[Updated 2020] 6 Best Website Brokers To Help You Sell Your Site
If you’re thinking of selling your site, there are lots of ways to do it.
You could, for example, hunt down buyers and sell it yourself. Of course, that would require you to hire a lawyer and an escrow company. You’d have to deal with the buyer directly and handle all the technical logistics of transferring a website.
You could also list it on a marketplace. But maybe you have a site that’s making some pretty good money, and it just doesn’t feel very… safe to sell a website on a platform rife with spammers and wonky buyers.
Brokers can help you a site safely, easily, and often for more money.
We’ve got a list of the best website brokers at the bottom. We’re going to talk about what brokers do before that, though. So, to save you the suspense…
Here’s the broker we recommend in 2018:
FE International. More details below, but they’re by far the best premium brokerage out there. They sell sites for more, and have tons of boutique services for both buyers and sellers. They also give free site valuations.
What is a Website Broker & What Do They Do?
Website brokers work like any other kind of broker. They act as an intermediary between buyers and sellers. In this case, they connect people who want to sell websites with people who want to buy websites.
As a whole, the industry is relatively young. Big marketplaces (like Flippa) have been around for less than a decade (it was started in 2009). A few noteworthy boutique brokerages, like Latonas, have been around since 2008. Empire Flippers, another large firm, has only been operating since 2013 or so.
These days, preeminent firms broker many types of online businesses — from SaaS businesses to content websites to ecommerce stores to Amazon FBA businesses.
What to Expect from the Brokering Process
FE International has a pretty good outline of the actual brokering process, so check that out if you’d like a detailed breakdown of how it works.
But basically, when you decide you want to sell your site, they’ll first look at your site and give you a valuation. Then, they’ll prepare the asset for sale, which includes stuff like putting together a prospectus for potential buyers. After that, they’ll market your business to their buyers and help you negotiation. If anyone bites, your advisor will then help you and the buyer go through a due diligence process before closing the deal.
Keep in mind the process might vary from broker to broker; this is just FE’s process, which I reported here because it was the most clearly outlined of all the brokers.
How Much Does Using a Broker Cost?
Most brokers work on a commission basis.
If your site doesn’t sell then they don’t get paid (although some brokers do have small listing fees). The typical broker commission for selling a website is around 10 – 15%.
The best candidates for using a brokerage service are websites valued over $15,000; that way, everyone makes a bit of money.
The Big Advantages of Using a Broker…
Website brokers can make it substantially smoother to both buy and sell websites. Here are a few of the major upsides.
An experienced broker will make the process safer all around for everyone. Brokers have all the systems, paperwork, and legal infrastructure in place to make sure everyone is happy.
They have legal teams who make contracts. They work with escrow services. And the higher-end brokerages will go through some sort of pre-due-diligence checklist.
FE International, for example, only works with established, high quality businesses with a strong revenue history. Brokers don’t take care of everything for you, but they certainly reduce overall risk by quite a bit.
Brokers have access to buyers.
If you wanted to sell your business privately — like, today — who would you talk to?
Maybe you have a couple of friends who understand how to run and monetize websites, but do they have an extra couple hundred thousand dollars lying around to buy it (not to mention the resources it will take to run it thereafter)?
Finding buyers can be tough. It’s arguably the most difficult problem of selling a site, and brokers solve it.
Aside from their regular website audiences, most brokers haver networks of buyers who they can contact discretely when good sites come up for sale. A good broker can play matchmaker — connecting you with buyers who have both the money and the know-how to run your site — before it’s even listed.
And, after it’s listed, of course, you site could get exposed to an even wider audience.
Brokers can command higher prices.
Because of all the extra services and protection, brokers can sell sites for much more than you could privately (most of the time).
Legal help. Technical help. Access to buyers with budgets. Due diligence and filtering. Mediation.
To a lot of folks, that stuff is worth premium prices.
If the average site goes for a multiple of 20x the monthly profit, a broker might be able to get 30x. And as the profit goes up, so does the multiple. Sites in the 7-figure range routinely sell for 36x-50x multiples.
The 5 Best Website Brokers in 2020
These are our picks for the best website brokers in 2020. We based our picks on overall quality, size of inventory, professional services offered, experience, track record, and quality of assets sold.
Overall Winner: FE International
Founded in 2010 by Thomas Smale, FE International has become the premiere broker for online businesses valued between $20K and $50M. To date, the firm has successfully executed an industry-leading 760 transactions with hundreds of millions of dollars in sales, making them by far the most active broker in the industry.
FE International boasts an expert team of 35 spread across the Boston Headquarters and regional offices in London, Saigon and Singapore with backgrounds ranging from online entrepreneurs, investment bankers, consultants and technicians.
You can view all of their sold listings here. A number of readers have reported success with them especially in the SaaS, e-commerce and advertising niches.
In fact, we got an awesome email from someone who sold their business through FE for $400,000:
What we like
- Extreme professionalism. When it comes to professionalism, no other brokerage holds a candle to FE. All the little details — the hands-on approach, the record keeping, the quality of inventory, the operational efficiency — probably comes from the deep finance background of their management team.
- Quality listings. We mentioned this above, but it’s worth mentioning again: FE only lists quality sites. They have strict filtering processes and don’t bother with questionable businesses, making it easy for buyers to have confidence in what they’re getting.
- Sophisticated valuation methodology. Every brokerage is different, but it’s not uncommon to price sites in a more or less standard way across the board.
- Access to higher-end businesses. FE International tends to attract higher-end businesses. Not just content sites, but also legitimate SaaS, dropshipping, and retail companies. They’ve sold plenty of sites in the million-dollar ranges, and they’ve sold plenty of “real” companies.
What we don’t like
- Higher-than average fees. FE International charges non-negotiable 15% fees for their services. It’s a bit high, but sellers can typically make it up with the higher prices they can sell sites for. Even if you couldn’t, though, it’s probably worth it just for the level of service.
Founded in 2006, Quiet Light is one of the older brokerages in the marketplace. Although it’s not quite as popular as firms like FE, it’s still old, the team is experienced, and they have a solid resume of over 500 deals.
They also make a point to emphasize they’re a team of online entrepreneurs, which can make lots of buyers and sellers of the same ilk feel more comfortable. They’re definitely an up-market brokerage, though, dealing mostly in the mid-five and low-six figure ranges.
What we like
- Experienced and entrepreneurial team. This is the longest-operating brokerage of any on this list. Their team is also primarily made up of people who have built, run, and sold online businesses of their own, which gives them a unique vantage point at the executive management level.
- More ecommerce listings. This isn’t always the case, but purely andecdotally, Quiet Light usually has the largest % of ecommerce listings. Of the publicly available listings at the time of writing, six of nine listings are ecommerce businesses.
What we don’t like
- Smaller selection. Quiet Light usually has quality listings, but it doesn’t have many. It’s not unusual to see only a handful of businesses available at any time. Presumably, they have non-public listings, but for buyers not connected with their network, it can be tough to gauge what they’re selling.
Latonas is another firm who launched in what appears to have been a 2008 brokerage rush. Like their counterparts, they evolved into a slightly more up-market operation, although they definitely run more of the gamut than FE and Quiet Light, selling a broader range of sites in terms of both price and quality. Latonas is also one of the few brokerages to sell domain portfolios.
What we like
- Large selection. At the time of writing, Latonas has 61 businesses publicly available for purchase, which is significantly more than any of the other brokerages, especially if you compare their inventory to other brokerages at the top end of the market.
- Access to domain portfolios. This is interesting, and it’s not everyone’s ballgame, but it’s also unique. Latonas sometimes sells portfolios of premium domains. They qualify this by saying they mostly sell domains that include popular terms that collect traffic on their own. Still, it’s not something you find everywhere, and there’s definitely a domain-flipping crowd Latonas touches that other brokerages don’t.
- Access to smaller sites. Latonas doesn’t shy away from “smaller” sites. No, you’re not going to find sites in the 4-figure range, but you will routinely find sites listed for between $10,000 and $30,000. These can be great first-purchase sites for site builders looking to break into the buying game.
What we don’t like
- Might have trouble moving sites. We can’t disclose our source, and I’m sure this doesn’t happen all the time, but at least one of our friends listed a high-quality content site that didn’t sell. If you’re new to the site buying and selling game, you might not know this, but passive, content-driven sites usually sell fast. This is just one example, but it’s pretty surprising.
- Lower quality sites creep in. This isn’t a huge problem for Lotonas, but it’s still worth mentioning. Their larger selection comes at a minor cost: slightly lower-quality sites can sometimes creep into their inventory (please note this is anecdotal and based purely on the prospectuses I’ve seen).
Websitebroker.com is kind of like Flippa’s flagship platform (Flippa.com), except it’s not infested with spammers (which is the main reason we didn’t recommend Flippa here). This is probably because it’s a bit younger and not as well known. Now, I’m not saying there are no spammers. I haven’t gone through every deal by hand. I’m just saying it’s significantly more prestine than Flippa.
What we like
- Large selection. Websitebroker.com is more of a marketplace instead of a brokerage. People can list and bid on sites freely with less restriction than they might encounter at a premium brokerage. Because of this, stock is constantly evolving, replacing itself, and expanding, which, in turn, means the selection can be both large and interesting.
- Public Q&A on sites. This is common amongst marketplaces, and it’s one of the advantages they have over brokerages. On any listing, potential buyers can scrutinize the site and ask the seller questions — all for public view. While you certainly still need to do your own due diligence, it’s helpful to aggregate concerns of an entire community to hold sellers accountable (especially in lieu of the help of a broker).
- Hidden gems. Of all the options on this list, Website broker.com might be the most likely to yield a real hidden gem. It’s not super well-known yet; it’s a true marketplace; and price points are lower. These are the conditions that can create diamonds in the rough.
- Lower price points. This shouldn’t be a huge shocker, but in a lesser-known marketplace, price points are going to be a lot lower than they will be at a premium brokerage like FE International.
What we don’t like
- It’s still a marketplace. Websitebroker.com is still a marketplace and is no exception to the disadvantages typical of marketplaces. Spammers — while much less of a problem than on Flippa — are still a possibility, and you don’t get all the luxuries you’d get at a brokerage.
- Lower average quality. While the selection is interesting and constantly changing, the quality of the average site listed here is going to be substantially lower than those you’ll find listed at the brokerages.
This is a pretty unique brokerage in this list — mostly because it’s so specialized. Store Coach started as a site that helped people build ecommerce stores and eventually evolved into a brokerage that helped people buy and sell ecommerce stores. As such, they’re smaller and less experienced than the other firms here, but they certainly bring a ton of niche-level expertise to their corner of the market.
What we like
- Super-duper specialized. This is as about as specialized as you can possibly get. These guys build ecommerce stores. They teach people how to build ecommerce stores. And now, they facilitate the sale of ecommerce stores. If you’re into this business model, this should make you pretty comfortable.
- Group buy model. There isn’t much information about this on their site, but they do advertise the “group buying” model to potential seller sellers as a way to sell sites at higher prices.
- Also sell pre-built stores. Turn-key websites aren’t something we normally recommend, but these guys really are specialists in building ecommerce stores, so it could be something to consider if you’re a buyer looking to pick something up at a lower price point.
What we don’t like
- Less experience. Mostly, these guys just have less experience than other brokers on this list. They also didn’t start out as a broker, which means they you may not be getting the level of financial expertise you can get at more experienced firms.
Flippa Deal Flow
Flippa Deal Flow is a relatively new service from Flippa, one of the most popular website marketplaces on the internet. When you list your website with Flippa’s Deal Flow it will only be shown to pre-qualified buyers in their buyers’ community, a group who have been pre-verified to be able to purchase websites in the $20,000+ range.
What we like
- Huge network. Flippa is big. Like, really big. Because they have such a massive natural audience, it stands to reason they have a naturally large network of buyers for their more exclusive platform.
- They source buyers. Instead of only promoting listings to their network (i.e. email list), Dealflow claims they’ll actively source buyers on your behalf. As they put it: …”our analysts conduct research on thousands of companies who operate in related verticals to identify the ones that may have a strategic interest in acquiring your business.”
What we don’t like
- New. They’re just new. Nothing wrong with that, but if you’re going to buy or sell a business for hundreds of thousands — or millions — of dollars, you might want a bit more experience from your broker.
- Smaller selection. This is probably a byproduct of their age, but Dealflow doesn’t appear to have all that many listings.
Over to you…
Those are our picks! Did we miss anything? Do you have any other brokerages you like? If so, drop a comment below!