Small business acquisitions leveled off in 2023 as interest rates climbed, but 2024 looks better

NEW YORK — Is it a good time to sell your small business — or maybe buy one?

Small business acquisitions were up and down in 2023, reflecting the increase in interest rates that threw a chill into the market.

But a strong fourth quarter, helped by a signal from the Federal Reserve that it was done raising interest rates, could bode well for 2024.

Overall, the number of small business acquisitions was largely unchanged in 2023, according to business marketplace BizBuySell’s Insight Data, which tracks and analyzes U.S. business-for-sale transactions.

A total of 9,093 businesses were reported sold on BizBuySell in 2023, up less than 1% from the 9,054 businesses sold in 2022. The value of the deals rose to $6.5 billion from $6.3 billion. Quarterly results show stark changes in the market: Transactions fell 10% in the first quarter, remained flat in the second and third quarters as interest rate hikes slowed, and rose 12% in the fourth quarter, amid news of cooling inflation and potential rate cuts.

So it might be a good time to buy — as long as the business seems solid.

“If the business has a good return on the investment and ability to service debt, it’s likely a good time to buy, regardless of rates,” said Ken Bohenek, business intermediary at Murphy Business Sales in Northern Idaho. “Then, as rates soften, you’ll likely be in a much better cash flow position than those who bought when money was cheap, and rates quickly escalated.”

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