Get Started: Business sales rise, online seminars

NEW YORK (AP) — A GOOD TIME TO BE SELLING?

The market for selling a small business is picking up along with the economy, according to BizBuySell.com, an online market for buying and selling a company.

During the first quarter, the number of sales tracked by BizBuySell.com rose 56 percent to 1,897 from 1,218 in the first three months of 2012. That's the highest number of businesses sold in a quarter since the April-June period of 2008.

The median sale price was $180,000, up 20 percent from a year earlier and the highest since 2009.

The company attributes the increase partly to the fact that businesses are in better financial shape following the recession and its aftermath, and are more attractive to buyers. Owners have been paying down their companies' debt and refrained from taking out new loans. BizBuySell.com says many sellers are baby boomers who are ready to retire.

But BizBuySell.com says some of the sales early this year followed the resolution of the presidential election and what's known as the fiscal cliff, the combination of tax increases and budget cuts that were scheduled to go into effect at the end of 2012. The cliff had a chilling effect on business activity at the end of the year, and drove some business sales into the first quarter, BizBuySell.com says. But if the economy and business balance sheets continue to improve, sales are likely to remain strong in the second quarter, the company says.

A survey of business brokers finds they're mostly optimistic that sales will remain strong this year. More than 54 percent expect sales to rise, and more than 13 percent expected no change.

UPBEAT OUTLOOK FOR REMODELING BUSINESS

Contractors and other small businesses involved in home remodeling are likely to have a strong 2013, according to a study released by Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies.

The center's latest Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity shows that homeowners are expected to accelerate their spending on home remodeling and repairs as the year progresses. The index forecasts an 8.8 percent increase in spending for the first quarter, compared with the same period of 2012. In the second quarter, spending is forecast to rise 13.4 percent, followed by gains of 19.7 percent in the third quarter and 20.2 percent in the last three months of the year.

The increase in the index reflects the improving housing market. Many homeowners undertake home renovation projects before they sell a home or after they buy one.

Home prices are also rising, and that has encouraged many homeowners to invest in remodeling projects, says Eric Belsky, managing director of the housing studies center.

BUSINESS PLAN COMPETITION

Two teams from Northwestern University won more than $1 million in cash prizes and investments at the Rice Business Plan Competition at Rice University earlier this month.

One of the teams included students from Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Kellogg School of Management. They developed a company to market a technology that decreases the amount of time it takes to charge a lithium-ion battery and increases the amount of time that the battery holds its charge. The invention could increase battery life for smartphones and electric vehicles. That team finished first in the Rice competition won more than $911,000.

The second team developed a business to market a technology that can be integrated into surgical tools to help detect blood vessels during surgery and prevent unintended bleeding. That team, which included students from McCormick, the Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern's School of Law, finished second and won $273,000.

In third place was a team from the University of Louisville, which won $7,500 for a lung cancer diagnostic device.

Northwestern is located in Evanston, Ill. Rice is located in Houston.

ONLINE SEMINARS

The Small Business Administration is sponsoring a series of five online seminars to help small businesses use social media including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and mobile marketing. The first seminar is this Wednesday, April 24, at 1 p.m. Eastern time. You can register at http://tinyurl.com/cdhxj4e

And SCORE, the organization that gives free counseling to small businesses, holds an online seminar to help company owners prepare their businesses to get financing. It's this Thursday, April 25, at 1 p.m. Eastern time. You can register at http://tinyurl.com/crx8k84

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Follow Joyce Rosenberg at https://twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg

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