Empire Flippers and FE International are two of the largest online business brokers in terms of total sales amount and they are both great resources for buying or selling niche sites.
In this article, I will compare these brokers across 11 important categories and explain which one I think is best for most niche site investors.
Let’s get into it!
Empire Flippers vs FE International
|Empire Flippers||FE International|
|Commissions||15% up to $700K||15% up to $500K*|
|Buyer’s Fee||$0||2.5% (max of $1,000)|
|Exclusivity Agreement||2 months||90 days|
* FEI doesn’t publish a specific commission rate scale but their CEO has said that the commission rate is lower for larger deals (an example provided was 10% for a $500k sale).
What is FE International?
Founded in 2010, FE International is an M&A firm and online business broker with over 100 employees who specialize in helping online business owners sell their mid-sized SaaS, eCommerce, or content business. The list prices are typically around 6-figures or above with some listings in the 8-figures.
They excel in building relationships with people in the online business community and even host in-person events like a VIP networking event on the Venetian Lady yacht in Miami. They can leverage their network to sell sites very quickly (sometimes before they even go to listing).
They also have physical offices in several international financial centers like New York, San Francisco, Miami, and London.
FE International reports a 94.1% success rate and has closed over 1,000 business acquisitions.
What is Empire Flippers?
Empire Flippers is an online business broker and vetted marketplace that helps online business owners sell their businesses. The minimum list price is around $60,000 (they require a monthly profit of at least $2,000 over a 12-month average) and the prices go up to as high as 8 figures.
They have a slightly smaller team of around 90 remote employees who are located around the world. They are a distributed company without a physical office location. Empire Flippers reports a 72% success rate and have sold over 2,000 online businesses.
1. What Types Of Websites Are Offered?
FE International and Empire Flippers offer three main types of online businesses for sale:
FEI specializes mainly in SaaS businesses, so content websites make up a small portion of their listings. There may only be a handful of content websites for sale on FE International at any given time.
Empire Flippers offers similar types of online businesses as FE International with the main difference being that they offer significantly more content websites.
Empire Flippers have the largest number of content website listings of any broker in the industry and there are typically dozens of content sites available at any given time. New content site listings are added every Monday at 10 am EST.
2. What Are The Sale Price Multiples?
FE International uses multiples that are about average for the industry while Empire Flippers tend to price listings at a multiple higher than the industry average.
In February 2023, the average multiple for content sites on Empire Flippers was 39.7x (price/profit) for 72 content sites.
3. Which Broker Is Larger?
Empire Flippers is a larger brokerage in terms of the number of listings and frequency of new listings. Their total sales volume was over $439 million as of January 2023.
FE International has far fewer listings but is larger in terms of total sales amount (over $1 billion) because they tend to work on large deals including several 8-figure transactions.
4. Who Has A Lower Commission Structure When Selling?
Both brokers have a standard 15% sales commission or success fee that is paid by the seller. The sales commission decreases for larger deals in the mid-6 figures.
FE International doesn’t provide a specific commission rate breakdown but they say the rate is lower on larger deals (the example provided was a 10% commission rate for a $500,000 website).
Empire Flippers have a stacked commission rate:
- 15% on the first $700,000
- 8% on the amount between $700,000 – $5,000,000.
- 2.5% on the amount above $5,000,000.
FE International also has a 2.5% buyers fee (maximum $1,000). They are the only broker that charges a buyer’s fee. The buyer’s fee covers administrative and legal work such as the custom Asset Purchase Agreement (Empire Flippers does not provide a custom APA).
With FE International, sellers and buyers split the escrow fees via Escrow.com which is typically just under 1% of the total purchase price. For Empire Flippers deals, there are no escrow fees because they hold the funds like an escrow service.
5. What Listing Information Is Provided?
The basic information provided for each listing from both brokers included:
- Asking price
- Website traffic
Both FE International and Empire Flippers hide the website URLs from public view for the seller’s protection.
To view the URL on FE International, the potential buyer needs to send a request for information via a webform on the listing page. Potential buyers are required to pass a background check and sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) for a period of two years. The NDA applies to all listings at FE International. They may also need to provide proof of funds.
Requests are manually reviewed by an agent at FE International so it can take a few business days to receive the requested information on a listing. Some buyers complain that the response time by FE International is frustratingly slow.
To view the URL on Empire Flippers is very quick and approval is automated. Empire Flippers users can unlock a limited number of listings based on the amount of cash funds that have been verified by a review of financial documentation. If the listing price is below the “Maximum Unlock Listing Price”, then the listing will be unlocked and they can access the URL, P&L, Google Analytics access, and other additional information.
Due to the high number of users on Empire Flippers, there will be some window shoppers and potential competitors that will be able to see your domain name.
Google Analytics Access
The brokers differ in how they provide Google Analytics access to potential buyers. FE International only provides GA access when an LOI (letter of intent) has been signed.
Conversely, Empire Flippers automatically provide GA access within minutes after the listing is unlocked by a user.
6. What Due Diligence Details Are Provided?
FE International conducts preliminary pre-listing due diligence, which includes checking the accuracy of the financials. They also assist with the buyers’ due diligence process after an offer has been accepted by ensuring that the buyer gets all the information they need to perform their own advanced due diligence.
Prospective buyers also receive a prospectus from FE International, which includes a seller questionnaire about various parts of the business.
The types of seller questions include:
- Have you ever had any legal issues?
- How much time do you spend on the business per month?
- Can affiliate agreements be transferred at current commission tiers?
- What are the growth opportunities if you weren’t selling?
- Will current partnership arrangements continue with the new owner?
Empire Flippers does not perform extensive due diligence but it does perform basic vetting of websites to ensure that the stated income is legitimate. They also evaluate the traffic sources and check the legitimacy of the seller. 91% of submissions do not pass the vetting process and are not listed on the marketplace.
Instead of a questionnaire, Empire Flippers provides an audio interview with the seller for many of the listings (46% of content sites in April 2022 had an audio interview).
You do not need to unlock the listing to listen to the seller interview which is also published on the Empire Flipper’s YouTube channel. The audio interview provides a good way to get to know the person behind the listing.
When a potential buyer unlocks a listing on Empire Flippers, they can also access a detailed P&L (profit and loss) statement which includes discretionary expenses or “add back” expenses.
7. What Communication Methods Are Available With Sellers?
Both brokers respond to inquiries from potential buyers on the seller’s behalf.
When FEI finds a qualified buyer who is interested in making an offer, FE International arranges a conference call between the two parties.
Empire Flippers mediates a conference call with sellers and buyers for listings priced above $100,000. Potential buyers can schedule the conference call directly on the website.
You can also submit text questions to the seller on the Empire Flippers website.
8. What Legal Support Is Provided?
FE International requires that potential buyers sign an NDA valid for two years before they receive access to detailed information about listings. The NDA applies to all listings on FE International.
Letter of Intent
When an offer is made and accepted, FE International drafts a letter of intent. After the LOI has been signed by the buyer and seller, the advanced diligence process will start.
Empire Flippers doesn’t make interested buyers sign an LOI because they believe it has disadvantages that can slow down the sale process. Instead, potential buyers can “unlock” a listing to gain full access to all the information available for a specific listing.
Asset Purchase Agreement
FEI drafts an Asset Purchase Agreement (APA) that is legally binding and formalizes specifics of the deal such as assets to be transferred, non-compete duration, and post-sale training.
9. How Is The Website Transfer Handled?
To start the website transfer process, FE International requires that the buyer deposits cash into an escrow account. Empire Flippers requires a bank wire to be sent to Empire Flippers’ account.
Once the funds have been sent by the buyer, both brokers will assist with the transfer of the website or online business.
FE International manages the transfer process to ensure that assets are transferred according to the APA (Asset Purchase Agreement).
Empire Flippers have a dedicated team to handle website migrations and they take care of migrating both the website content and setting up monetization for the buyer. They have completed over 1,000 migrations of websites or online businesses.
10. Inspection Period
FE International has an inspection period of around 5 days during which the buyer can verify that the assets are received without a legitimate misrepresentation.
Empire Flippers has a 14-day inspection period that allows the buyer to cancel the transaction (or renegotiate) if revenue is less than 50% of the amount that was advertised.
If an Empire Flippers listing is using a premium display ad network like AdThrive or Mediavine, the sale can be reversed or renegotiated if the new owner is unable to get approved to join the network.
11. Post Sale Support
FE International buyers typically receive 20 hours of support from the seller over the period of a month and a longer training period can be negotiated if needed. FE International can structure a training holdback for larger deals to ensure that the post-sale training is provided. In addition to support from the seller, FE International says they are “happy to provide our buyers and sellers with as much support as they need for as long as they need it.”
Empire flippers sellers typically agree to 30 days of post-sale support via email or calls to help the new owner make a smooth transition.
My FE International Summary
FE International provides high-touch service for sellers with a very high success rate (94%).
On the buying side, the buyer’s fee, low volume of content sites for sale, and slower access to listing information are disadvantages that make FE International a less valuable resource for most website buyers.
- Strong relationships with potential buyers that have large budgets.
- High success rate for selling listings.
- They take care of the website migration.
- They draft legal documents like the Asset Purchase Agreement.
- Free valuation of your website.
- Few content site listings.
- Escrow fees and buyer fees will add to costs.
- Buyers need to jump through some hoops to view full information on a listing (e.g., NDA, background check).
- Need to work with an agent to get information and a response can take days.
My Empire Flippers Summary
Empire Flippers also offers a high-touch service for sellers with some automation that speeds up the sale process. They seem less selective than FE International but are more selective than most other brokers (91% rejection rate on submissions).
For sellers, Empire Flippers offers higher price multiples and a larger pool of potential buyers compared to FE International.
For buyers, they offer a steady flow of content sites, no buyers fees, no escrow fees, and quick access to full information on a listing via an automated system.
- A large pool of potential buyers.
- Easy, automated access to full information about listings.
- Easy to schedule a conference call with the seller through the website.
- No escrow or buyer fees.
- They take care of the website migration.
- 14-day inspection period with a guarantee of at least 50% of stated revenue.
- Short exclusivity period of 2 months.
- Free valuation of your website.
- Lots of people may access your URL and some may become competitors.
- Doesn’t draft a custom Asset Purchase Agreement for the buyer and seller.
- Higher sales commission that a marketplace like Flippa.
When comparing these two brokers, I would recommend Empire Flippers as the best option when buying websites and when selling.
The exception is that FE International may have better success selling very large content sites (around $1 million) due to their existing relationships and experience working on large deals.