Several days ago a reader wrote me an email stating the bank she wants to borrow $50,000 from wants to encumber her personal residence as part of their collateral for the loan. She approached the California bank about loaning her money to buy a piece of equipment. Her business is a start-up that will use this piece of equipment to conduct services for other businesses.
This is a really touchy issue with me. My entire banking career has been in
I tried to do some research to determine how many states allow this practice and if there are any states that allow the use of personal residence with specific restrictions that may be important for borrowers to consider. I didn’t find any solid reliable data about this practice nationwide.
At first it might seem like the laws in states that do allow use of your primary residence as collateral on business loans is a good idea for the borrower. Many borrowers, especially start-up borrowers may have most of their net worth tied up in their residence. In the last 3-4 months I have assisted clients in
In each of my client’s cases they didn’t think to try to negotiate out their personal residence from the bank’s collateral at the time the loans were made. Perhaps they didn’t know the issue was negotiable. The truth is that a bank or some types of non-bank lenders will take every single piece of collateral they can to secure their loan, whether it makes sense or not.
I would give these pieces of advice to anyone seeking a business loan (especially in states where banks routinely want to take as collateral a personal residence).
Everything regarding what collateral the bank requires before the loan is negotiable. Once the loan is made it is close to impossible to get a piece of collateral released.
In the case of the business that wrote me, it seems fairly unreasonable for a bank to require as collateral the owner’s personal residence for a small $50,000 loan where the equipment being financed is brand new and has a decent orderly liquidation value. There are banks in the market today all over the country that are making $50,000 loans unsecured with simply the personal guarantee of the borrower.
For financing a piece of equipment there are better options than risking your personal residence by giving it up as collateral. Seek a leasing solution. Lessors do secure their lease with collateral, but it is normally limited to the piece of equipment being financed.
If you have rental property, raw land, or a vacation home that has equity offer one or more of those properties as collateral rather than your personal residence.
What has happened over the years is instead of benefiting the borrower by using their personal residence as collateral on a business loan, it has become the defacto standard for banks to require it. To me this is a poor way for a commercial bank to act. It is important the bank have enough collateral to support their loan, but often when they take the “blanket” approach they may have 200% or more value of collateral to loan coverage.
For a small loan like the reader is requesting, a credit union that makes business loans might be a more suitable solution then a bank. Credit Unions (because they are member owned) are much more likely to exclude personal residences from their collateral requirements because they like me often feel it is unreasonable to ask for a personal residence as collateral.
Lastly, small business owners risk financial ruin when they begin a business, often under-capitalized. The owner should want to feel secure that even if his business fails he won’t become homeless.
It is important to have this conversation about collateral fairly early in the process of requesting a loan. Find out if your state is one that allows use of equity in the owner’s primary residence as collateral. Then ask your banker what their bank’s position is on the topic. Investigate other sources of loans such as loans from CDFI lenders and leasing companies (if the financed collateral is leasable).
Sam Thacker is a partner in Austin Texas based Business Finance Solutions.
You may contact Sam directly at: email@example.com
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