A Practical Guide to Seller Financing

A Practical Guide to Seller Financing

A Practical Guide to Seller Financing

Selling a business is one thing, getting paid on the sale is another.  The options available for financing the deal are dependent on the business and the buyer. Here are some things to be aware of if you find yourself with a chance to sell your business.

Seller Financing:  The good, the bad and the uh oh

Seller Financing as the ONLY Financing

The Good:

  1. Seller provided financing opens the sale up to a wider range of buyers (though not necessarily higher quality buyers).
  2. Without a 3rd party lender (SBA, Bank, etc) the deal can likely get to closing faster than if bank financed
  3. Buyer usually isn’t as price sensitive since there usually isn’t a 3rd party valuation
  4. You may be able to cross-collateralize or obtain cross default agreements to tie up assets.
  5. If you get a personal guaranty from buyer you may have better chance to get paid.

The Bad:

  1. If the buyer defaults on the note it can be expensive to try to collect
  2. If you worry as much about the note payment as you did about the business are you any better off?
  3. Unless done properly there can be all kinds of tax issues

The Uh, Oh:

  1. If the buyer has a lease on facility you may need a landlord subordination agreement or you won’t be able to get to the collateral or worse, you might have to pay the back rent in order to get to your collateral.


  1. Get the landlord subordination agreement at the time of the sale.
  2. If you can, cross default the lease and note so that if buyer is in default on either they are in default on both.
  3. Make certain to file a UCC1 on the collateral assets so the whole world knows your note needs to be paid before the assets can be sold.
  4. Try to get a really high default interest rate on the note so that the financial pain of default is high.
  5. Consider a sub-lease to the buyer rather than buyer getting a new lease. That way you retain control of the facility and can act faster if you need to intervene.
  6. Try to get collateral other than business assets. Does buyer have a vacation home? Other assets?
  7. Guarantors – get as many guarantors as possible also make sure spouse signs guaranty if required in your state.
  8. Require buyer to provide financial statements and tax returns to you for as long as the buyer owes you money so you can keep an eye on the business health.

Seller Financing with Other Types of Financing

SBA Loans with subordinated Seller note:

The Good:

  1. The Bank is likely to screen the buyer more thoroughly than most sellers
  2. The seller note is likely to be less than 10% of the total selling price.

The Bad:

  1. The bank will look very carefully at the business cash flow (several years), seller financials need to be in good order.
  2. Bank will require a 3rd party valuation to make sure the price the buyer and seller agreed to is fair.
  3. SBA limits any “after the sale” arrangements between buyer and seller.
  4. The seller note will likely have a period (usually 2 years) whereby the seller gets NO payments and only interest accrues.
  5. If buyer defaults on seller note the Bank will limit what actions the seller can take to get paid.

The Uh, Oh:

  1. Because of the restrictions in the bank subordination agreement the seller note is usually the first obligation that goes unpaid.
  2. If the seller stops paying you it’s usually a sign of other significant problems with the business.
  3. If the buyer stops paying the note the seller recourse is basically limited to enforcing the personal guaranty.

Revolvers (also known as Asset Based Loans) – with associated seller note

Definitions: a “revolver” is a bank loan or financing company loan that gets adjusted every month (or week or even day). These revolvers are tied to accounts receivable (a/r) and/or inventory and are a % of those items. For example a common revolver term is a bank loans the business up to 70% of current accounts receivables and/or 20% of good inventory at cost.  (The a/r % is high because a/r is highly liquid and can be collected quickly. Inventory is much more difficult to liquidate and has high costs associated with liquidation i.e., warehousing, transportation, auction costs etc.)

The Good:

  1. A revolver is flexible in that if funds cashflow when the business is growing.
  2. A revolver usually has fewer covenants.
  3. The “credit worthiness” of the business is less stringent than normal bank standards

The Bad:

  1. The seller note will lose a/r and inventory as collateral.
  2. The revolver lender usually can “pull the plug” at any moment
  3. The cost to the borrower can be significantly more expensive than an SBA term loan.

The Uh, oh:

  1. Revolver loans normally have many fees and opportunities for lender to squeeze a few more dollars out of borrower
  2. Revolvers are famous for high cancellation fees if you want out of the deal.

Credit Card Loans Against Receipts – along with seller financing

Description – With these loans a lender “forecasts” your credit card receipts and lends you money in advance, then when the customer credit cards are process for the business sales then the money is redirected to lender to pay off the loan they advanced. Generally speaking these loans are used for retail stores, restaurants, etc with high % of credit cards sales and highly predictable and regular sales. Take the time to calculate the real costs of this kind of financincing, it can get expensive quickly.

The Good:

  1. If you have high volume of regular credit card sales these loans are not difficult to obtain
  2. The cashflow is steady

The Bad:

  1. These loans can be very expensive
  2. The CC lender gets paid before the seller note by taking their money out of the sales revenue.

The Uh, oh:

  1. Because these loans have a claim on all revenue it is very unlikely any other 3rd parties would provide financing.
  2. The process of payment takes control of cashflow out of biz owners hands (which could be a good thing in some cases)

If you are selling a business you’ll need to risk adjust the price depending on the financing structure that the buyer and seller agree to. Also, make sure to get good legal and accounting advice to understand what the net value is. And finally, look closely at the risks associated with any financing arrangements.

Sunbelt Completes Sale of Medical Products Companies

We are pleased to announce the sale of two related companies. One is a 40 year old manufacturer of medical lotions, the other is a research company focused on medical lotions and compounds.

The products are manufactured in an FDA regulated facility in Houston, Texas.

The company is in it’s 3rd generation of family management but the time had come to bring in outside investment. The current leader, the grandson of the founder, will remain in an executive position with the new ownership.

These deal was complex due to the regulatory requirements of the FDA, the substantial intellectual property that had accumulated over the businesses 40 year history and the always challenging dynamics of multi-generational ownership.




Where can I find information about buying a business in a specific industry?

As we all know the web has a lot of information but often it is hard to sort through the mass to get to the finer topics.

Every Friday, on internet radio, there is a 1 hour broadcast that deals with buying a business in a specific industry. This week’s show (1pm cst, noon eastern) is about trucking companies. These shows feature industry specialists who can provide true insights into the good and bad to look for in a business.

Also, on the Entrepreneurial Insights website there is a menu of many previous shows and the industries they cover. You can replay those shows at your leisure.

Take a look…….and listen to Entrepreneurial Insights , you can visit and replay the broadcast anytime but the live broadcasts are Fridays at 1pm central.

Thinking about buying a business? Here’s a way to figure what is possible

If you want to own your own small business there are really only two ways to get into business. You can start a business from scratch, often called a start-up. Or you can buy an existing business from a business owner who is ready to sell their business.

There is much written about starting a business. The biggest problem with a start-up is in the time it takes a start-up to become cash flow positive and unfortunately many never become cash flow positive and they fold.
Buying an existing business is often a good choice. If you do it right you can be cash flow positive immediately and financing for purchasing a business is often very favorable. In a previous post I wrote about “Why would someone sell be their perfectly good business?” and it talks about why business owners choose to sell good businesses.

If you want to buy an existing, profitable, business you need to answer a couple of questions about your situation before you begin your search.

First, how much money do you have available for a down payment before borrowing any money from any banks, credit cards, etc. It will be very, very difficult to buy a good business without a down payment.

Second, what’s the minimum amount of money you need to make from the business to live on once you buy the business.

If those two numbers are reasonably close to each other you have a decent shot at buying a business.

Here is a “typical” deal:

Business earnings (Seller’s Discretionary Earnings)  $75,000
Selling Price of business   $200,000
Down payment    $50,000
Earnings/Salary you need  $50,000
Get an SBA Loan for $150,000
Annual Payments for your SBA Loan $20,500 (10 years @ 6.5%)

Business earnings $75,000 – $20,500 (debt payments) = $54,500 to you the new owner.

Also, when thinking about your down payment there is a mechanism to use you 401(k) funds to buy a business without incurring early withdrawal penalties nor tax obligations.

If you want to be in business for yourself it’s always a good idea to get informed and look at all your options.

SBA Loans have new underwriting policy

A few days ago the SBA came out with a new lending policy to be used when buying a business. Business brokers are very excited about this change since it will facilitate more financing for small business purchases. About 15 months ago the SBA made a draconian change in their underwriting that eliminated business acquisition financing for goodwill in excess of $250,000. This 2008 policy change effectively dried up SBA lending for buying a business sales. Small business financing is a unique problem since the loans are usually not large enough for lenders to make much profit.

SBA loans are a very important part of the small business financing options. The newly released SBA business loan policy allows up to $500,000 in goodwill financing or if the buyer puts up at least 25% in equity the goodwill limit is uncapped.

This policy change is important because the goodwill value in the transaction is an indication of a highly profitable business.

SBA loans are back and business buyers and sellers will be more able transfer business ownership to retain jobs and help their communities grow.

When buying a small business – Allocation of Purchase price is important!

Allocation of Purchase Price is done for tax purposes when buying the assets of a small business. The allocation is important because it effects how the person buying a business and the person selling a business will be taxed and what deductions are possible.

Always do the allocation of purchase price before closing the transaction, it’s real money! Business brokers should be able to provide you details and the appropriate IRS form 8594.

Here are the issues:

  1. Buyer wants shortest depreciation schedule for acquired assets.
  2. Seller wants tax treatment at capital gains rates, not ordinary income
  3. Buyer wants to write up value in hard assets so buyer can deduct more in depreciation
  4. Seller does NOT want to write up assets because it triggers depreciation recapture and tax at ordinary income rates
  5. Goodwill and intangible assets are 15 year write off for buyer and cap gains rate for seller.

A good allocation of purchase price can reduce the total amount paid for a business after tax, and after tax is all we really care about, right? Same issue for seller, a good allocation of purchase price can maximize the after tax benefit to seller.

For buyer the difference is WHEN they can deduct the price, for the seller it’s the difference between cap gains rates and ordinary income! Big difference!!

Talk to your business broker about how to address this issue in any offers.