Indeed, in a recent survey of 951 small-business owners by Small Business Digest, 51 percent said they had purchased their venture rather than starting from scratch.
The risks buyers face are often much larger than they anticipated, Mr. Minor said. "There are any number of ways you can go wrong" when buying a business, he said. The first stumbling block for most, he said, is trying to figure out if the business is worth its sticker price.
Ms. McGuckin said she frequently "has to talk people off the ledge" when they want to buy a business for a higher price than she thinks the business is worth.
"People develop a passion for something and they put blinders on and think, 'I've just got to have this no matter what the price,' " she said.