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How to Get a Franchise Loan

Pre-Qualify for a Franchise Loan

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Picking a franchise to purchase can be a difficult task, but finding a franchise loan to fund the venture could prove even more difficult. Formulating a business plan, understanding your financial strengths and weaknesses, and connecting with the right lenders are just a few of the steps toward getting the funding you need.

Where to Start

Establishing a strong business plan and model as well as understanding the franchise brand are essential before you are ready to work with lenders on the financing.

Reviewing the brands franchise disclosure document (FDD), speaking with existing franchisees and financial professionals, in conjunction with support from the franchisor, will help you formulate your business plan and build financial projections. Outlining your management and marketing skills, past successes and future goals by including resumes for yourself, planned partners and other employees will allow all parties involved, from the franchisor to lenders, to understand the strengths of the ownership and management team. Personal credit history and financial strength will also play an important role in opening a franchise business.

Understand the Lending Market

There are sources of startup money that may not be as obvious to franchisees that can be helpful. Using equity from a home loan or a 401(k) plan, can provide a kick-start to your business if conventional sources of financing are not available. However, those products may not be optimal over the long run when compared to loan products specifically geared to funding a small businesses.

Often times, a franchisee looking to open their first franchise will fit nicely into a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan product. SBA loans are made by banks or other participating lenders - not the government. SBA loans allow the lenders to extend credit to borrowers, who they may not be able to lend on a conventional basis, by taking advantage of a guarantee that the SBA provides to the lender in the event of default. There are a few different options, but the Flagship SBA 7a product gives the bank a 75% guarantee if your loan defaults - so that the money that the bank lends to you is not entirely at risk. SBA loans are typically priced at Wall Street Journal Prime + 1 to 2.75%, for terms of 7 to 25 years, depending on the use of funds.

Curious how fundable you are? Try the BoeFly Fundability App to discover how many lenders are interested in your franchise loan.

Having liquid assets, valuable collateral and a good credit rating will go a long way to helping you get a franchise loan. According to The Wall Street Journal, most banks will be looking for around one-fifth or 20% of franchise startup costs to come from the owner before considering lending options, and without a good credit score, most lenders won't feel comfortable extending a loan even if the proposed franchise is known for long-standing success.

In some instances the franchise itself will extend financing to you. Some companies, like 7- Eleven, actually build the store for new franchisees and lease the location to you, meaning you incur minimal startup costs and the transaction is handled directly between you and the franchisor. Others, like Subway may buy back locations from existing franchisees and then sell them to you as a new location, meaning you'll be handed an established store, sometimes with existing employees and inventory.

Make rational requests

The brand you choose to work with may provide upfront estimates of how much it will cost to start a new business and can also give you information on monthly and year-over-year revenue goals and expected progress. This information, if available, is often found in Item 19 of the FDD. However, a franchise is not required to provide this information in their FDD - so speaking with several existing franchisees is always a wise choice. Based on this data and your own projections make sure you understand when your business will break even factoring in both expenses as well as the loan payments and always assume there will be unexpected costs. When determining your loan amount make sure to include working capital to get you through the ramp-up period of the business until the business can support expenses and loan payments. When lenders review your loan application they will pay attention to several key things, but 2 items that you should be aware of are Loan To Value (LTV) and Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR). LTV is a measure of the total value of the loan amount compared to the collateral pledged. Lenders will look at the collateral as a secondary source of repayment of the loan and in many cases with a start-up financing may look for collateral to cover the full loan. In cases where there is not enough collateral the lenders will look to other strengths of the deal. DSCR is a measure of the cash generated by the business available for the loan payments. The higher the DSCR, the better because in the bank's view there will be a cushion of cash just in case there are unforeseen problems or slow periods for the business. A lender will typically look for a minimum DSCR 1.20x or more. If your projections don't show the ability to service debt lenders may shy away from your loan request so it is important to understand the accuracy of your projections.

How to Apply for a Franchise Loan

The first step in applying for a franchise loan is making sure you are well-prepared before you connect with a lender. This means that you should have identified the franchise you wish to pursue, and should have your supporting documents and loan package organized and available when you engage with lenders. The goal is to make a solid first impression to show that you are prepared and will successfully put the lender's money to good use and can be trusted to repay the loan. Accessing capital to start your business is perhaps the most difficult step in the start-up process. An online service like BoeFly.com, (we specialize in franchise finance - see what franchise brands have to say about BoeFly) or working with a financial adviser can help prepare you to address any deficiencies within your loan package. Loan brokers will typically cost you a $2000 packaging fee or more, and they may charge the lender a fee of 1-2% of the loan amount, which may come back to you as a hidden cost in the closing costs or in increased interest rates. In contrast, BoeFly has several plans available starting at just $249 to help fully guide you through the process of building a professional, lender ready package and connect you with over 5,000 lenders.

The second step is to be strategic about how and where you apply for a loan. Key targets for your loan application would be your own bank, local business lenders and national lenders. Within that group, it is also important to target lenders who may be familiar with the brand and have made loans to other franchisees. That said, don't use a shotgun approach and apply everywhere. This approach can lead to inefficient use of your time and money as the process can lead to several declines from lenders as you blindly submit applications. This process can take up to 120-190 days before you even get funded. Additionally, some lenders charge application fees so it can get expensive, but more importantly, a lender may do a "hard" credit pull on you when you apply. Multiple hard credit pulls within a timeframe will actually hurt your credit score and decrease your ability to get a loan. One alternative is to use a service like BoeFly, which puts you in the driver's seat. It allows lenders to evaluate your loan package and credit and engage with you directly without officially applying at the bank. Only once it seems like it may be a good match will the lender issue you a proposal or term sheet on the financing and then officially invite you to apply at the bank - thereby saving your credit score and time and money. Unlike other marketplaces and "connecting" websites, BoeFly can significantly reduce your time of origination by up to 75% as well as your costs.

If you are using the web to help you acquire a loan, beware of "Free" services, sites not certified by TRUSTe or sites with poor Better Business Bureau ratings. These sites may just want your contact information which they then sell to brokers and lenders. It is not a very efficient way for you to get financing and may lead to wasted time, money and calls from unsavory and unqualified sources. Also, make sure there are no hidden fees that either you or the lender will need to make - or guarantees that you will receive a loan.

Lastly, online resources like the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Franchise Association and online marketplaces such as BoeFly can provide you with helpful advice for every step of the application and startup process.