In most cases people have invested a good portion of their life savings into the business now going under. Losing your business is a terrible thing. And, being faced with the prospect of repaying your SBA Business Loan with little or no savings and the loss of your business is daunting.
In a majority of cases, business owners opt to work with their Lender to put the business on the market and sell it to a third-party or simply liquidate the assets piecemeal. Here are a couple of common questions and the answers will probably surprise you.
Can I really do a better job than the bank in selling my business?
In almost all cases you can. Lenders are not in business of selling businesses, they make loans. They can repossess the collateral and, in rare cases, they could appoint a receiver to operate a business and then sell it, but in our experience, the business owner is in the best position to maximize recovery here.
If you can arrange for the sale of your business, you are likely going to avoid a brokerage fee of between 6-12% (or more). Or, if the bank repossesses the assets and auctions them the cost of doing so will get charged to the loan (increasing your balance). In many cases, auctioneers charge between 25% – 35% to auction off miscellaneous assets; those buying them are looking for bargains. If your business is a franchise, then the franchisor may want to place someone else in your location and this may also result in that party assuming (taking over) the ground lease as well.
If you are thinking about selling your business assets, talk to your Lender and your attorney and determine the best course of action.
Will the proceeds from the sale count against what I owe the Lender?
Yes. The purchase price will be applied to what the Borrower owes the Lender on the loan. But, be careful here. The assets belong to Borrower and the Borrower’s legal liability has been reduced, but if the proceeds from the loan don’t fully payoff the loan then a deficiency will result. In other words, the remaining balance must be paid — by the guarantors!
Won’t the proceeds from the sale of the Borrower’s assets count against my Offer in Compromise?
No, the balance you are compromising has now been reduced from X to Y because of the sale. As a guarantor you must now settle that liability yourself. For example:
1. The original loan balance is $100,000
2. The sales proceeds are $30,000
3. The Deficiency balance (whats left) is now $70,000
4. The credit you receive as a guarantor against your offer is $0; that’s right – zero.
As a guarantor, you must now make an offer to compromise your individual liability to the Lender under your guaranty agreement. This means that you, as a guarantor, must offer something more to settle the $70,000; this money must come out of your own pocket or be borrowed. It cannot come from any remaining cash in the business bank account or from the sales proceeds.
Before your discuss your offer in compromise with the Lender, talk to your attorney first. Ask how the proceeds from an asset purchase will be applied. This answer can come as a shock to a business owner who is losing their business and must now settle the remaining loan balance. Therefore, be sure you have a plan to fund your offer in compromise because selling the business only solves part of the problem, but will still leave you on the hook in almost all cases.
What is a CDC/504 Loan?
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has a loan program know as the “504 program”. The 504 program helps small business owners purchase commercial real estate (e.g., a hotel/franchise or a small office building). Unlike the 7(a) program that incentivizes private lenders to help small business by partially guaranteeing their loans, the 504 program is a hybrid.
Under the 504 program, the the borrower has two loans: one to a private lender and another to a Certified Development Company (CDC). In such scenarios, the real estate is financed by a conventional loan that is not guaranteed by the SBA; this lender covers 50% of the project. The second player is the CDC, a nonprofit company acting as a conduit for SBA funds, and it funds 40% of the project; this loan is 100% guaranteed by the SBA. The remaining 10% of the project is funded by the borrower.
In a CDC/504 Loan, the private lender takes a first position lien on the real estate while the CDC takes the second position lien. In the event of a default, a short-sale or foreclosure will usually result in proceeds sufficient to pay off all or nearly all the private lender. I say “usually” because as some of my colleagues have pointed out, real estate in some markets has taken a nose dive.
I am current with the bank, but months behind with the CDC, why aren’t they foreclosing?
The short answer to the question is that your first lender is not in monetary default, so they are unlikely to foreclose on the basis that you have defaulted another obligation, although in some cases breaching loan covenants and representations and warranties will stir a bank to action.If the second lien holder files a foreclosure action, the sales proceeds must still be applied in order of lien priority. Therefore, if the CDC sees that it will not reap enough to make foreclosure worth it, then why foreclose at all. In many cities market conditions for certain types of commercial real estate are so bad that the CDC simply cannot foreclosure. This posture is then assumed by the SBA once the guarantee to the CDC is paid and the SBA assumes actual ownership of the Note and Security Agreement plus the attendant personal guarantees.
If the SBA won’t foreclose, why do I need to worry?
Although foreclosure may not be in the cards for you, that is not to say the CDC won’t sue the borrower and/or pursue the guarantors. And, if they choose not to do so, the SBA still can once the guarantee payment to the CDC has been made. An SBA Offer in Compromise (OIC) may be an available option. If initiated early an OIC can sometimes provide hapless guarantors an opportunity to walk away from a mountain of debt for a relatively modest percentage of what was owed. But, a settlement is not foregone conclusion. The SBA will expect you to dig deep and make a serious offer, otherwise a quick rejection often follows.
Remember, if the SBA cannot collect, then they will send the bad debt to the Treasury Department for collection where a 28% one-time collection fee will be added to the debt. In addition the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) will begin to review the file and take action, including tax refund intercept and offset of social security benefits if you are already receiving them. And, if that is not enough, and you are gainfully employed, you will likely be the recipient of a federal wage garnishment order that can remain in effect continuously until the debt is paid in full.