, it only takes a week with this lender.

In an industry where time is money, this is a huge advantage. Even if you get turned down, at least you get an answer sooner rather than later. The process is automated using AI, which is why it is so quick.

After the prequalification has been completed, you will be assigned to a team of supervisors who talk you through the process. These supervisors are very responsive and helpful. Keep in mind that you still need to supply all of the documentation for the SBA(7)(a) loan. This is an extensive list but mandatory to the process.

What Happens After The Application?

Smartbiz is primarily an SBA(7)(a) facilitator. This means that you submit an SBA (7)(a) application, and then it connects you to the right lender in the network. Due to the nature of this loan, this is a huge benefit. SBA(7)(a) loans are known to be hard to acquire with a long application process. SmartBiz has essentially brought it online, acting as an intermediary between larger financial institutions which tend to be large and cumbersome.

After you fill in basic details, you are then connected to the appropriate bank/financial institution. You then submit the (long list) of information to SmartBiz, who passes it on to the bank for underwriting. The banks use your financial documents and tax information to perform extensive research with regard to how likely you are to repay.

This is a much longer process than a typical online loan. The length of approval can vary greatly. On their site, they state it takes “7 days or more”. Which is a clever form of marketing, when it typically takes a lot longer than 7 days on average. However, it is still far shorter and easier in comparison to getting a loan directly from a bank. You can expect your loan to be processed in around 14 days.

 

Once funded, you will pay back these loans on a monthly basis. The process is similar for term loans, though the rates are higher and the approval times are quicker. SmartBiz pulls a soft pull on your credit score initially to determine eligibility. The banks then conduct a hard pull during the application process.

Transparency

Founded in 2009, SmartBiz now has over 170,000 customers and 110 employees. Their headquarters is in California and they are easy to reach out to and get a response from. All of the SmartBiz fees are displayed upfront – this is not a shady online lender that makes money off hidden charges. SmartBiz is a professional outfit that operates by connecting banks with SBA loan applicants.

The SBA fees are known to be a little high, but transparent. All things considered, most people can expect to pay around 10% APR. If you want to know more about the fees and charges, then use their free tool, the SmartBiz advisor. It will neatly display what you can expect to pay over time.

SmartBiz has an upfront privacy policy on its site which indicates everything they do with private information. Information is never shared with third parties but may be shared with banks and affiliates to process loans. Customers are never profiled based on their usage. All transactions are secured with 256-bit encryption.

SmartBiz is registered with the Better Business Bureau (‘BBB’) as a trusted legal entity and is also  HiTrust CSF Certified. HiTrust CSF is an alliance between government and corporate entities that aims to safeguard sensitive customer data, especially in the field of finance.

The lender does business under the trade name of ‘SmartBiz Loans’, which is a subsidiary of BillFloat Inc. BillFloat Inc is listed in the Speciality Finance industry with its headquarters in 417 Montgomery Street Suite 600 San Francisco, CA 94104 United States. Company executives include Sean O’Malley, Judy Balint, and Alan Crystal. Estimate sales revenue is $1.8 Billion for 2019.

Customer Service

The customer service with SmartBiz is exceptional, and one of their strongest features. One of their main selling points is that they assist throughout the entire process and make it easy. This is a lot different from typical bank applications, where the reception can often be a little stern.

SmartBiz has specialized loan consultants at hand to help out. Unlike many online lenders, there is a customer service representative available to answer all queries, in a polite manner.

Collaboration is mostly done via email instead of phone calls. The best part is that if your loan is a little complicated (which it can be for a variety of reasons) the dedicated advisor will tell you exactly what you need to submit – saving you precious time.

The SBA(7)(a) loan is known to be notoriously difficult to qualify for with a huge level of documentation required. Aside from the standard requirements, banks can often ask for additional information. This is where the professionalism of SmartBiz can shine through.

Best For…

SmartBiz is best for businesses that are in a very strong financial position and want to get a loan quickly, without going through a bank and without paying a high APR on the loan itself. 

The professional team provided by SmartBiz also ensures that no wrong steps are taken and that you get the finance that you need. People who appreciate good customer service and who want assistance with a complex loan process would do very well by using SmartBiz.

Not Suited For…

SmartBiz is not suited for small businesses or startups that have a credit score under ~680 and less than 4 years in business. They are not for business people looking for a microloan or a loan under $100,000 (at the least).

While you can get a SmartBiz facilitated SBA loan all the way down to $30,000, it is not worth the hassle of gathering all of the documentation and waiting for a response. An online loan will be so much easier, even with the slight added expense. SmartBiz really makes sense for larger loans.

Additional Features

SmartBiz provides a number of additional features that enhances the value of their offerings. Additional features include:

  • The SmartBiz Advisor – An online tool that allows clients to see their odds of qualifying for a particular loan. It also makes recommendations surrounding how to increase these odds.
  • SBA PayCheck Protection Program – A recent program launched to combat unemployment as a result of the COVID-19 spread. This is a small business relief program providing loans up to $10 Million.
  • Customized Financial Solutions – SmartBiz can work with alternative loan provides based on your unique business needs. Invoice financing and lines of credit can be accessed in this manner. 

Positive Reviews

There are tonnes of positive reviews of SmartBiz. It has over 1,000 verified Trustpilot reviews and a rating very near 5 out of 5 stars. The most frequent positive highlights are:

  • Super Fast SBA(7)(a) Process – The entire platform is automated and streamlined for prequalification. The application process itself is also very straightforward to use.
  • Amazing Customer Support – This is the most common citation in terms of positive reviews. The levels of customer support are flawless and the dedicated manager will lead clients through every step of the process. The representatives are very professional and responsive.
  • Clear Terms And Conditions – SmartBiz is upfront and clear with what it charges and who qualifies for a loan. You will know exactly how much you are going to pay and won’t get hit with any hidden fees or charges.

Get an SBA Loan with SmartBiz

Negative Reviews

There are a few negative reviews with SmartBiz. However, it must be restated that the fees are high when dealing with SmartBiz and it can be hard to qualify for a loan in the first place. While the SBA loan APR is low, the fees charged by SmartBiz to process the loan are high. But for the level of service, the fees are worth it.

For loans smaller than $150,000, you would need to have annual revenue of over $120,000. Also, a high level of documentation is required and the turnaround times are still not as quick as the typical online loan from other providers.

How is SmartBiz LoanBuilder Helping Customers Amidst COVID-19?

SmartBiz has a dedicated resource hub available to those affected by COVID-19. In fact, SmartBiz was one of the clearest and most professional lenders when it comes to explaining and outlining the Paycheck Protection Program. The PPP mainly provided payroll costs up to 2.5 times the monthly payroll of a business. Applicants would need to have less than 500 employees to apply.

The PPP program is now finished, but while it was ongoing, it was one of the most effective PPP providers out there. SmartBiz did not experience much of the negative blowback in comparison to other online lenders when it came to COVID and the PPP blowback. This is because most people that obtained loans through SmartBiz would have very high capital reserves and revenue.

These customers are typically not affected by liquidity issues in comparison to other smaller businesses, so there were few negative reviews. This is simply due to the nature of the SmartBiz industry, which deals in larger loans with reputable banks.

Why SmartBiz Beats Banks

SmartBiz does not really ‘beat banks’. Actually what happens is that it works with banks to make them more available to customers. They are superior in the sense that applying for an SBA (7)(a) or term loan with a large financial institution is so much easier. They charge a fee for this process, a fee which is not cheap.

But it will work out easier overall if you are shooting for a large loan with a term length of more than 5 years. It is really geared more towards medium-sized businesses or “big” small businesses. 

SmartBiz FAQs

What is the SBA (7)(a) loan anyway?

The SBA (7)(a) is a loan guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (‘SBA’) up to 85%. Once the terms and conditions are met, the business can get the loan. Large financial institutions are responsible for facilitating the loan and are insured up to 85% in the event of default. This is meant to help out small businesses and stimulate the economy. For more information, take a look at this comprehensive SBA (7)(a) loan guide.

How fast is the turnaround time?

It’s hard to give an exact estimate, as the process still needs SBA approval. However, the typical times have been drastically reduced – 30 days for a Commercial Real Estate Loan and 7 to 14 days for the SBA(7)(a) options. Standard bank loans are frequently processed within 7 days.

What about customized financial solutions?

SmartBiz offers business credit cards, the business line of credit, and invoice financing, though these are not the primary offerings. Loan amounts can range from $30,000 – $500,000 and repayment terms range from 6 – 60 months. This is not it’s main offering but it can facilitate these loans.

Do I have to provide documentation?

Yes, you will have to provide an extensive level of documentation. You will have to do this for all SBA loans to satisfy the terms and conditions. Be sure to have the documents at hand so you can upload them on your computer. Once the documents are ready, the SmartBiz automated platform will do the rest.

Do I need to provide collateral or personal guarantees?

All business owners who own more than 20% of the business must provide a personal guarantee. So you may need to provide 5 personal guarantees if your business is split that way. A lien on business assets is also required for loans.

Summary

SmartBiz is an excellent lender for those looking for a swift SBA(7)(a) turnaround. They have an excellent reputation in terms of customer service. Low cost commercial real estate financing is another great asset without having to visit an intimidating bank in person.

The only real issue is whether or not a small business will qualify for the loan in the first place. But for those who do qualify, it’s the best SBA (7)(a) lender in the market right now with the fastest turnaround times.

Get an SBA Loan with SmartBiz

Daniel Lewis
Daniel Lewis
Daniel Lewis is an MBA accredited investment professional who wants to assist small business owners to gain access to finance. After going through many channels for funding, Lewis has found that getting the first loan right is vitally important for future success.