Before you can get a traditional bank loan, you need to have collateral, generally in the form of your house although other assets including land, cars, watercraft, motorcycles and equipment that has a title of ownership can be used as collateral. Understand the risk involved with your business venture before you put up collateral–the bank will take your house, car or whatever else you put down if you default on your loan. Make sure you have an accurate assessment of what your collateral is worth before you apply for a loan so you don’t wind up unpleasantly surprised when your bank assumes it’s worth today’s market value, not the value that it was when you bought it. If you don’t have an asset to use as collateral or are uncomfortable with the idea, then you’ll want to seek out a source other than a bank for your business lending needs.

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You should approach small-business-loan shopping just as you would shopping for a car, says Suzanne Darden, a business consultant at the Alabama Small Business Development Center. Once you determine which type of lender and financing vehicle are right for you, compare two or three similar options based on annual percentage rate (total borrowing cost) and terms. Of the loans you qualify for, choose the one with the lowest APR, as long as you are able to handle the loan’s regular payments.
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