Disclosure: This review contains affiliate links. You should assume that pretty much every link to Empire Flippers in the text below compensates us in some way. This means we may receive a little ca$h if you buy or sell a business. It costs you nothing.
Empire Flippers (EF) is a well-recognized place to buy or sell an online business.
They’re the biggest “curated marketplace” and one of the largest brokerages out there. Millions of dollars worth of online business purchases are transacted through their platform every month.
You’re probably wondering one of two things; should you sell your business through Empire Flippers or should you buy one from them?
As someone who has done both of those things through EF, — and through their competitors — I am in a good position to advise you.
My Relationship with Empire Flippers
I’ve been aware of Empire Flippers even before they used that name; back in 2014, when they went by “Adsense Flippers” and sold packages of starter sites.
This is useful for you to know because it shows I’ve seen how the EF guys evolved and iterated over the years.
Not only have I watched this evolution, but I’ve also participated in it by using EF services as both a buyer and seller.
That process started with my first sale in 2016; a small affiliate site I sold for $20,000.
Rather than writing this review based on one or two experiences, and presenting a mere snapshot of EF’s quality, I am giving this review based on a mutual journey.
This allows me to give you insights into the mindset of the EF team, their goals, and how they have shaped (and even grown), the industry.
So, I don’t want this review to just be “I used Empire Flippers a couple of times and here are my thoughts” (which could still be useful for you).
Instead, I want to offer a window into the company itself, and the benefits to you as a buyer or seller, or simply someone interested in the online business merger and acquisition (M&A) space.
In addition, as CEO of Onfolio, I’m somewhat uniquely qualified to comment on EF.
As a fellow entrepreneur in the “buying online businesses” space, I’m aware of not only the ins and outs of the industry but also what it takes to run a successful service business online.
I can empathize with the growing pains business experiences and determine which criticisms are valid, and which are merely people grumbling.
The importance of this will be revealed further down the page.
A Brief History of Empire Flippers
As mentioned, EF started out as the Adsense Flippers.
Their focus was creating content and some services around starting rinky-dink “adsense sites” and flipping them. This was a common practice in the 2010 era when it was much easier to rank in Google with basic cookie-cutter sites.
Essentially, EF helped people learn how to do that.
At some point, members of their audience asked Adsense Flippers to help them sell their sites, and voilà, in early 2012, the early Empire Flippers’ marketplace was born.
This is useful to know because it shows that the EF team started out by scratching their own itch. They walked the walk. Some of the best companies begin by doing one thing only to pivot in response to an opportunity.
It’s also useful to know because in the online business broker space there are dozens of shady or plainly incompetent brokers operating. I don’t know why; maybe they think it’s easy or “cool.”
The better brokers start because they’re already active in the industry, and people ask them for help (this is also how at least one of EF’s competitors started).
This leads into one of the first questions people ask when evaluating EF.
Are Empire Flippers legit?
In case you can’t tell by the transparency with which they operate, and the massive amount of quality information they create — including a ton of educational content — the answer is “yes.”
I’m giving you an emphatic affirmation that the company is legit.
As I said, EF has actively grown the industry.
A large part of how they’ve done this is by educating buyers and sellers, whether that is through their YouTube channel, podcast, blog or through in-person talks.
Basically, they’re good guys.
Now, being good guys and being legit doesn’t necessarily mean that doing business with them is right for you.
In other words, they’re nice people, but should you date them?
Empire Flippers for Website Sellers
The elephant in the room
The 15% fee.
I constantly see people refer to the fees brokers charge as “thievery.”
It makes no sense to me to think that way.
Firstly, in my experience you can sell a site for more via a broker, so the broker fee is priced in which lessens its significance in the context of a sale.
Secondly, brokers put tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars into building a list of buyers, building trust, educating the industry, and making the transaction happen. That costs money and they should be compensated fairly.
I hear people say: “All they do is email their list and then take a cut of the sale. It’s too much”.
My reply is, “Feel free to find a buyer without them.”
Additionally, for sales over $700,000, EF receives a higher profit margin. And they reduce their brokerage fee.
In EF’s first ever AMA on reddit, I saw someone say: “If I sell my business on Empire Flippers for a million dollars, I have to give them $150k. That is crazy high.”
My first thought was, without Empire Flippers, where would you find someone on the other side of the world to give you a million dollars for a digital business in the first place?
For a more eloquent argument about why broker fees are not expensive, see what Jase Rodley wrote on the subject.
What else should website sellers consider?
If you are okay with paying fees to sell your business, the next step is to ask yourself a few other questions.
These questions are relevant no matter where you sell.
- Will I get the best price for my online business?
Price isn’t everything.
But when selling your business, it’s about 90% of what matters.
With my first large exit (mid-six figures), one of my biggest fears was selling too low. It wasn’t even a case of receiving less money, it was the fear that I would make a mistake and regret it.
Selling your business is a big deal. It’s stressful, and there’s a ton of uncertainty.
You’ll worry that you’ll sell it for half of what you could achieve later. (Incidentally, this is the main reason some people never sell). And it’s just a story we tell ourselves.
This is another good reason to use a broker. While brokers do have an incentive to get your business sold (regardless of price), the better ones know that their reputation is based on securing the best prices for a seller.
Brokers also collect a stack of data on what businesses sell for. They compare previous sales over different business models and sizes to set a price for your business.
In short, they’re in a position to make a recommendation based on what number they think you’ll achieve. That not only gains you the best price, but also gives you peace of mind.
This is essential.
In my experience, Empire Flippers’ listings are typically priced at the upper end of what the market will support.
Now, listing prices don’t always equate to the final sales price, but there are other factors that affect this — and not just the broker.
It’s worth mentioning that, if you’re selling a profitable online business, we may be interested in acquiring it.
- What size business does Empire Flippers sell best?
To get an overview on this, check out their marketplace for a few weeks.
EF produces the Empire Scoreboard which details their sales multiples, overall sales volume, sale duration, and more.
If you study these reports you’ll start to learn what sells well.
Generally, lower-priced businesses tend to sell faster (assuming they’re quality). I imagine the real question you have is, “what size business is too large for EF?”
In total, EF has sold 3 businesses valued at 8 figures. I’m aware that their sales team closed two of those eight-figure deals for $12MM and $11.8MM respectively.
The overall sale value is increasing over time.
If your business is valued substantially higher, you may want to check out another broker or consider a private sale.
A more bespoke approach taken by particular brokers could be the best option at a higher-than-average price.
How else does Empire Flippers help site sellers?
Brokers help sellers in many ways.
- They protect your business from too many prying eyes and tyre kickers (they can’t completely weed this out, but they act as a good filter).
- They act as advisors — telling you if they think an offer is good or not.
- They bring their reputation to the deal. If you are selling without a broker, people might not trust you. Empire Flippers bring credibility to the transaction.
- They handle the contracts, the migration, the escrow, and the payouts. All you have to do is assist with the handover to the buyer. And tell EF where to send your money.
In short, they hold your hand throughout and do much of the heavy lifting.
Empire Flippers for Website Buyers
It’s all about finding the right business
Empire Flippers bring a lot of value to buyers too.
You may be thinking, “you just told sellers that EF will get them a higher price so does that mean buyers shouldn’t go there?”
It’s a good question.
The answer is that price isn’t everything.
It’s better to buy the best online business you can find and afford — even if you have to pay more.
Since Empire Flippers have some of the highest listing multiples, they tend to attract many great businesses. This means that if you want to buy one of the best online businesses, you should deal with a broker.
EF doesn’t always have the best businesses.
Admittedly, I’ve seen sites for sale that I consider garbage. The point is that price isn’t the most important factor when it comes to purchasing a digital business.
How else does Empire Flippers help site buyers?
- They complete due diligence on sellers. This is incredibly important, and one of the main value propositions of brokers. They check the seller’s identity and verify the income sources and site traffic. The information is presented in a way that helps you verify a site’s legitimacy, and do a SWOT analysis on the business. They WON’T necessarily tell you what a good business is (every buyer has different preferences), but they’ll at least let you know the numbers are real.
- Migration and escrow. Nobody wants to send a seller money only for them to run off with it. Escrow is vital. Empire Flippers act as their own escrow agent. They also use their internal migration team to ensure the seller transfers everything to you; including things like email lists, social media accounts, and anything else that is part of the sale. If you’re a buyer doing this for the first time, migration assistance is a vital step. Some brokers provide a to-do list, but Empire Flippers complete the vast majority of migration for you — transferring the domain, hosting, website files, and changing the affiliate links.
Pros and Cons of the Empire Flippers Marketplace
So far, I’ve spoken about the advantage of using a broker and using Empire Flippers in particular.
In the balance of this review, I’ll cover a few more pros, and then jump into the cons.
The pros: Good things about Empire Flippers
- The inspection period
This is really only relevant to buyers, but because it exists (and gives buyers a modicum of peace of mind), that is also good for sellers.
The inspection period is 2 weeks long and takes place post-purchase.
Typically, once you have found a business you like, performed due diligence, spoken to the seller, and either negotiated or paid the full price, the business is yours.
After purchase, the Empire Flippers’ migration team begins transferring the business to your control — once you’ve sent the funds, of course.
Next, there’s an “inspection period.” where the income must be within 50% of the expected levels. If not, you can walk away or re-negotiate.
This protects you from sellers who misrepresent the numbers or covers you if the seller pulls the plug on some hidden marketing campaign that causes the business to the tank.
Sometimes, it even protects you from buying a business right before a Google update kills it. But this is more down to luck and timing than being the real purpose of the inspection period.
Without an inspection period, buyers are significantly more wary about moving forward with a purchase. This period also allows you to act quickly and win the dreaded wire race (see the cons section below) without taking on too much risk.
- The dashboard
EF has invested heavily in its marketplace technology over the past few years.
The end result is a very sleek dashboard.
This helps you in two ways.
Firstly, it allows you to keep track of the various businesses on which you’re currently performing due diligence. This avoids everything from becoming a mess (which is what used to happen).
Secondly, it makes the entire due diligence process easier because the information is organized in a way that is visually easier to digest. Everything you need is there.
For sellers, the dashboard has the added benefit of keeping your key business information away from the eyes of too many tire kickers and snoopers.
This brings me to one of my final pros:
Empire Flippers has iterated their business and buyer/seller experience numerous times in the years I’ve been following them.
This always signals a professional company that is willing to invest money in improvements.
Here’s a shot of EF’s seller dashboard from back in 2019:
Since there was no seller dashboard prior to 2019, this was a major improvement to the EF site.
And the most recent iteration of the buyer dashboard allows you to keep track of your offers, deposits, and scheduled calls.
Okay. Let’s talk about the cons.
The cons: The downside of Empire Flippers
- The wire race
There was a time when any site below $50,000 would fly off the proverbial shelf.
This made it challenging for buyers to perform adequate due diligence without losing out on a purchase to somebody more gung-ho — or a US resident who could complete a wire transfer faster.
My first successful purchase came on my fourth attempt.
Banks blocking transactions, international wire delays, and timezone issues caused me to miss out on the first three sites I was interested in.
This was incredibly frustrating, and could arguably have caused the sellers to lose money too. With extra time, I might have been willing to pay more than whoever made the final purchase (luckily EF solved this by inflating prices so much that almost nobody pays full price anymore).
It also meant that, when I finally purchased a site, I experienced mild buyer’s remorse, seeing a much nicer site listed the next week.
This isn’t entirely Empire Flippers’ fault.
They created the wire race system for a reason; mainly to fight fraud.
Over time, they have improved it slightly by allowing people to make deposits to secure a purchase, and then send the remaining funds over the next few days.
Still, it’s a frustrating system. I’d prefer a standardized method to agree a purchase in advance and wire funds later — like other brokers do.
Empire Flippers is a marketplace though, so that doesn’t really fit their model.
It’s not a huge negative, but it’s something to be aware of. How to Win the Wire Race, written by the EF team, will help you deal with it.
- Empire Flippers’ horror stories
While EF has improved the migration process, it used to be a shit-show. They used cheap labor — which was sometimes incredibly incompetent — and I have heard of plenty of horror stories over the years.
This has largely been cleaned up, but I’ll share several of those stories below so you’re aware of the potential mishaps.
Horror story #1
One of the first businesses I bought from EF came with an ebook. It was in the health niche, and was essentially an exercise/workout plan for people to lose weight following exercise routines.
I did some due diligence (DD) on the product and checked the sales and refund rates, but what I failed to do was authenticate the legitimacy of the workout plan.
EF didn’t do this either.
In hindsight, I found out EF solely tries to verify the seller and their numbers, rather than all of their claims. Still, I think they should have done better DD their end, and, of course, so should I.
Later on, I found out that the seller had simply taken before/after pictures from Instagram and created fake testimonials for their ebook. People had indeed lost weight, but not using this program.
It was horrible to discover this.
Eventually, I took the ebook down and made a new one.
The testimonials slowly built up over time, but it was frankly pretty poor that I’d paid for this site based on the income from a fake workout program with fake testimonials.
The sales were legit, but people started to complain about copyright infringement due to the use of their images.
Ultimately, this business shouldn’t have been listed on EF.
Horror story #2
Another scary story comes from selling a business.
Back in 2017, EF’s migration staff were mediocre at best. I believe they had a good Head of Migration, but the cheap labor they used to handle the migration was inadequate.
After somebody bought my site, the person in charge of switching the links over from my Amazon Associates account only changed some of them.
Transferring links to the buyer’s account is a vital step to ensure that all the site’s income goes to the buyer instead of remaining with the seller.
Since not all of the links changed, the buyer complained that his income was massively down (and I wasn’t receiving the income at my end).
Finally, I discovered that only the Amazon links on the homepage had been changed correctly, and every link on the inner pages was now a blank Amazon link. No one was getting income from them.
The buyer didn’t want to pay the full amount anymore as he didn’t believe the income was where it was supposed to be, and I wasn’t receiving any income due to non-existent links.
The upshot was that I was forced to sell for a lower amount.
The most infuriating part was that this site had Clicky analytics installed. We could see someone had visited it from the country the migration staff member was in.
This showed us that they’d only visited the homepage, despite claiming to have checked all the links on every page.
Still, since any earnings vanished for a week while we figured this out, the only options were to wait a month or two and try to sell again, or give the buyer a discount.
The migration team is much better now (and it’s unlikely this would happen again), but this was a dreadful experience.
The funny part of this story is that, after the sale was finally completed, I discovered that I still held the domain name in my account.
EF had failed to migrate it to the buyer properly.
Fortunately, I’m not an asshole, so I reached out to the buyer and migrated it to him manually. Still, if I was unscrupulous, I could have taken full possession of the site again and kept the money too.
Why do I still recommend and use Empire Flippers after this experience?
The reason is because I later became a buyer instead of the seller.
I knew what to look out for during migration, so I was confident I could catch these mistakes.
Luckily, after 5 or 6 transactions since that time, this error hasn’t happened again. My conclusion is that they are much better than they were 5 years ago.
Nonetheless, you should pay attention during the migration process, i.e., you need to be aware of things like this happening — no matter who you use.
Side note: In a similar story, a friend of mine bought a site off EF in 2018 and a year later the hosting expired. He later found out that the hosting hadn’t been fully transferred to him. Fortunately, he managed to get in touch with the seller to complete the transfer.
The takeaway here is that you should understand the process and double and triple-check everything.
A message to Empire Flippers
If the EF team read this review, they might take offense at my brutally honest assessment.
My intention is not to offend anyone.
Part of the reason I included the stories above is because I want you to know that I’ve experienced the bad as well as the good.
In spite of the downsides, I still recommend Empire Flippers.
I’m sure there are plenty of vocal people on social media who will tell you to stay away. I disagree. EF is still one of the best (even though they sometimes make mistakes in what can be a challenging and complex process).
The point is that buyers and sellers should be proactive and engaged during the buying or selling process in case something gets missed.
The final result: Should you use Empire Flippers?
In case it wasn’t clear by now, I have extensive experience with Empire Flippers.
And my experience has encompassed the good and the bad.
As a seller, I definitely recommend their platform.
For buyers, it’s all about finding the right business for you. If they have it, there’s no reason you shouldn’t use them.
Will EF get the best sale price for your business?
It’s difficult to say.
EF will certainly list it for a high price, and in many cases will get you a premium. Everything else depends on your business, the price range, and the number of interested buyers, etc.
Whether your business sells for a high price or a low price has less to do with the place you’ve sold it and more to do with the business itself.
Still, listing with a trusted broker with a large buyer pool and the ability to hand-hold you through the process sounds like a good solution to me.
Are there situations where I wouldn’t recommend EF?
While EF does a good job of hiding your URL, if you want a private sale, don’t list it on a public marketplace.
A broker like FE International may suit you better for a private sale. An alternative is to do some direct outreach yourself.
If you sell your business on EF, pretty much everyone will know about it. This is a good thing if you want to sell quickly, but a bad thing if you want to be discrete — for whatever reason.
I’m sure an EF salesperson could propose an alternative method to offer your business for sale without listing it publicly, but EF’s strength is their marketplace. (I have no idea how good they are with brokering businesses directly).
If you have questions about my assessment — or feedback on your experience with Empire Flippers — feel free to comment below.
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