Right now, there are more than 1.1 million insurance agents, brokers, and affiliated employees in the United States— all working as part of an industry that wrote more than $1.2 trillion in premiums in 2017 alone. So, if you’re an insurance agent interested in starting, purchasing, or expanding an insurance agency, an SBA loan, like the SBA 7(a) loan, could be a great choice.
When compared to many other small business loans, the SBA 7(a) program has low interest rates, particularly long loan terms, and can finance both working capital and owner-occupied commercial real estate. From 2005 to 2015, the SBA guaranteed nearly 5,000 SBA 7(a) loans with a total amount of almost $950 million for insurance agencies and brokers— so if you do get 7(a) financing for your insurance agency, you’ll definitely be in good company.
How to Get an SBA 7(a) Loan for Your Insurance Agency
While the SBA 7(a) loan is often a fantastic option for insurance agencies, it isn’t always easy for them to get approved. In general, the 7(a) program is available for both captive insurance agencies, which are only affiliated with an insurer such as Allstate or State Farm, and independent agencies, which can offer insurance from a variety of providers. However, if you run a captive agency, your lender and the SBA will take a close look at your agency agreement to make sure that the insurer doesn’t retain too much control over your agency’s day-to-day operations. If they do, you could be considered an affiliate, making you ineligible for SBA financing.
Things may also get more complex if you’re planning to purchase an existing insurance agency, due to the fact that these transactions may only include certain lines of business. Due to that fact, a lender may not only rely on the agency’s tax returns to determine its eligibility for a 7(a) loan; they might also look at the commission statements provided by the insurer or insurers that the agency is working with.
What are the Terms and Uses for SBA 7(a) Loans?
SBA 7(a) loans have terms of up to 10 years for equipment and working capital, and up to 25 years for commercial real estate. 7(a) loans can be approved in amounts of up to $5 million. In general, insurance agency owners can use these loans to:
Purchase another agency or book of business: If you want to purchase an existing insurance agency, or simply purchase the clients of another agency owner who is moving or retiring, a 7(a) loan could be a great way to do so.
Build a new insurance agency: SBA 7(a) loans can finance all aspects of the construction process, including security systems, landscaping, construction permits, and more.
Refinancing insurance agency debt: If your insurance agency has a significant amount of business debt, using an SBA 7(a) loan to refinance it could help improve your cash flow. However, the debt must be currently offered to you on unreasonable terms, needs to have been used for business purposes, and you’ll need to prove that refinancing it with an SBA loan would help, not hurt, your finances.
Renovating an insurance agency: 7(a) loans can also be used for renovations and property improvements for insurance agencies.
Working capital: Whether it’s office equipment, or employee salaries during a tougher financial period, the 7(a) loan can be used to make sure your insurance business has the funds it needs to thrive.
While SBA 7(a) loans are a good choice for most insurance agencies, animal hospitals may find themselves better off with an SBA 504 loan. SBA 504 loans are specifically designed for funding commercial real estate projects (not working capital), and therefore offer lower interest rates, lower down payment requirements, and slightly larger maximum loan amounts.