Once you’ve located a domain name that you’d like to acquire, consider evaluating the status. For example, if there is a fully operating business or developed website on the domain name, it is unlikely that the owner will sell. However, if you find that the website is not developed or it is parked, you’ll need to get in touch with the current domain owner. Whois and historic Whois data can be very helpful in finding out who to contact and how. You can use DomainTools Whois to find this data.
Before you draft your inquiry, be sure to understand the domain value up front by doing a valuation. Keep in mind that there are many automated domain sale/purchase bots, which means you should word your inquiry in a way that draws attention to the owner so they know that you are a serious buyer. There isn’t necessarily a “correct” way to undertake a domain name purchase, but consider the status of the domain name and your situation when deciding which approach works best.
Here are different approaches you can take if you’re interested in buying a domain name currently owned by someone else:
– Casual Inquiry. This tactic is helpful in cases where a domain name is not being used for an active site. Without mentioning any interest in buying it, you can inquire what the future plans are for the domain name. There are a few issues that may arise with a casual inquiry. First, the owner may not take your inquiry seriously because it’s worded so casually. Second, you may receive an inflated price response from the owner as a way to see if the request for information was real.
– Low-ball Initial Offer. This tactic is helpful in cases where the domain name is not in use. Be specific about your interest in the domain name and mention a suggested price that is a bit lower than what you’re willing to offer. If the dollar amount is tempting enough and the seller does not have a specific use for the domain name, you may get a favorable response back. However, if the seller asks for a higher price, you’ve left yourself with some room to negotiate.
– Attractive Offer. This tactic is useful if you have a strong desire to secure a particular domain name and you are able to spend a large sum of money. By sending an inquiry backed up by 1) your credentials, 2) a high opening offer, and 3) a very specific date in which you need to secure the domain name, you may be able to close the deal quickly. The downside to submitting a high offer is that you will not have the chance to acquire the domain name at a lower price. On the other hand, most domain owners are unlikely to turn down a very good offer and you may spend less time in the negotiation process than if you had started with a lower bid and arbitrated back and forth on a final price.
– Wait and See. Another option is to wait and see if the domain expires.The current owner may decide not to renew the domain and you can leverage the service of a domain monitor (like DomainTools’ Domain Monitor) to keep tabs on domain status. If the domain name is not renewed, it will then go into pending delete status and could later be picked up in a drop catch auction. Drop catching is when a domain name is snapped up by companies such as snapnames.com who backorder domains as soon as they become available to re-register.
Once the negotiation is over and you’re settled on the price for the domain, what’s left is the closing process. You’ll want to ensure that the domain name is transferred to you and that the seller receives payment.
To ensure that the deal goes smoothly, here is a quick checklist to follow:
– Solidify terms of the deal. It’s good practice to send an email that summarizes the specific terms of the deal, it helps to clarify terms that may have been scattered across numerous emails. For higher value domains that are greater than $5,000, buyers should execute a short acquisition agreement to make the deal legally binding.
– Determine a payment method for the domain. Generally for a larger transaction, you’ll want to use an escrow service such as agreed.com. The benefit of using an escrow service is that they function as a mediator. You send payment to the escrow service, and the seller then transfers domain control. The money is passed to the respective parties once everything is settled. Escrow services may have certain restrictions around the type of payment that can be made. However, even if you don’t use an escrow service, circumstances may dictate the form of payment that you will need to make – such as corporate check, banker’s draft, or instant payment such as Paypal.
– Transfer control of the domain. If you are leveraging an escrow service, which is recommended in most cases, you will be given instructions on how and when to transfer control of the domain.
The transfer process will depend on which registrar the domain is currently registered with, and as the buyer, where you will want the the domain to transfer to. The process for handling domain transfers is slightly different for each registrar. However, the transfer process will usually take shape in one of the following forms:
– If the domain name is registered with a registrar that accommodates a free ‘instant transfer’ process, then all you need to do is open an account with the registrar (if you do not already have an account with one) and request that the seller ‘push’ the domain into the account that you created.
– You will need to request the domain’s authorization code (also referred to as an auth code or an EEP code) from the registrar. Authorization codes are basically a password for the domain, serving as an extra security measure.
– If the domain name is registered with a registrar that makes intra-registrar transfers complicated or impossible, you can initiate a transfer from your favorite registrar and ask the seller to confirm the transfer when the email transfer confirmation arrives. The email confirmation usually goes to the administrative contact on the domain record as a security precaution to ensure validity of the domain name transfer.
– Some registrars require a paper trail approach that may require a completed or signed transfer or a notarized letter authorizing the transfer. While most .com/.net./org registrars have bypassed faxed or snail-mailed documentation, there are still a few registrars that require that type of physical documentation before proceeding with a transaction (such is the case with UK transfers).
Note: Once a transfer has taken place, the domain name can not be transferred again for a number of days, unless it’s being transferred back to the previous registrar.
– Confirm the transfer & Finish the Transaction. Be sure to confirm the status of the transaction with the seller once the transaction has completed. In addition to sending payment on time and in full (if you are the buyer), it’s a good idea to send a final email thanking the other party for making the transaction a smooth one.
Lastly, be sure to update your Whois information after the purchase/sale, and set your domain to auto-renew and lock it for your protection.
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