Before you apply for a small business loan, asking your potential lender a few simple questions can help make sure you get the loan, and lending experience, that best meets your needs.
1. What kind of loan or credit do you recommend for my business needs?
It’s your lender’s job to do an interview to understand the full range of your business needs. As a trusted advisor, they should then recommend a few options along with pros and cons of each solution. In order to take care of the range of business lending needs you might have, your lender should be able to offer a business credit card, loan, commercial mortgage and line of credit.
2. Can I apply for a small business loan online?
This question is really about making the borrowing experience as hassle-free and convenient as possible—so be sure to ask if there’s a digital or online application option instead of a paper application. Whichever way you choose to apply, ask for a checklist of application steps and documents up-front so you can avoid unnecessary back and forth with the lender.
3. What documents do I need to gather before I apply?
If you shop across a few lenders, you may find that some require more paperwork or statements than others. Most loan requests will require a personal and business credit inquiry, but lenders can vary on if tax statements are required based on the borrowing amount. If you need to go to a CPA to get audited financial statements, this should be factored into your cost to work with the lender.
4. How long does your lending process take from application to funding? (if approved)
Before applying it’s important to understand how quickly you need funding and if the lender can meet your timeline. Having all your paperwork and documents in order can help streamline the lending process, but if timing is important, ask if there’s anything else you can do to speed up the process.
5. What are typical rates and closing fees for my type of loan request?
This can be tough question for your lender to answer without completing a personal credit inquiry which is usually part of the actual loan process. If you know your credit score, you can ask for typical rate and fee ranges for someone with your credit profile, borrowing amount and the type loan of you are looking for (i.e, line of credit, term loan or commercial mortgage). Make sure to always have your interest rate provided in APR so you can easily shop across lenders.
6. Does the kind of loan you recommend come with any annual or one-time fees?
There may be additional costs to borrow even after you close the loan. Nobody likes surprise fees, so ask about annual or one-time fees up-front so you can factor this information into your decision.
7. Are there ways I can lower or reduce the interest rate I may have to pay?
Many lenders may offer ways to reduce the interest rate on your loan request. For example, this can include maintaining an active business checking relationship, bringing over business deposits and/or auto-deducting loan payments from a business checking account.
8. Is a personal guarantee required for the loan?
A personal guarantee is a fairly common requirement for a business loan and means that you would be personally liable for paying back the loan even if your business is no longer in existence. A lender may consider your personal assets as collateral for your personal loan guarantee, or they may use a general lien against your business assets as a guarantee. Personal guarantee requirements can vary by lender, so be sure to ask your lender about their approach.
9. Do I get ongoing relationship management and support if my loan or business needs change?
Chances are, you want to borrow from a lender that can adapt and grow with your business as your needs change. Having an ongoing relationship with your lender can help you navigate business changes like substantial growth, ownership transition to a family member or sale to a third-party, or if your industry or business is facing economic stress.
10. What does your loan modification or renewal process look like?
Ups or downs in your industry and/or business’s financial circumstances may trigger a desire to change or review your current loan obligation with your lender. So, it’s important to ask your lender what that process might look like for the type of small business loan you’re considering.
11. Are you an SBA preferred lender?
SBA Guaranteed loans can open a wealth of new opportunities for your business but do require additional steps in the closing process. If the lender you are working with is an SBA Preferred Lender, like TD Bank is, this means they have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the SBA. This this can help reduce the time to close your loan and get you your funds more quickly.