If you are considering buying a business, you may have looked at prices of local businesses during a cursory search and wondered how you would raise the funds to buy one. In the vast majority of small business sales seller financing will be involved, which is great news for business buyers.
What is seller financing?
Seller financing happens when the business seller finances a part of the deal, essentially loaning the buyer a part of the purchase price.
Why does a buyer need to consider seller financing? Many buyers who are new to the business market initially look for traditional means of financing, like a loan from a bank. Unfortunately banks are often unwilling to finance small business deals.
Why? A bank typically only lends money if they are sure they will be repaid and if there is collateral equal to the amount loaned they can take possession of in the event of a default. A house fits this mold quite well, as a home buyer must prove steady income before getting a loan and the house itself will serve as collateral because the bank can sell the house without having to take a loss (because the home will not lose value simply because the ownership changed).
This is not the case with a small business. When a small business changes hands, in the eyes of a traditional lender the very experienced management/ownership is being replaced by new (and therefore inexperienced) management/ownership. In addition, the value of a business is not just found in the tangible assets alone, so a bank would not be able to recoup any losses by selling the business if a new owner defaults on their loan.
What this means for the business market is traditional financing is highly unlikely, so if a business seller wants to get a deal done they can either wait for the ever-illusive all-cash offer, or they can offer to finance part of the deal.
What does a deal using seller financing look like? The answer is it really can look like almost anything. Typically the buyer must come with a substantial down payment, and the deal is structured so in the event of a default on the financing, the seller takes back the business. Many seller financing deals also include provisions where inventory must be kept at a certain level (so the seller wouldn’t have to replace the inventory after taking the business back).
Why is seller financing great for buyers? First and foremost, it allows buyers to buy businesses that would be beyond the reach of those without a substantial amount of cash. Second, it forces a seller to keep some “skin in the game”, meaning the seller has a vested interest in keeping the business going and profitable long after the business changes hands, otherwise they won’t get paid back. Sellers who are willing to offer financing will typically be much more helpful for a new owner with regards to training and motivated to build the business with an eye on the future.
If you are a buyer interested in looking at businesses where seller financing is an option, talk to your business broker. They will be able to find a business that will fit with your goals.
Are you a buyer who has more questions about seller financing? Would you like to know what a seller financing deal would look like for you? Please feel free to leave us a comment or question, and we would be happy to help.