SELLER FINANCING: It Makes Dollars and Sense

by Tom West
Founder of the IBBA
Publisher: Business Brokerage Press

When contemplating the sale of a business, an important option to consider is seller financing. Many potential buyers don’t have the necessary capital or lender resources to pay cash. Even if they do, they are often reluctant to put such a hefty sum of cash into what, for them, is a new and untried venture.

Why the hesitation? The typical buyer feels that, if the business is really all that it’s advertised to be, it should pay for itself. Buyers often interpret the seller’s insistence on all cash as a lack of confidence–in the business, in the buyer’s chances to succeed, or both.

The buyer’s interpretation has some basis in fact. The primary reason sellers shy away from offering terms is their fear that the buyer will be unsuccessful. If the buyer should cease payments–for any reason–the seller would be forced either to take back the business or forfeit the balance of the note.

The seller who operates under the influence of this fear should take a hard look at the upside of seller financing. Statistics show that sellers receive a significantly higher purchase price if they decide to accept terms. On average, a seller who sells for all cash receives 69.9 percent of the asking price. This adds up to a 15.8 percent difference on a business listed for $150,000, meaning that the seller who is willing to accept terms will receive approximately $24,000 more than the seller who is asking for all cash. The seller who asks for cash receives, on average, a purchase price of 36 percent of annual sales; compared to the seller accepting terms, who receives an average of 42 percent of annual sales.

Even with these compelling reasons to accept terms, sellers may still be reluctant. Selling a business can be perceived as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hit the cash jackpot. Therefore, it is important to note that seller financing has advantages that, in many instances, far outweigh the immediate satisfaction of cash-in-hand.

Seller financing greatly increases the chances that the business will sell. The seller offering terms will command a much higher price.
The interest on a seller-financed deal will add significantly to the actual selling price. (For example, a seller carry-back note at eight percent carried over nine years will double the amount carried. Over a nine-year period, $100,000 at eight percent will result in the seller receiving $200,000.

With interest rates currently the lowest in years, sellers can get a much higher rate from a buyer than they can get from any financial institution.

The tax consequences of accepting terms can be much more advantageous than those of an all-cash sale.

Financing the sale helps assure the success of both the sale and the business, since the buyer will perceive the offer of terms as a vote of confidence.

Obviously, there are no guarantees that the buyer will be successful in operating the business. However, it is well to note that, in most transactions, buyers are putting a substantial amount of personal cash on the line–in many cases, their entire capital. Although this investment doesn’t insure success, it does mean that the buyer will work hard to support such a commitment.

There are many ways to structure the seller-financed sale that make sense for both buyer and seller. Creative financing is an area where your business broker professional can be of help. He or she can recommend a variety of payment plans that, in many cases, can mean the difference between a successful transaction and one that is not. Serious sellers owe it to themselves to consider financing the sale. By lending a helping hand to sellers, they will, in most cases, be helping themselves as well.