The percentage of veterinarians who aspire to ownership dropped from 53 percent in 2006 to only 30 percent in 2012, according to the dvm360 State of the Profession survey. But in this case, numbers may not tell the whole story. Consultants and brokers agree that this still amounts to plenty of potential buyers in the market ready to purchase practices—if practices meet their criteria.
"I don't know that there is a decrease in those who want to own," says David McCormick, MS, of Simmons & Associates, a national veterinary practice sales firm. "I think that there are more veterinarians overall. So, the percentage of veterinarians who are future owners is going down, but that's because the number of associates is going up. Those who see themselves as future owners are out there. So for current practice owners, there are buyers."
Gary Glassman, CPA, a partner with Burzenski & Co. in East Haven, Conn., agrees with the sentiment: "Right now, I see more buyers in the marketplace than there are sellers."
In fact, Glassman says he sees some potential buyers becoming frustrated because they can't find practices to purchase. When practices represented by brokers come on the market, Glassman has seen several cases where sellers receive multiple bids. "It's really a seller's marketplace, especially for practices that are being marketed by brokers," he says.
Glassman is also seeing more transactions in which the seller receives full asking price. "And this is happening because there's an abundance of buyers out there," he says.
While there are buyers ready to purchase practices in most areas, several trends are defining the market, from buyers wanting to purchase practices in desirable areas to a growing group of female owners who want to purchase and operate practices on their own terms. More alarmingly, when potential buyers can't find practices to purchase in the right places, some are opting for startups—a trend that could oversaturate the market.