Secure SBA funding for hotel projects

TMC Financing & SBA 504 hotel loans offer attractive alternative to tight lending

As published in The Scotsman Guide:

After a long struggle through the economic downturn, the hotel industry finally has seen signs of recovery — particularly in improving lodging and hotel occupancy rates nationwide. Despite these positive trends, the availability of commercial financing remains a problem for many hoteliers. As a result, many hotel owners have turned to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) 504 loan program as a viable alternative to conventional financing.

Commercial mortgage brokers who work with hotel properties should be aware that their hospitality sector clients may be good candidates for SBA lending. Because of today’s property values and historically low interest rates, buying a property is more affordable than ever. To help these clients secure SBA 504 funding, brokers must be aware of the program basics and how it can be used for hotel properties. The SBA 504 program provides businesses with long-term, below-market,fixed-rate commercial financing with a low downpayment.

Consider:

  1. Equity injection: A lthough SBA 504 loans typically involve a 10 percent injection by the borrower, hotels qualify as “special purpose” buildings and require a 15 percent equity injection. Compared with a conventional loan where a 25 percent to 35 percent equity injection typically is required, an SBA 504 loan helps to preserve cash for other purposes like sales, marketing or continued growth.

  2. Uses: SBA 504 loan proceeds can be used for property acquisition, renovation or construction.

  3. Loan structure: SBA 504 loans consist of a first mortgage from a conventional lender and a second mortgage from a certified development company — a nonprofit corporation that promotes economic development within its community through 504 loans. Because the bank’s participation, or loan to value, is lower than itwould be under conventional terms, the 504 loan structure enables many lenders to offer better rates and terms. In many cases, the SBA 504 structure helps hospitality businesses to get funding for projects that otherwise might not have funded.

The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 introduced significant changes to the 504 program. The act increased the 504 maximum loan limits significantly, allowing larger companies to receive larger loans. In addition, there is no cap on the amount of the first-mortgage loan provided by the conventional lender, and the SBA second-mortgage loan cap has been increased from $2 million to $5 million. Projects that incorporate energy savings may be eligible for $5.5 million under the SBA’s green energy policy.

The Jobs Act also increased the size of businesses eligible for financing under the 504 program. A business now is eligible if it has as much as $15 million in tangible net worth — regardless of its sales volume — and average after-tax earnings of as much as $5 million for the past two years.

Because credit availability through conventional lenders likely will remain unpredictable for the foreseeable future, the SBA has stepped up to fill the funding gap. Commercial mortgage brokers may come across hotel owners who are looking to expand or purchase new properties, and many of them are interested in how the SBA 504 loan program can help. •