For savvy business investors, digital assets are the new real estate. Buying and selling websites is big business with room for small and big players.
Today we’re taking an in-depth look at a company of just 6 people – and that’s including the founder.
Despite their nimble team size, Website Properties are no small fry when it comes to selling online businesses and regularly broker 6, 7, and even 8 figure deals.
Let’s look at this ambitious boutique broker in much more detail and see if they’re a good fit for you.
Key statistics about Website Properties
- Average annual multiple on website business sold: 3.5 to 4X
- Average time the listing is on their market before sale: 6 to 8 weeks
- Typical value of listings for sale: they vary wildly, from $250k to $25 Million and more
- Increase in online business sales expected in 2022 and beyond: 19%
What are the 3 Major Benefits of Website Properties?
1. Legacy and focus
Founder of Website Properties – David Fairley – has been in the business of selling websites since 2002 with over 500 businesses sold worth hundreds of millions of dollars. His work in the industry pre-dates even the likes of Empire Flippers and Flippa and Website Properties has a very strong track record of success for its clients (an impressive 85% closure rate)
Additionally, the vast majority of their sales focus only on online businesses – with only very rarely a bricks-and-mortar company for sale on their marketplace.
2. Thorough client managed services.
- Thorough preparation
- Professional appraisal marketing
- Facilitating safe and secure transactions
3. They’re a full service broker who make it easy for clients
Their system and experience make the process for the buyer and seller as smooth as possible. If you’re selling a website, they take time to evaluate it before getting it ready for sale. This means their staff does the majority of the heavy lifting in getting your business in front of willing buyers.
They’ll also offer advice to anyone selling an online business with them as to how they can best present their company online – including advice on how to increase its value pre-sale.
In summary, they handle everything from:
- Getting to know your company and its goals
- Evaluating your company’s P&L’s to determine its market worth
- Marketing your company to the right people
- Handling all queries
- Qualifying possible buyers
- Finding the perfect buyer to conclude the purchase
What Types of Online Businesses Are Offered for Sale?
Amazon FBA, SaaS, E-commerce, or any other online business that they accept to sell. In an interview with Domain Sherpa, the company’s founder David says they tend to sell businesses with more sophisticated metrics than those found on the likes of Flippa.com.
He looks to accept businesses to sell that have strong financial fundamentals, growing industry trends, and something his company can comfortably back while maintaining its strong reputation in the industry. David estimates that – based on this strict criteria – that Website Properties turns down about 80% of the companies who approach them to act as a broker.
I looked at the website to get a feel for their marketplace and saw a nice variety of online businesses.
There was a jewelry products eCommerce business for sale:
An Amazon FBA site:
A Digital Agency specializing in web design and SEO services for $400,000:
And one that really jumped out to me (and confirmed that Website Properties aren’t likely to deal with newbies looking for a quick flip) was this listing. A digital currency mining business with an asking price of a scroll stopping $60 million.
What are the Commission Fees?
My research on this found it to be an average of 10% – which seems to be very reasonable given their high standards. Compare this to – for example – Motion Invest who seek 20% commission for websites they sell.
Just to note that this 10% commission covers businesses up to a value of $2.5 million only – but that should be a big a high enough limit for the vast majority of clients on the site.
Anything beyond $2.5 million has a negotiable commission fee that’s broken down as:
- $2.5 million to $5 million – 8% commission
- $5 million to $10 million – 6% commission
- Over $10 million – 5% commission
- There is a minimum they’ll work for too at $15,000, regardless of sale price. We feel this is still fair versus other broker’s fees.
Even better, with Website Properties, they will only take their commission fee if the sale is successful. This is indicative of the quality level of a business they look for before they decide to take it on. If the site doesn’t sell, they don’t make any money.
What does the Selling Process with Website Properties entail?
Website Properties will work with you to gain a thorough understanding of your company, its financial history, and any of its Unique Selling Points. A free evaluation of your company is done by a member of their team and they’ll request some essential data and paperwork, including:
- Basic information about your company and industry
- Details of Profit and Loss in your company. The last 36 months of monthly P&L statements are needed here.
- Website visitor statistics to your site and their country of origin
- Details about your database of customers – this includes any email lists you’ve built up.
- The pace of growth of your company and general trends in your niche.
What does the onboard process with Website Properties look like?
You will be contacted by one of their brokers to discuss your business and an exit plan. Their brokerage team is made up of internet entrepreneurs with over 50 years of combined industry experience, developing, operating and selling over 50 personally owned websites – this is in addition to the hundreds sold for their clients.
When you and your broker have mutually agreed to work together, and moving forward is a good fit, a service agreement will be drafted and their team then begins gathering your business information, details about your financials and working on your business prospectus
Some of the ways they collect information from you is through their seller questionnaire, detailed financials, business entity information, email correspondence and any other supporting documents that you may have that will help them present your business to the market
The more detailed information that you can provide helps them to understand the fundamentals of your business and represent it in the best light.
Upon receipt of these documents from you their team can then begin to build a company prospectus, which is a detailed document representing every aspect of your business.
The purpose of the prospectus is to introduce their clients to your business. It’s an overview of your business highlighting the basics in a concise and informative manner. At the same time their finance department will review the questionnaire along with the financials provided by you and work through any add backs to calculate the re-casted net income.
Back and forth communication
Typically there is back and forth communication with you to arrive at accurate and finalized figures. This is an important step as it paints a stable foundation and clear picture of your business. It can also make it exponentially more valuable to prospective buyers
Pricing is finalized
From here the broker will finalize the pricing with you and you will be sent the completed draft prospectus for review, feedback or changes and final approval. Now they have the finalized prospectus, the signed brokerage agreement and they are ready to go to the market to promote your business sale.
Behind the scenes their team will then build the listing ad, email announcement and text for the Business For Sale portals. Once your listing is posted live they will connect back with you to keep you updated as to the response. Your broker will also connect with you to answer any potential buyer’s questions or to let you know about any serious interest in your listing.
What listing information is provided publicly to everyone?
The listing will be shared on WebsiteProperties.com, all of their social channels, and their network of Business for Sale platforms. Examples of these platforms can be the likes of BizBuySell, BizQuest, and more.
Your listing will include:
- An overall description of the business. This is 2-3 paragraphs of key takeaways about the company.
- Key benefits (an examples here would be: “Year on Year Growth. Top ranking for many important search terms. Huge social media presence with over 800,000 followers combined”)
- The listing price, in both US dollars and Canadian
- A financial summary. A trailing 12 months (TTM) for both gross revenue and cash flow is listed
- Financial overview – this covers gross revenue, cash flow, year established, number of employees and what inventory, if any included.
- Other Information. This miscellaneous section covers the listing’s category, industry, location, if the company is home based or not, seller financing options and income sources.
- Growth potential and recommended strategy for the future owner.
- The advantages the company has over industry competitors.
- It will be posted to the over 120 partner websites’ listings.
- An email notice will be sent to their over 30,000-strong subscriber list.
- Website Properties’ brokers will additionally promote your company listing to their own industry network. Your listing’s data will be shared with anyone they believe would be a strong match for your company.
What vetting or due diligence is provided?
As mentioned above, David and his team only take on 20% of the companies they’re asked to list. They have strict due diligence criteria of what they’ll accept and what they know their database of buyers will like.
Additionally, when a buyer expresses interest, they must sign an NDA and request a copy of your company’s prospectus. Your agent will then answer inquiries from interested buyers, contact you to obtain any necessary responses and/or set up a group call to discuss the more granular points of your company.
4 steps of thorough checking
Step 1 – They go over the available profit and loss statements, as well as other information given by each seller, with their internal office personnel and with the seller personally.
Step 2 – They give what they think to be a fair depiction of the company’s operations after clearing any questions and completing all data based on their experience in this area and a series of talks with the seller.
Step 3 – Cash Basis, EBITDA, and Net Owner’s Compensation are the most common P&L formats assessed.
Step 4 – It is important to note that the financials have neither been audited nor are they guaranteed by Website Properties Prior to signing a Purchase Agreement, the buyer is responsible for conducting his or her own due diligence to verify all of the material to his or her satisfaction.
Letter of Intent
If a buyer is interested in buying your online business after evaluating and discussing the company specifics, the buyer will submit a written offer in the form of a Letter of Intent (LOI).
Your Broker will look through any offers with you, and if any of them appear to be a good fit, you will co-sign the LOI.
Introduction to the Buyer
Your Broker will introduce you to the Buyer as the next stage in the process so that you can interact directly and begin the due diligence process. The Buyer will then request third-party documentation from your company in order to support and validate the financials.
How is the migration of the business handled?
The final step is the signing of the Purchase Agreement and can be compared to a Purchase Agreement when buying a physical business or a home. An escrow service is used to finalize the closure.
When purchasing or selling an internet business, having an Escrow agent oversee the transfer and release of monies as well as certain assets under a Purchase Agreement is the best approach to safeguard both parties.
WebsiteProperties.com strongly advises employing an Escrow service to assist the deal closing terms, whether through a typical Escrow firm like Escrow.com, the buyer’s lender, or one party’s attorney.
What post-sale support is provided?
I’ve searched high and low for this piece of data and nothing is coming up. Based on this, it is to be presumed that Website Properties – like other brokers too to be fair – step out of the process at this stage.
Interview with Website Properties founder David Fairley
We took an in-depth listen to The Domain Magnate Show’s interview with David to learn more about him and Website Properties. Here are some takeaways from this insightful chat:
- David has been an internet entrepreneur since 1996 when he set up a hammock business, this company eventually acquired the Hammocks.com domain name and had a “high 6 figures exit”.
- It was in the selling of Hammocks.com that he had a “pretty harsh lesson of not knowing what you don’t know” and it kick-started a learning period of buying, selling and flipping websites. There was an “earn-out” in the agreement of the sale of Hammocks.com he wasn’t aware of initially. This spurred him on to represent people in a similar website selling position to him and to prevent them having a similar experience.
- Through that process he got more savvy to the industry and ended up organically helping other
friends and associates who were in the same space – and it all snowballed positively from there.
- Since that time he and Website Properties have done somewhere in the region of over half a billion dollars in gross sales and over 500 different deals.
- Says of the industry “it’s a pretty exciting and interesting space, it’s kept me engaged and fascinated for 20 years”
Quality over quantity
- He doesn’t believe in taking on hundreds of sales a month (ala Flippa) and says “my strategy has always been quality over quantity so we we work as a more of a boutique brokerage”
- There’s six staff in the company – including himself – and, although they’re expanding, they work as a tight team to provide a higher level of excellence and customer service.
- Their business model is performance based so they don’t get paid unless the business sells. Based on this, he only wants to work with quality businesses and entrepreneurs.
- Believes his industry is a “business of relationships”.
- Compares a website seller finding a broker they like to a home owner finding a work trader they trust.
- Based on building these relationships, a lot of Website Properties business comes from referrals from happy customers.
The average sale is now a million dollars
- When he first started in the business, the average sale by him and Website Properties was in the region of $2500,000. Today – in 2022 – it’s closer to a million dollars. Testament to how much the industry has matured.
- Smart money is now coming more and more because the data is there to backup digital real estate as a strong place for investment.
- David mentions that his research has found that the revenue of the Internet is growing 18% year on year.
- The pandemic led to a “a huge burgeoning interest” in his industry as people abandoned brick and mortar models more and more.
Low 8 figures deals
- The biggest deals they’ve done are “in the low eight figures”, but he won’t be drawn beyond that for exact figures.
- Their goal is to grow into a company that is doing deals in eight and nine figures on a regular basis.
- They have the capacity, the marketing, expertise and the buyers to achieve this.
- There’s more demand right now than there is good supply.
- The principles, fundamentals, execution and processes that they would entertain are the same whether they’re selling a $500,000 or 1 million dollar business deal.
- He wants to use these same metrics for business sales of $50 million and more and believes they have the system in place for this.
- David is open to working with other brokers to get a business sale over the finish line, but it has to be a win for all three parties – the two brokers and the business seller.
- The have hundreds and hundreds of buyers that submit their terms and a lot of them are looking for a minimum of a million dollars EBITDA.
- There are around 12 portals that Website Properties promote their listings on, including paid for spotlight Ads on them.
- His list he sends these businesses for sale to amounts to an impressive 30,000 people.
- This all adds up to the listings reaching “hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people through
all our different portals”
25-30 listings at any one time
- Website Properties usually has 25-30 listings it focuses on selling at any one time.
- Anything in e-commerce that’s well-branded right now is a target for aggregators that they deal with. They’re companies doing “roll-ups” trying to go public and they have a lot of money behind them.
- Has seen SaaS businesses sell for as high as 9x. But what he sees closing the most are businesses selling for 3.5-4x in cash.
- The buyers that come in with a cash war chest can close in as soon as 3-4 weeks
Summary of Website Properties
- A close knit company. Website Properties seem to have only 6 people working on their staff at any one time. This lends itself to a better relationship for you with your assigned agent for a more personalized experience.
- Free estimation of your online business. While there are other companies that offer free valuations, our research has found Website Properties to really go out of their way to to see if your company and their marketplace are a good fit
- The fact that there are no fees if your listing doesn’t sell is another significant plus. They aren’t compensated until you are.
- An 85% closure rate. Regardless of the marketplace type (online or bricks and mortar) this is a very strong metric
- A wealth of experience. Founder of the company David Fairly has 20 years experience in the industry and the contacts to go with it.
- They’re not a broker for the small online business owner. And by “small” we mean if you’re selling anything under $100,000, they’re not a good fit for you.
- Even if your business is worth well above $100,000 there’s no guarantee they’ll agree to broker your online company – they turn down about 80% of deals offered to them. This is the downside to their “no sale, no fee” commission structure – they need to be very fussy about what they take on for it to be worth their while.
We recommend Website Properties if you have a profitable online business worth (at the very least) $100,00 and are ready to sell. Their sweet selling spot seems to be in the $250,00 to one million dollars range, so keep this in mind before approaching them.
They can back up their reputation with experience, reviews, and financials, and – additionally – their huge buyer list can assist you in selling your company fast, with some closures happening within 3-4 weeks.
Their “no sale, no fee” structure means there’s no downside for the business seller here if they agree to take you on. They’ll only work with listings they believe in, accepting about 20% of the companies that contact them.
Personally, I would approach them with a robust online business worth $150,000 or more, if they don’t agree to take you on then you’ve lost nothing financially. If they say yes then you’ve got a very savvy, very experienced broker in your corner and an 85% chance of a successful sale.
Remember; if you’re ever in doubt about buying a website, we can help with our battle-tested Due Diligence Dashboard – check out EasyDiligence.io.