How to grab an expiring domain name?
February 12, 2015 11:57 PM   Subscribe

So the .com version of a non monetized, family blog I own is set to expire this Spring and I would like to own it. Is there a service like a Domain Sniper that I can pay to snatch it up automatically if this guy can't be bothered to register it? I am likely to forget to check back in time even if I set a calendar reminder etc...

Last year I made contact with the registered owner in Australia and expressed interest in buying it but they were pretty slow with the back and forth (I think they didn't knew how to price it and if they were going to do anything with it). In the time they have owned it nothing has ever been posted and it sits empty. Its name leads itself to only be useful for a personal site and not commercial.

Please let me know how you got the site you wanted? Also if you think that I should just reach out with a cash offer any idea how much the ball park for this is? Its only a personal project so I would be willing to waste a couple hundred dollars on this.
posted by saradarlin to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Soliloquy at 12:59 AM on February 13, 2015

There is a grace period during which the person who currently owns it may renew. It won't "fall out" of that for a while, in my experience longer than you might think. It seems to vary based on the domain name registrar that was used.

The best way to get this domain name is to simply make an offer, just like you would make an offer on any other valuable and unique item you might want that someone currently already owns.

You seem to feel entitled to have this guy's domain name and seem to be rationalizing that it should be yours since he hasn't done anything with it, and since it's the ".com version" of your family blog. That's not the way it works, either legally or ethically. Just like you can't come along and claim somebody's land just because they haven't developed a house on it yet, or because it reminds you of your own land!

I own a few domain names and occasionally get emails of interest about them. I will never quote a price first, just like I will never quote a desired salary first in a job interview. Whoever mentions a specific monetary amount first is generally in the weaker position. This guy doesn't necessarily "not know how to price" his domain name, he may simply be a decent negotiator. Since YOU are the one inquiring, it is incumbent upon you to mention a price first, IF you really want it.

Most people who email me aren't really serious and are just looky-loos. You probably come off that way.

The one domain name I did sell was for a bit above $1k ($1250 maybe?) and I sold it because it was enough money to motivate me, because I wasn't doing anything with the domain name, because I had a similar domain name anyway, and because, importantly, the woman who bought it was serious, took the process seriously, made a reasonable offer and then followed through on her part without being prompted.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 2:56 AM on February 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

SnapNames is the biggest name in the domain-snatching business. They charge about $70 per domain.

Regarding how dormant a domain is, keep in mind that some people use domains primarily for email - "" may seem dead to you but "" may be using his email all the time.

I do recommend emailing the domain owner directly, even if you've emailed them previously. Be short and specific, your email should not say much more than "I want to buy your domain and I will pay you $500 for it" (or whatever amount you propose). If they do not respond, try to find an alternate email, people often have old email addresses on file with the domain registrar.

I have some experience buying domains like this and it's a total crap shoot. You get a "yes" every once in a while but mostly you get a "no", often worded either rudely or wishy-washy. Some people are completely delusional as to their domain value and others are simply apathetic.

Story time: I once tried to buy a crazy-good single-word dot com. Ended up flying to Paris to meet with the owner and it was... bizarre. No amount of money would convince this guy to sell and it was impossible to determine what the sticking point was - he was not rich, he was not disagreeable, he had no plans for this domain and no objections of any kind. And yet... nothing. It's been 15 years and every once in a while I will check in to see the domain still sitting there, completely unused. It would take the guy no more than a couple hours to at least throw up some google ads and start making easily $10k/month - and yet there it is, a blank white page as a monument to inertia.

P.S. For what it's worth nothing in your question seemed "entitled" to me and I don't think that you deserved to get scolded.
posted by rada at 6:31 AM on February 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

I've used godaddy's "backorder" service both successfully and unsuccessfully. I've also bought through an auction site run by networksolutions, I think, called NameJet.

I get emails a lot for my, requesting we sell it because we are "not using" it. But we are, for email and sub-domains that aren't heavily indexed. I usually just send back a quick note that we aren't interested in selling: it's usually for a student or young professional starting out who wants to use it for their portfolio and more. I've been offered up to 2,000 USD but it won't be sold.

I've sold some of my .coms for around $1,500 USD, but that hasn't happened in a while. Since new TLDs have opened up, the requests for my .coms have dropped. Mostly I'm solicited in the other direction, where I own and do I want to buy for a guaranteed low low price.

Maybe the person is thinking it's not worth the hassle. Do some research, find a reputable escrow service, and then email the person.
To: Domain Holder
From: Domain Buyer
Subject: Buying for $1,200

Hi, Domain Holder, I'm really interested in buying your domain name,

I'm prepared to offer you $1,200 for the domain, and we can run the transaction through escrow service or other reputable escrow service. I will pay the escrow transaction fees, and you will receive the full amount of $1,200.


posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 7:08 AM on February 13, 2015

I have purchased an obscure domain name. I guess it is a matter of negotiating style, but I just contacted the owner, gave them my best price (most I was willing to pay) and told them the bid was good for 30 days. About a week after I made the bid, they emailed back asking for a little more, I explained it was my best and only bid and then 3 days after that I owned the domain.

Either this person is a willing seller or not . It is a crap shoot.
posted by 724A at 7:12 AM on February 13, 2015

Sorry, it was not my intention to sound entitled I was trying to indicate why I thought the other person may let it lapse not that I deserve it and to be honest I think that's a bit of a callus interpretation of my question. Also I think it's unlikely to appeal to a commercial entity but have heard that domain squatters buy these kinda sites to hold on to.

When I emailed the buyer I was friendly and polite and offered $400 (IIRC) on the second email and never heard back from them. Maybe this offer was insulting? I kinda got the impression that this guy was wrapped up in his own stuff and just couldn't deal. Again why I think he might not be bothered to renew.
posted by saradarlin at 7:14 AM on February 13, 2015

Also, per my email with him he is not using it for email.
posted by saradarlin at 7:16 AM on February 13, 2015

If you think he might not be bothered to renew, then I would not email him. I'd sign up with his registrar as a customer and use their "backorder" service if they offer one. If they don't, then I'd sign up with a couple of the services mentioned here and take your chances.

If he's busy, someone asking if he's going to renew might encourage him enough to review. I know I'm that scatterbrained ... and then my registrar went kablooie and I couldn't renew and I spent a lot of time on chat with them until it was fixed and they confirmed my names were renewed (some of them were on the edge of that company's 30-day renewal window .. after that it's a $120 fee to "reclaim" it.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 7:24 AM on February 13, 2015

Your question was not at all entitled. Ridulous that you have to defend yourself from the suggestion.

If you're in no hurry maybe wait and see if it expires and you can get it with one of the services above. In the meantime Stewart Diamond's book on negotiation would be a helpful read. Try those techniques, work up to your final offer and take it as luck if it doesn't work out.
posted by StephenF at 8:31 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just like you can't come along and claim somebody's land just because they haven't developed a house on it yet, or because it reminds you of your own land!

Actually you can, it just takes awhile. The reason the common law allows this is because fallow land benefits no one (modern conservation notwithstanding [and not applicable to domain names]). If another party is willing to put the land to productive use for a period of time (and aren't effectively shooed off) it becomes their property.

Domain name squatters are the opposite of real property squatters. They're taking something and holding it for ransom keeping it from being put to productive use. There's no logical reason to incentivize this behavoir and the ethical questions should be aimed at the squatters, not people looking to put them to a legitimate use.

You are not required to throw money at this guy. Whether it's actually what you want to do is another question.

A few years ago, I was waiting on a domain (that was never going to be a money maker) to expire. It expired. GoDaddy took it over and set its own ransom price for the domain above what I was willing to pay. Over several months the price slowly decreased, but I lost interest. Another squatter eventually bought it, and there it sits to this day. If you can actually reach this guy, it might be worth dealing with him rather than with one of the faceless registrars who get first crack at these things.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 9:58 AM on February 13, 2015

posted by cjorgensen at 10:37 AM on February 13, 2015

I did this, and I used to do it. Looked up the domain through that website, saw it hadn't been renewed and was in the purgatory/pending/whateveryoucallit stage, and there was an option on Enom to "pre-buy" it, with money returned if the owner ultimately renewed the domain. It ended up costing me something like $70 all told, and was well worth it, since I'd wanted that domain for years. (Apparently, nobody else did, though!)
posted by mylittlepoppet at 10:54 AM on February 13, 2015

For future reference, I've successfully used to pick up expiring domain names at very reasonable prices in the past. A company I consult for was approached by a domain-name seller about pre-purchasing (for around a thousand dollars) a soon-to-be-expiring domain name related to their business some time back.

I told them not to respond to the email and did some research on different ways to try to grab an expiring domain name. Pheenix seemed to have a pretty good reputation in the domain buyer and seller community. It seems that one key to getting a domain name, especially if it's sought-after, is to go with a service that's quick - it's first come, first serve. The first domain sniper to register the expired domain name for a customer is the one who'll get it, and reports at the time were that pheenix was one of the fastest.

I signed up for an account with them, put in my backorder for the domain, and several days later, the domain was ours for a grand total of $18.95.

So far, so good, in my experience - painless process, good success rate and low prices make it a service I'm comfortable to recommend.
posted by syzygy at 2:54 AM on May 8, 2015

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