How to Finance a Business Purchase

Four Methods:Taking Out a LoanFinancing the Purchase With Your Own AssetsBringing On Investors or PartnersGetting Seller Financing

Buying an existing business can be convenient in a number of ways. You're buying into a proven business model with existing customers, marketing, and products. With this framework in place, you can also begin repaying your purchase expenses immediately with the profits earned by the business. However, financing that business purchase in the first place can be just as expensive as starting a business yourself. Consider the following methods for coming up with the capital to purchase a business and choose those that best suit your needs.

Method 1
Taking Out a Loan

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    Investigate SBA loans. The Small Business Administration (SBA) guarantees loans to small business to help them get started and expand their operations. To get started on the road towards acquiring SBA financing, visit a local bank or financial institution that provides SBA loans. The SBA loan makes it easier for you to acquire financing, as part of the loan is repaid by the SBA if you fail to make payments. Specifically, the loan program you will be looking for is the SBA Basic 7(a) loan program, which is used for acquiring or starting new businesses.[1] To qualify for this type of loan, you must:
    • Own or seek to own a small business as defined by the SBA. This information can be found on their website.
    • Plan to operate for profit.
    • Plan to operate within the United States or its possessions.
    • Have your own assets invested in the business.
    • Show a need for the loan.
    • Not owe the US government any money.[2]
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    Meet with financial institutions. Financing is also available through local lending institutions, like banks and credit unions. However, this type of lending can be very difficult to secure, particularly if you have less-than-stellar credit or if there are not significant personal or business assets that can be used as collateral. To qualify for a traditional bank loan, you will need demonstrable management experience, strong existing cash flows, experience in the industry, and a high personal credit score. It may also be easier for you to obtain a loan if you have an existing, strong relationship with the bank providing the loan.
    • If you are a woman, veteran, or minority, banks may have special lending programs that you can qualify for.[3]
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    Assess the collateral you can provide. Your collateral is the assets, either yours or the business's, that you can provide as insurance in case you default on your loan. For some business loans, these may need to be worth as much as 50 to 70 percent of the loan value. When providing collateral for the banks to use, you can include any of the following:
    • Equity in your own home.
    • Assets owned by the business, like accounts receivable and inventory.
    • A personal guarantee. This essentially means that, in the event of a default, you are personally liable to repay a certain amount of the loan value.[4]
    • Most lenders, including the SBA, require a personal guarantee for a loan in addition to any collateral pledged. This is because they would prefer avoiding have to take possession of the collateral and go through the subsequent sale.
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    Get pre-qualified for several loans. Before finalizing the purchase of the business, you will need one or several letters of pre-qualification for loans. This means going through the loan process with each lender and getting the go-ahead from them to purchase the business. You can then show the letters to the seller and finalize the purchase, at which point you will need to actually take out one of the loans that you are pre-qualified for.
    • Getting pre-qualified for several loans is advantageous in case the lending requirements change between your pre-qualification and the close of the sale.
    • You will need to be pre-qualified for more than the purchase price of the business. You should also include about 90 days of working capital (money used to keep the business functioning, like utilities and inventory purchasing money). You can work with the current owner to assess how much is needed.[5]
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    Consider alternative loan options. There are many other sources of loans available to finance the initial purchase of a business. For some people, there may be an opportunity to borrow money from friends or family. However, bear in mind that this may damage your relationship with that person if things go south. Some other options you can consider include:
    • Peer-to-peer (P2P) financing. Online lending markets like and allow you to borrow small amounts (generally less than $25,000) from other people. However, rates on these sites are typically higher than what a bank or the SBA could offer you.
    • Microloans. Microloans are for smaller amounts that traditional business loans (usually less than $50,000) and have shorter durations (under six years). Check with the SBA or a microlending specialist to investigate your options.[6]

Method 2
Financing the Purchase With Your Own Assets

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    Use your own savings. The easiest and cheapest way to finance your own business is with your own personal savings. This includes any savings accounts, CDs, investment accounts, or other liquid accounts you hold. By using the money from these accounts to finance your personal, you can avoid having to work with partners, investors, or lenders when running your business. However, it is rare that an individual has enough money in these accounts to purchase a business.[7]
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    Sell any valuable assets you currently own. Another way to raise money is to sell off valuable assets that you own. Parcels of land, non-essential vehicles, and boats can all be sold to raise this type of money.
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    Borrow against your home equity. You can borrow against the value of your home using a second mortgage or a home equity line of credit (HELOC). However, this requires having enough equity in your home in the first place. More importantly, it also introduces the risk that, in the event of the business's default, your house may be foreclosed upon by the lender. Consider the risks and try every other options available to you before pursuing this type of financing.[8]
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    Avoid purchasing the business with your retirement savings. While it is possible to roll your IRA or 401(k) savings balances into a business venture without taking a tax hit, doing so is incredibly risky. If your business fails to perform as expected, you could lose all of the money you have saved for retirement. Personal finance experts recommend against using this as a method of business financing.[9]

Method 3
Bringing On Investors or Partners

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    Consider finding a partner or several of them. A partner is someone who provides some initial purchase money for the business in exchange for an ownership share. Your partner will likely want to be involved in the business in some way, so make sure to only take on a partner that you can work well with. And being personally close with someone doesn't make them a good partner; sometimes a trusted or knowledgable co-worker or acquaintance can make a better partner than a friend or family member.
    • In addition, make sure to draw up a legal contract that clarifies the terms of the partnership. This agreement should list how disputes are settled, how major decisions are made, and exactly how profits are divided.[10]
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    Work with a silent partner. A silent partner is one that contributes capital to the business, but has no say in its operations. However, many silent partners eventually want to have a say in how the business is run. Again, to ensure that this relationship works as planned, draw up a partnership agreement that specifies the terms of your partnership in detail.[11]
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    Bring on angel investors. An angel investor is a wealthy private investor who gives start-up capital to new businesses and new business owners in exchange for equity in that business. Businesses with angel investors benefits from the angel investor's industry expertise, business contacts, and financial resources. Locating angel investors, however, can be difficult. You'll have to locate a high net worth individual who shares your passion for the business you are buying and its industry. Then, you'll have to convince them of your own management skill and your ability to give them a good return on their money.[12]
    • Angel Investors can be located by visiting the Angel Capital Association's website.[13]
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    Engage in equity crowdfunding. Equity crowdfunding, which involves selling small stakes in your business to a large number of small investors, is a relative newcomer in the world of business financing. While equity crowdfunding has been around for years, operating through sites like SeedInvest, it has recently become tightly regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Equity crowdfunding can be an effective way to raise money, but only with the proper guidance, as following SEC guidelines can be complicated.[14]

Method 4
Getting Seller Financing

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    Consider the benefits and drawbacks of seller financing. Seller financing, also called owner financing, is a purchase arrangement in which you repay the sale price of the business directly to its previous owner over several years. For the buyer, this provides some flexibility in repaying the loan, such as negotiating a longer repayment period, a temporary reprieve from payments, or reducing the price in exchange for letting the owner keep some equity in the business. However, this type of arrangement is typically more expensive, with the owner charging a higher interest rate than the bank would charge.
    • Ideally, the buyer should negotiate an arrangement where all or a portion of the loan financed by the seller may be contingent upon the profits reached and payable over a limited term. This protects the buyer in case profits are not as high as expected.
    • Obtaining seller financing may give you more power in negotiating down the price of the business.
    • Doing so also gives the seller reason to help you out more in running and managing the business.[15]
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    Ask the seller if they would consider seller financing. Start by asking the seller directly if they would consider seller financing. It may help if you explain to them that this will result in their getting more money over time, as they get to keep the interest on your loan (rather than the bank keeping it). If they agree, you can begin negotiating a contract.[16]
    • If possible, avoid securing the seller with assets purchased. This gives you a cushion if additional financing is needed to get the business is running smoothly.
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    Negotiate a contract. Work with the seller to form the terms of sale. Start by offering to make a down payment with what you can gather on your own, say 10 to 20 percent of the sale price. Try to offer as large of a down payment as you can afford; this will only help you and save you money in the long run. Then discuss a repayment period and interest rate. Try to negotiate a longer repayment period and lower interest rate to make sure that you can afford the payments.
    • You may be able to agree on a large, balloon payment in a number of years. This will reduce your monthly payments. Then, you can get a bank loan or use your savings to cover the balloon payment.[17]
    • Alternately, where a C corporation is involved in the purchase, issuing preferred stock may be a better option than debt for the buyer when repaying the balloon payment.
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    Have a lawyer review the contract. Ideally, you should have an attorney that specializes in business contracts draw up the contract. However, you can also have one review the contract to ensure that your interests are represented and that there are no surprises waiting for you in the wording of the contract. You may also want to have an accountant review the financials of the deal to make sure everything checks out.[18]
    • The lawyer, and possibly an accountant, should confirm the validity of the financial statements, specifically the identity, value and location of assets and liabilities.
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    Finalize the deal. Once you've been assured that the contract is right for both you and the seller, close the deal and take control of the business. With seller financing, you'll likely be able to convince the previous owner to help you out with getting started as the manager of your new business.

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Categories: Buying & Forming a Business