Make us your home page

You might want to wait to sell your business

Think selling a house here is tough? Try selling a small business.

The median asking price for businesses for sale in the Tampa Bay area stands at $195,000. A year ago, at the end of the second quarter of 2008, the median asking price was $225,000.

"Clearly, this is the worst market for selling a business since we've been tracking quarterly data these two and a half years," says Mark Handelsman, general manager of, a national online business-for-sale marketplace based in San Francisco and part of LoopNet Inc.

BizBuySell boasts an inventory of more than 50,000 businesses for sale. More than 850 of those are based in the Tampa Bay area. The anemic sales climate for these businesses feels a lot like the climate for home sales.

Sellers still want too much. Buyers still offer too little.

No surprise, fewer deals nationwide are getting done. Year over year, Handelsman says he has seen a 50 percent drop in completed business sales. He cites two reasons for the sharp dropoff.

Many business owners are holding off on selling until the economy recovers. And thanks to tight credit conditions, buyers are finding it much tougher to find the financing to get a deal done.

"Even buyers trying to borrow money against their homes are finding it more difficult," Handelsman says.

In the three months ended June 30, 48 Tampa Bay area small businesses were sold at an average sales price of $120,000, down from their $127,000 average asking price. Some samples:

• An English pub in Pinellas County (asking $1.9 million, sold for $1.1 million).

• A Pasco maker of firearms accessories (asking $283,000, sold for $281,000).

• A Hillsborough office park deli/cafe (asking $22,000, sold for $18,500).

• A Pinellas liquor store (asking $675,000, sold for the same).

For the sake of nearby comparison, in an analysis of 37 completed business sales in Orlando in the second quarter, transactions averaged just $80,000, or 85 percent of their asking price.

In this economy, some types of small businesses naturally outdo others.

"Businesses that do better tend to depend less on discretionary income," Handelsman says. A high-end restaurant is less likely to succeed these days, for example, than a Subway sandwich franchise. And what of a health care service business that helps get the elderly to their dialysis appointment? "Those customers still need to get there," he says.

A big shift in the business-for-sale market is the sharp increase in seller financing. Before the credit crunch, a buyer typically would come up with 10 to 30 percent of the asking price in cash, then get a loan from a bank or the federal Small Business Administration for the rest.

No more. Handelsman says loans are harder to come by, forcing sellers to offer financing, typically loans ranging from three to five years. So a buyer offering 20 percent cash now might get an SBA loan for only 50 percent of the price, with the seller lending the remaining 30 percent.

There is a silver lining in all this, at least for the Tampa Bay area. While completed sales of businesses are down dramatically nationwide by 50 percent, BizBuySell figures show completed sales slipped only 20 percent in the Tampa Bay area in the second quarter compared with a year ago.

That puts the Tampa Bay area No. 3 in the nation, behind No. 1 Dallas and No. 2 Las Vegas, among metro areas most recently suffering the smallest declines in business sales.

Now, a 20 percent drop may not sound worthy of bragging about. But it sure beats places like Atlanta (down 62 percent), Miami (down 69 percent) or the country's worst metro area — Raleigh, N.C. — down a surprising 89 percent in the quarter from a year ago.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at or (727) 893-8405

You might want to wait to sell your business 07/18/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 18, 2009 4:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. SeaWorld shares drop Monday to 2017 low after disclosure of federal subpoena


    The Orlando parent company of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks saw its stock drop 3.5 percent Monday to $15.10, its lowest price of this year.

    Killer whales perform at Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld in Orlando in 2011, before public pressure was placed on the theme park company to curtail its orca shows.SeaWorld has since announced an end to the traditional killer whale entertainment  at its theme parks. [AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack]
  2. Rick Scott appoints longtime ally Jimmy Patronis as Florida CFO

    State Roundup
    Rick Scott appoints Jimmy Patronis (background) as CFO. [STEVE BOUSQUET | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. Local gas prices plummet as Fourth of July holiday travel approaches


    TAMPA — Local gas prices are enjoying an unseasonal dip around the $2 mark just in time for the hectic Fourth of July holiday travel weekend.

    The price of regular unleaded gasoline has dropped to $1.99 at a Rally station on Pasadena Ave. South and Gulfport Boulevard South, South Pasadena.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  4. Air bag recalls, lawsuits lead Takata to file for bankruptcy


    Shattered by recall costs and lawsuits, Japanese air bag maker Takata Corp. filed Monday for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., saying it was the only way it could keep on supplying replacements for faulty air bag inflators linked to the deaths of at least 16 people.

    Japanese air bag maker Takata Corp. CEO Shigehisa Takada bows during a press conference in Tokyo on Monday. Takata has filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., overwhelmed by lawsuits and recall costs related to its production of defective air bag inflators.
[(AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi]
  5. Airbag maker Takata bankruptcy filing expected in Japan, U.S.


    DETROIT — Japanese airbag maker Takata Corp. has filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., overwhelmed by lawsuits and recall costs related to its production of faulty air bag inflators.