How to Find Businesses That Are for Sale by Owner

by Felicia Greene ; Updated September 26, 2017
Proud business owner standing with bicycle in bike shop

A business owner may decide to sell a business for several reasons. Maybe his plans and priorities have changed. Perhaps his income and expenses have not been encouraging, and he doesn’t want to continue. Although some business owners enlist a business broker to market the business, others opt to find a buyer themselves. If you’re on the buying end, there are several ways to find a business to purchase.

Ask well-connected colleagues for recommendations. A successful business owner tends to form professional and personal relationships in the larger community. These relationships can be developed in the workplace, at local places of worship, or within a volunteer civic group. Ask colleagues to look for businesses that may be coming up for sale, or whose owners have recently discussed disbanding the company.

Get leads from the local chamber of commerce. An active local chamber is an invaluable part of the business community. Chambers of commerce publicize business openings and expansions, conduct networking events and serve as a central conduit for economic development within their service areas. Chamber staff may receive advance notice of changes in the status of a member business.

Look for “Business for Sale” signs and ads. Once you’ve decided what type of businesses interest you, visit those businesses as an anonymous customer. Gather information on the physical location, general appearance and level of traffic you observe. While you’re there, look for “Business for Sale” signs on the window or posted within the store.

In addition, keep an eye on the “Business for Sale” ads in the classified section of the local newspaper. If the ad provides the business’s location, pay the shop an anonymous visit to see if you want to pursue the opportunity further.

Conduct some “due diligence” on your prospects. Once you’ve developed a short list of businesses that might be for sale, and that also intrigue you, do some research on those companies. Check the company's website for information about the business. Contact your local Better Business Bureau for any complaints about those companies. Check your city’s zoning and tax offices for publicly available information on the business’s operations. Collect as much advance information as possible, and decide which business opportunity you want to actively pursue.

About the Author

Based in North Carolina, Felicia Greene has written professionally since 1986. Greene edited sailing-related newsletters and designed marketing programs for the New Bern, N.C. "Sun Journal" and New Bern Habitat ReStore. She earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Baltimore.

Photo Credits

  • FogStock/Vico Images/Erik Palmer/FogStock/Getty Images
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