More small businesses were sold in 2011 than in 2010, driven by slightly lower valuations, improved business performance, and a slow improvement in capital access, according to figures from BizBuySell, an Internet-based business-for-sale marketplace.

Business brokers saw a modest recovery in the business-for-sale marketplace, reporting a 3.3 percent increase in transactions in 2011 compared to 2010.

Small business sales were up slightly in 2011, continuing a trend of gradual year-over-year growth that started in early 2009.

For 2011, the number of small businesses reported as sold to across the U.S. was 6,703, an increase of 3.3 percent over the 2010 total of 6,486. That follows a similar 3 percent jump in closed transactions from 2009 to 2010.

The slight rise in closed transactions was accompanied by an equivalent 3.3 percent increase in the median selling price, from $150,000 in 2010 to $155,000 in 2011. However, median revenue for sold businesses was up more (6.7 percent) indicating that improved business performance contributed to increased sales activity. This also shows that business owners are adjusting their pricing expectations and selling their businesses for less relative to revenue and cash flow to get deals done.

"While 2011 continued to be a tough year for the nation's small business owners, we were pleased to see that business performance is improving and more people are buying small businesses," Mike Handelsman, group general manager of and said in a statement. "Helping this is the fact that business sellers are adjusting their value expectations, something that should continue to spur deals in 2012."

Buyers are getting more for their money, according to the company, and favorable market conditions continue to exist for buyers who have or can secure necessary funding. The average revenue multiple for small businesses sold in 2011 was 0.60, down 8.8 percent from 2010. The average cash flow multiple was 2.36, down 8.2 percent.

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