7(a) Loans 504/CDC Loans
Franchise Uses Establishing and operating the business as well as real estate or heavy equipment Purchase of real estate and large equipment or machinery
Eligibility Be a small business, operating as a for-profit in the US, have invested equity, demonstrate good credit history Operating as a for-profit in the US, have a net worth of less than $15 million, have a net income of less than $5 million
Lenders Most SBA lending partners Certified Development Companies (CDCs), promoting economic development in communities
Guarantee Percentages 85% for loans up to $150,000 and 75% for loans above $150,000 100% of CDC’s portion (usually 40% of the total loan)
Loan Amounts Maximum $5 million Maximum $5 million
Maturity Terms 10 years for equipment or working capital and up to 25 years for real estate 10- and 20-year terms

SBA 7(a) Loan

The 7(a) loan program is a popular SBA loan because it allows for a wide variety of uses for the funds. Business owners can, for example, increase working capital, purchase equipment or land, construct new buildings, and outfit offices. With franchises, this loan type can cover initial franchise fees but not those associated with franchise development.

You can receive up to the maximum of $5 million in funding with a 7(a) loan and the guarantee and repayment depend on the amount funded. The SBA guarantees up to 85% on loans of $150,000 or under and up to 75% of larger loans. Repayment on loans for real estate and major fixed assets can extend up to 25 years, while working capital extends up to 10.


Interest rates for these loans are set by the lender, but the SBA does set maximums allowed. These range from a base rate plus 2.25% to 4.75%, depending on maturity and loan size. Fees also range from 2% to 3.5% based on loan size.

SBA 504/CDC Loan

The 504/CDC loan program is similar to the 7(a) in terms of eligibility and maximum loan amounts, but these loans tend to be for bigger real estate projects. 504 loans are made through Certified Development Companies (CDCs), as an underlying goal of this program is to promote economic development in communities.

Business owners can receive up to $5 million to buy real estate, finance construction, or purchase long-term equipment, which are common expenses for opening a new franchisee. The usual structure of a 504 loan includes:

  • 50% of project costs are covered by the lender (non-guaranteed)
  • 40% of project costs are covered by the CDC (100% guaranteed by SBA)
  • 10% of the project cost from the borrower

Maturity rates on these loans range from 10 years for machinery and equipment and up to 20 years for real estate. This loan also comes with a 3% fee that can be financed with a loan and fixed interest rates.

Which Option Is Right for Your Franchise?

Both the 7(a) and 504 loan programs can help you meet your financing needs for your franchise. The main consideration when deciding between the two is the scale of the project and how you will use the loan funds.

Let’s say you are opening a franchise in a new location. Your major expenses may include real estate, construction, and long-term equipment. So, a 504 loan may be a better option because it can cover the property and machinery.

If, instead, you intend to use the funds for the daily operations of a franchise or purchasing an already established franchise, a 7(a) loan may be the better option. You can use these funds for almost anything when it comes to working capital, startup costs, inventory, and real estate.


A 504 loan can provide money to purchase a property, but it can’t provide an injection of working capital to run the business like a 7(a) loan can.

How To Apply for an SBA Franchise Loan

Applying for an SBA franchise loan is similar to a normal loan application. However, you need to be ready to provide your documentation to both the lender and the franchise.

Here are the main steps in the application process.

Gather Your Documentation

The first part of any loan application is gathering the necessary documents. The more prepared you can be in this initial step, the smoother your process will be. Use the 7(a) checklist and the 504 Authorization File Library to identify what paperwork is needed. This includes forms like business financial statements, personal income tax returns, and resumes.

Gather the Franchise’s Documentation

The next important step is gathering documents focused on the franchise. You’ll want to ensure you have the proper paperwork from the franchise ready for the lender. This could include franchise licensing agreements, profit and loss statements, and asking price.

Identify Your Local Lender

Once you’ve organized the documentation, you’ll need to find a lender or Certified Development Company to submit your application. The SBA provides an online local assistance tool that identifies certified agencies near you.

Submit and Prepare for Questions

The final step is the application itself. You should be well prepared if you’ve spent the time gathering the necessary information. However, you may need to be prepared for additional questions based on lender needs. The lender will then submit your paperwork to the SBA as required.

Franchise Loan Alternatives

If an SBA franchise loan isn’t right for you, consider these alternatives:

Franchisor Loans

Some franchisors offer financial support to franchisees to get the business operating. This support could include specific loan options, royalty reductions to offset costs, and secured loans through partner lenders.

Traditional Bank Loans

A traditional bank loan can an option for businesses with stronger creditworthiness or a longstanding relationship with a bank. However, traditional loans tend to have less favorable terms than an SBA loan.

Other Business Loans

Other loan options include a short-term loan or equipment loan. Alternative lenders offer smaller loans on a shorter repayment period with a quick application process, while equipment loans through banks or alt lenders cover just the purchase of machinery.

The Bottom Line

SBA loan programs can be a good option if you need funding to open and operate a franchise business. Both 7(a) loans and 504/CDC loans can provide the funding to purchase needed materials and real estate or increase working capital to use on an SBA-approved franchise.

Depending on your needs, timeline, and franchise, you may want to pursue other funding options such as traditional loans. No matter which funding option you choose, keep your documents organized and consider consulting a financial advisor for more specific guidance for your situation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you register a franchise with the SBA?

You may want to open a franchise that isn’t on the SBA franchise directory. In this case, you can submit a brand for review by providing franchise documentation, a disclosure form, and other relevant material required by the SBA. You should also include the franchisor’s contact information.

How hard is it to get an SBA franchise loan?

SBA loans are intended to be more accessible to small businesses than traditional loans. The process to receive an SBA franchise loan is similar to applying for a traditional business loan. You’ll be approved based on a number of factors, including the size of your business as well as the brand of the franchise, among others.

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