How to buy a domain that someone else owns

Negotiate for your dream domain

Maybe you’ve been here: You’ve got an amazing-with-a-capital-A business idea and you want to buy a domain name to go with it and start a new web empire. Or something like that.

But when you rush over to your favorite domain registrar to buy your dream domain, it’s taken. Somebody else has already registered it and, while you might see some great alternatives in the search results, you’re bummed that “your name” isn’t available. Egads! What can you do?

Where to buy a domain that’s taken

From a branding and marketing perspective, it’s especially important to choose the right domain name for your website. For many people, it’s a truly personal decision. The domain just has to feel right — and you don’t want to settle for an alternative.

If this is the case in your search for the perfect domain, take heart. You might be able to buy your ideal domain name in the domain aftermarket. This is a great place to buy a domain that someone else already owns. If your dream domain isn’t listed on the aftermarket, you can attempt to buy it directly from its current owner.

However, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind before you take the plunge and contact the domain’s owner, namely budget and timing.

Set your budget

It’s important to think about the budget you have for acquiring the domain. Put yourself in the other domain owner’s shoes for a minute. They spent time and money to get the domain, and they might be actively using it. Offering them $10 or even $100 probably won’t even get you a response.

Don’t take a bargain-basement approach. Prepare to make a fair offer.

Think about what the domain name is worth, and be prepared to make a fair offer.

Editor’s note: Need help determining the value of the domain? As the largest reseller of aftermarket domain names, GoDaddy has access to extensive data that we use to analyze millions of historical domain sales. Try GoDaddy Domain Appraisals to determine the value of the domain so you can make an educated offer.

Give yourself enough time

The other key thing to keep in mind is timing. While it is possible to get in touch with the owner of the domain you want and get them to agree to sell it to you for the right price, it probably won’t happen in a day. In most cases you should plan on a month to give yourself the time you need to contact the owner, negotiate a fair price, make the payment, and get the domain name moved to your account.

4 steps to your dream domain

Now that you are ready to take the plunge and go for that perfect domain for your project, let’s look at a few final steps which will give you the best chance at walking away with that name. There are really only a few steps involved in buying a domain. Of course, you can apply variations and tactics to each step, but I am confident someone with little domain buying experience can make a decent go of getting the exact name they want if they follow the steps below.

1. Find out who owns your dream domain.

The first step in buying a domain someone else owns is finding out who the other person is. You can do this by using WHOIS. This is like the white pages of a phone book. Many times the name, email and phone number of the person who owns the domain name is listed there.

The WHOIS directory is like the white pages of a phone book.

 

There are times, however, when the person uses a privacy service or the information is out of date. Privacy on the WHOIS acts like an unlisted phone number; it adds other information on the WHOIS to guard the owner’s personal information. The privacy email information almost always forwards to the real owner’s email address, so it is still possible to try and contact them through the private email listed in the WHOIS directory.

Note: If the WHOIS information is out of date, you can submit an invalid WHOIS complaint by contacting the domain registrar (the company where the domain name is registered, such as GoDaddy) and they will contact the owner to update their information if they deem the contact information to be invalid.

2. Get contact info for the decision maker.

Once you have the email contact, do some basic research to learn more about the domain’s current owner. You want to get in touch with a decision maker. Chances are, if you email a company’s website administrator, they will ignore you.

You’ll have better luck if you can get in touch with the business owner or a domain investor. If you can only find the general email box of a medium- or large-sized company, dig around some more for ways to contact the decision maker of the company about the domain.

3. Start negotiating.

Now the fun part begins: negotiation. Negotiation is an art and a science, so it’s in your best interest to read up on the topic in advance. A few good resources include:

Industry expert Braden Pollock offers up one great piece of domain negotiation advice: “He who names a price first loses.” It is always better to start out asking if the name is for sale and, if so, what the seller would consider letting it go for. To learn more about negotiating for domains that someone else owns, be sure to check out our recent Google+ Hangout with Braden:

4. Pay for and transfer ownership of the domain.

Next, you’ll need to pay for the domain and transfer its ownership. I cannot stress enough the importance of using a third party to facilitate this process. You want to feel protected when you are paying for the domain and actually walk away with the domain you worked so hard to obtain. The seller wants to know they can trust your payment.

GoDaddy offers a trusted aftermarket platform for transacting domain name sales. You can also use alternative services such as Escrow.com, which hold the money until the name is accepted and confirmed to be in the buyer’s account, and clear the funds for the seller prior to authorizing the movement of the domain to the buyer.

Ready to get started?

As with anything else in business, getting started is often the hardest part. But now that you know how, I encourage you to jump into buying the domain you always wanted. Even a “no” from the current owner doesn’t mean you have to give up; situations change, so it’s always a good idea to check back in from time to time to let your dream domain’s owner know you’re still interested.

Want an expert to handle it for you? If all this domain aftermarket stuff sounds too complex or if you just don’t have the time to deal with it, consider turning to a professional service like GoDaddy’s Domain Buy Service. A broker will contact the domain’s current owner and negotiate for the domain on your behalf. Done and done.

Try it now!

 


Also published on Medium.

Joe Styler
Joe Styler serves as product manager for the aftermarket at GoDaddy. He’s responsible for marketplace products including any purchase, sale, or monetization of a domain name. During his nine-year tenure at GoDaddy Joe has served in a variety of directorial and supervisory roles. His passion is seeing his customers become successful in their business goals when using the aftermarket. He has been interested helping people with transactions on the Internet for more than 20 years. Joe received his B.A. from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and his Masters in Divinity from Gordon Conwell in Massachusetts.