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. There's a bar in Tampa where you can roller skate and eat sushi

    Food & Dining

    Roller skating, it's not just for kids birthday parties and the 1970s anymore.

    The exterior of Pattinis features this mural by Art Aliens! [Pattinis South Tampa via Facebook]
  2. Lockdown: Florida's 97,000 prison inmates confined through weekend

    State Roundup

    All of Florida's 97,000 state prison inmates are on lockdown — and will remain confined to their dorms at least through the weekend — in response to unspecified threats about possible uprisings, officials from the Florida Department of Corrections confirmed Thursday.

    Blackwater River Correctional Facility. [Florida Department of Corrections]
  3. Carnival announces five more cruises from Tampa to Cuba


    TAMPA — Carnival Cruise Line is adding five more cruises from Tampa to Cuba in 2018, Port Tampa Bay announced Thursday.

      Carnival Cruise Line announced additional cruises to  Cuba. Pictured is its Paradise cruise ship departing on its inaugural voyage to Cuba from Tampa. | [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
  4. Engage Behavioral Health expands into Wesley Chapel


    On Aug. 5, Engage Behavioral Health celebrated the grand opening of a new clinic in Wesley Chapel.

    hillsevbiz081117: Jennifer Phelps is the CEO & Founder of Engage Behavioral Health. Photo courtesy of Engage Behavioral Health.
  5. Former owner of Sirata Beach Resort purchases two Tampa Bay shopping centers

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — After selling the Sirata Beach Resort and Conference in February, Nicklaus of Florida, Inc., has purchased two Tampa Bay shopping centers to diversify the firm's portfolio in the area. Colliers International, representing the sellers, announced the transaction this week.

    Sirata Beach Resort and Conference Center, one of Tampa Bay's last family-owned beach hotels, was sold to a Texas-based company, Crescent Real Estate LLC for $108.19 million. [LARA CERRI | Times]