Someone wants to buy my 4-letter domain. What's it worth?
February 28, 2013 6:40 AM   Subscribe

For a decade I've had a 4-letter English word domain at .be and a law firm contacted me about buying it.

Two months ago I got polite emails from a marketing/advertising company asking if I want to sell my .be domain I've had for a decade, which I haven't been using as a blog for a year. I wasn't interested in selling but now I've gotten an email from a law firm, saying that their client previously contacted me indirectly, and now asking me to call them to hear an offer from them.

I previously tried helpfully informing that marketing company that there were other domains which have this word available for registration, but they said they did not want other domains.

I have no idea what the law firm is going to offer, although I assume it's a first offer. I know that the domain frenzy long ago died down but this appears to be a product or name of a Belgian company that wants to brand itself so it might have some value.

Any ideas what range of prices would be reasonable to sell? (If it helps, the domain I have is a 4-letter English word like 'pick,' 'mate' or 'foot' where it can be a noun or a verb.)
posted by skywhite to Computers & Internet (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Make them make an offer. Once they do, you'll either laugh, gape or shrug.

Laugh: "We'll give you $5."
Your response: "No." *click* That's all. Don't even bother counter-offering.

Gape: "We'll give you $1,000,000."
Your response: "Send me the contract."

Shrug: Something in between. Think it over (and if they pressure you to decide right then, go back to "Laugh"), ask for somewhere between 1.2 times and 2 times what they offered, and consider it a good deal.

The value of that web domain to you right now is basically $0. You're not using it, you sound like you're not likely to use it once you get That Great Idea (and frankly, even if you did get That Great Idea, your website address won't make it any greater or less great), and it's not likely to appreciate in the future. So any (reasonable) amount is a gain for you. It doesn't matter how much it "should" be worth, because you're the one selling it; what matters it what it's worth to you.
posted by Etrigan at 6:49 AM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

It's worth whatever they will pay for it. The only way will know that number is to engage with them and hear their offer.
posted by COD at 6:50 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

It has no intrinsic value - it's worth what someone will pay for it - and in 10 years you've had one offer.

Hear the offer. If it's enough for you to be happy giving it up, ask for 50% more anyway.
posted by Hobo at 6:51 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

How much would it take to get you to sell it? That's how much it's worth to you. However much they would pay to get it is how much it's worth to them. Negotiate and see where it turns out.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:52 AM on February 28, 2013

Mmm, my valuation would depend a lot on the size of the firm, honestly, which is gouge-ey of me, but hey.

A mid-sized law firm is not going to balk at $5K or $10K. If they were employing an agent to investigate URLs, they already have more money than they should. :)

I guess I would hear their offer, then double it in response, then take whatever they came back with. Be super polite and fairly terse, is my advice.

(OBVIOUSLY this advice is null and void if they offer you some outrageous amount of money, JUST TAKE IT.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:59 AM on February 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

Anything you get for it is found money.

- Maybe it's enough to buy lunch. Hey, free lunch!
- Maybe it's enough to pay your utilities for a month. Hey, free utilities for a month!
- Maybe it's enough to buy a new car. Hey, free car!

Win-win for you, regardless of the amount.

In your shoes, I'd pretty much take whatever they offered. It's free money.
posted by DWRoelands at 7:01 AM on February 28, 2013

I remembered this article which describes how when Microsoft wanted to buy, they went through lawyers to hide that they have deep pockets.

It sounds like the same thing is happening here. First a marketing firm contacted you, now a lawyer is specifically saying that their client previously tried to contact you indirectly.

I'm not sure how to play it, but they have contacted you twice. They could have just picked up a similar domain cheaply, but it seems like they think it's important to get this specific domain. I might try to throw a high offer back at them to see just how important this is to them.
posted by cali59 at 7:02 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I disagree with those above who say it's worth lunch or whatever they offer. I have a 4 letter .com domain (so 7 letters), not even a real word, on auction at sedo right now and it's been bid up to about $2500 so far. I think your domain has way more potential than mine.

( is a big and relatively reputable domain broker.)
posted by moonmilk at 7:08 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is not meant to trivialize your decision, but you might find this old clip from Taxi relevant.
posted by mosk at 7:11 AM on February 28, 2013

If you refuse an offer to buy, you just paid that much for it.
posted by bensherman at 7:24 AM on February 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

Just get them to talk first.

You: I'm willing to entertain an offer, what is your client willing to pay for it?

They: What do you want?

You: Send your offer to me via email and I'll consider it. (click)

Let them set the tenor of the negotiations.

Even if what they offer is an astounding amount of money, always ask for more (at this point, they expect you to.)

They: We'll give you $XX

You: I think you're in the right ballpark, how about $XXX?

They'll either say yes, or they'll counter back. Either way, you get some dough and they get the site name they want.

Also, google the company, if it's a multi-million dollar concern, you have more leverage than if it's a three-person office.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:39 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have sold some domain names for profit.

I'd think $1000 plus whatever money you have sunk into maintaining the domain. Yes, that is pricing it low with the intention to sell.

You've had it for ten years, this is your first offer, and you could just as easily go another ten years without getting another offer. What is the play here? Hold onto the domain for a lifetime and pass it down to your kids so they can hold it for their lifetime?
posted by 99percentfake at 8:35 AM on February 28, 2013

I think an auction might be a good solution for you. List it with a reserve price that's high enough that you won't feel bad if it sells at the bottom, like a few hundred. You can tell the marketing firm and the law firm about the auction, and they can bid on it along with the rest of the world. If it doesn't sell, you're no worse off.

Feel free to memail me for my modest experiences with a domain auction.
posted by moonmilk at 8:59 AM on February 28, 2013

Ive sold a few domains. It really depends on the word but if its pronouncable, it sounds to me like your domain could very realistically fetch five figures to a Belgium company. Perhaps much less in other markets though. Just a guess. I wouldn't sell for less than 1k based on what is known here.
posted by molloy at 9:05 AM on February 28, 2013

I don't see any indication that the buyer needs to be a Belgian corporation, so it could be anyone requesting to buy your domain. Google owns for example.

What if it's SoBe soda trying to get his domain?
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:40 AM on February 28, 2013

They have an offer for you? You couldn't be in a better position. Usually it's "Hey I want to buy, how much u want for it?" and it's up to you to guess whether they'll pay $10 or $100,000.

Call them, hear the offer, ask them a few questions about their client and what use it would be put to (They'll likely be cagey, but for example, you don't want your former blog to be associated with a new porn site, so what kind of business is it?), tell them "Thanks, you'll hear from me within a week." hang up and do some thinking and research.

Some things to research and think about:
If it's a URL shorting service (, etc) then you probably have some negotiation power. There are probably not a lot of other options for them that make sense.

If it's a new (or not quite in existence) company you probably don't have a lot of negotiation power. They'll just choose another, cheaper name.

If it's an existing company wanting a local site (one that has and now want you have a fair bit of negotiation power.

Give them a counteroffer, xx% higher, based on the answers above.

But even if it's $100 then you come out a winner. If they're hiring a law firm to do it, I'd be surprised if it's less than a couple grand.
posted by Ookseer at 11:29 AM on February 28, 2013

Thanks to everyone for the suggestions.

Given the domain's name (it's like "clap" or "tuck") it likely isn't being considered for an URL shortener because adding .be doesn't make a comprehensible word.

I wasn't really interested in selling it before but if 5 figures get dangled before me I guess I'd take it. I've sunk $150 in registration fees over the years (and a few minutes on the Tumblr account it forwards to), and I never really expected to sell the domain ever. Since there's only one person/company who seems to have shown interest in it I'm not inclined to go the auction route.

I love TAXI and that was a favorite scene of mine.
posted by skywhite at 1:01 PM on February 28, 2013

Another vote for hearing their offer. Domain valuations are tricky and sometimes ridiculous, but if they've come this far, it's worth talking to them.

One caveat: don't ever pay for a domain valuation service, especially not one that they recommend. That's a common scam which is unfortunately very easy to fall for.

If you do choose to put it up for auction, please PM me -- I work in website/domain auctions and would be happy to help a fellow MeFite!
posted by third word on a random page at 1:02 PM on February 28, 2013

One thing I just remembered: a friend of mine sold his three-letter domain years ago, and it ended up being to a fairly large company that only wanted it for the acronym, but no one ever refers to them by the acronym, so he didn't think of it and still regrets (a little) not having investigated that more thoroughly and getting more money out of them. So you might want to look around a little and see whether that's the case for yours.
posted by Etrigan at 1:04 PM on February 28, 2013

a friend of mine sold his three-letter domain years ago, and it ended up being to a fairly large company that only wanted it for the acronym
I had not thought of that, thanks. According to Wikipedia my word has a number of business-related acroynyms associated with it. I'd assumed it was for a new product or a newly-minted company but maybe not.

I emailed the lawyer, gave him my # and he's going to call me.
posted by skywhite at 3:08 PM on February 28, 2013

Don't make them an offer. Let THEM make an offer. If you make an offer, you are at big risk of selling yourself short. You can also have the domain appraised professionally, but in reality it's true value is what someone is actually willing to pay for it. You don't find out what someone is willing to pay for it unless you let them make the offer or unless you set a super high asking price and work down from there.

Careful about talking to the lawyer on the phone because you may feel compelled to respond immediately to things he says or asks, whereas with email you can pause and think.
posted by Dansaman at 3:38 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd also caution you to take care talking on the phone to someone who negotiates professionally unless you're sure of your skills in this area. Have a list of polite non-answers ready for any questions, no matter how friendly, that the lawyer may ask you. "I'm sorry, I'd rather not discuss that at this stage. I'm sure you understand." Do as much as you can by email.

This company is paying the lawyer's fees (and has already paid the marketing company) because (a) they want to conceal the depth of their pockets from you and (b) because they are confident s/he can represent their interests (getting the lowest possible price) effectively.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 4:03 PM on February 28, 2013

Also if you can, please let us know how it went!
posted by Admira at 8:48 PM on February 28, 2013

You can safely assume that if you force them to make an offer, it's going to be a low ball water to test the waters.
posted by Dansaman at 9:58 PM on February 28, 2013

Also if you can, please let us know how it went!
Sure. Hopefully no one there is reading Metafilter right now.
posted by skywhite at 3:10 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Don't undersell yourself. I've seen domains that were valuable for a specific mid-sized company (and nobody else) go for low 6-figures, in a 3-payment plan. The initial offer in negotiation was about $2,000. This company also used lawyers and marketing agencies to hide their identity.
posted by unionsquarepark at 2:29 AM on March 3, 2013

...that said, obviously read the signs of the negotiation to make sure you don't price yourself out. But in my experience, domain buyers will often counter-offer to extremely high initial bids instead of just walking away.
posted by unionsquarepark at 2:35 AM on March 3, 2013

Update: the lawyer called me, would not name his client, and made a low-4-figure offer on my domain.

Hiring the lawyer, as well as the marketing company which contacted me previously, plus the cost of trademarking in Belgium the name whose domain I owned (to which the lawyer inadvertently admitted) likely cost at least as much as the offer made to me. So on the advice of a lawyer with a lot of negotiation experience I countered with a low-5-figure offer, expecting to negotiate to something acceptable to both sides. Alas, I was surprisingly rebuffed without being made any counteroffer whatsoever and I haven't heard from them in two weeks. I like my dormant domain and don't mind keeping it so I'm not upset about what turned out to be an interesting, if slightly unsatisfactory, experience.
posted by skywhite at 7:50 AM on April 3, 2013

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