How much should I sell my domain name for?
August 23, 2004 10:40 AM   Subscribe

How much should I sell my domain name for? [more inside]

I have a .net domain name that's a combination of my first and last names, and it currently redirects to my consultancy web site. I got an inquiry from a web design firm that is "working with a client that needs the name to do a website under that name." I have the same name as a somewhat well-known singer, and I have reason to believe the people are acting on his behalf. I've had the domain name for five years or so.
posted by kirkaracha to Computers & Internet (17 answers total)
My first step would be to suggest they make an offer. Since you have something that they want, you have the upper hand and can afford go slow. Sometimes the best negotiating tool to let the other party wait a little while.

Is this an A list performer? Does the well-known singer currently have a site? These things can give you an indication of the potential value of the domain.

I know somebody who started a small company as a sideline. It really didn't take off, but he had registered a compound-word domain name in the process of his business exploration. He got a call from an IP lawyer expressing interest in the name, for another not-so-well-known company. Last I heard the offer on the table was around $7,500.
posted by SteveInMaine at 11:02 AM on August 23, 2004

Second the advice to wait until they make an offer. In fact, you might be on thin ice just asking them to make an offer. I'm not up on all the rules & regs for domain name disputes, but IIRC, one of the things somebody who wants your domain name can use against you in the proceedings to take it away is "he tried to sell it to me." That raises the inference that you're a cybersquatter and are just trying to extort money from the other guy.
Keep using your name, and make sure you can show that you've been using it for legitimate purposes for the whole time you've had it. Otherwise, you might end up having it taken away, just for offering to sell it.
posted by spacewrench at 11:19 AM on August 23, 2004

This is going to sound stupid, but: read up on negotiation tactics. Seriously -- I'm a lousy negotiator, so when I sold a domain name recently I had a biz-savvy friend of mine coach me during the process, which resulted in my being able to triple the asking price.
posted by aramaic at 11:23 AM on August 23, 2004

I'm sure they've also approached the owners of the .com version of the same name -- your best-case price is probably going to be lower than whatever the owner of that domain asks for for his. (Which given the content and hosting of that site, probably isn't going to be much.)
posted by ook at 11:27 AM on August 23, 2004

aramaic - can you sum up your friend's advice (if it can be generalized) that resulted in the tripling of the asking price?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:31 AM on August 23, 2004

I don't think he's in danger of breaking any cybersquatting laws if it's his own name, and he's using it for a legit business, is he?

It appears that the singer still hasn't acquired the .com version of the name--which may factor into this (exactly how, however, I'm not sure).
posted by jpoulos at 11:59 AM on August 23, 2004

stupidsexyFlanders: sadly, I don't remember the details -- basically, I told her what their opening offer was, she did some math, and told me what my response should be. When they counteroffered, she did some more math and told me what value I should use for my own counter-counteroffer. I wanted to just sell the domain quickly, but I'm glad I listened to her instead.

Apparently game theory has a lot to offer in these sorts of situations (I know next to nothing about game theory); my friend seemed to get the equations she used from a big book on game theory, which had been a textbook in one of her MBA classes.
posted by aramaic at 12:18 PM on August 23, 2004

At AlterNIC you can pay a few dollars to have the value of your domain evaluated. It might be worth doing so that you can start your bartering from higher ground.
posted by Jairus at 12:22 PM on August 23, 2004

Do you really want to make that much off something you didn't work that hard to get?

Why not calculate an hourly rate on the time it took you to set up and maintain the site, add in all registration and related costs, and adjust for inflation? There's nothing wrong with making a profit, and certainly these people are not some altruistic charity either, but how ethical is it to try to mark up the cost on anything just to see how much the market will bear? Or am I hopeless naive?
posted by luriete at 12:24 PM on August 23, 2004

(sorry, "hopelessly")
posted by luriete at 12:41 PM on August 23, 2004

Hopelessly naive.

If a heinous killer, alleged, shared his name he would wear that unfortunate badge for the rest of his days so why not cash in on someone doing good things with his name. Ironically, that guy made it work.

kirkarach had the foresight to think of it. It isn't as if this guy doesn't already have a web presence - which will also limit your negotiating power. My guess is that they will see from whom they can negotiate the best deal. Set up that you lease it to them with you doing the hosting and design at your usual rate to be reevaluated every 18 months.

Christian R&B Singer
posted by geekyguy at 12:54 PM on August 23, 2004

Why not calculate an hourly rate on the time it took you to set up and maintain the site, add in all registration and related costs, and adjust for inflation?

This is reasonable for reproducible goods, but doesn't hold water for one-of-a-kind things like domain names. You have to add in the value (to kirkaracha) of the "good will" -- the fact that somebody can type in his name and get to his website. If he sells the domain, his customers will have one less way of getting in touch with him. How much is that worth?

cybersquatting laws...

They're not laws, they're guidelines by the ICANN interpreted by the registrars. (That's my understanding, anyway.) Registrars tend to be very considerate of viewpoints expressed by corporations and anybody else represented by expensive lawyers. So the horror stories are often about Joe Little Guy losing "" to "Joe 'Friend of the Little Guy' Corp." even though the individual really was using the domain, and didn't particularly want to sell.
As soon as it's cheaper to pay a lawyer to file a domain name dispute, that's when you're no longer talking about selling, but instead trying to convince some flunky at Network Solutions that your name really is "Joe LittleGuy," and you really were using that domain.
posted by spacewrench at 12:55 PM on August 23, 2004

Meant to change the link to this ironic site.
posted by geekyguy at 12:56 PM on August 23, 2004

Michael... Bolton? Any relationship to the pop singer?
posted by abcde at 1:45 PM on August 23, 2004

Right there with you, abcde. Also, a chance viewing of Demolition Man reveals "Scott Peterson" as one of the criminals frozen in the future prison.
posted by NortonDC at 4:37 PM on August 23, 2004

Frequently the opening dance in a negotiation is both sides trying to get the other side to produce a number. It can get pretty funny sometimes, especially as you both know what is happening. I would work reasonably hard in this situation to get them to make the opening offer. If you are forced to go first of course you do not want to go too low and give it away, but you do not want to go too high and scare them off. It is probably better in such circumstance to shoot for the moon and indicate that you are flexible. Do not negotiate against yourself. For instance, if they say "that is too high, give us a lower figure." Make them give the lower figure so that it becomes a floor rather than a ceiling. Getting it valued may also be helpful. You do not need to let them know that you have done it. If the price being offered is lower you can always then point to the evaluation as evidence of how unreasonable their price is. In general do not offer too much information. Rather seek information from the other side. Never lie or act in any way dishonest as trustworthiness helps to get what you want. You might also seek a lawyer who deals with these issues to help you. He or she should know the market and be a seasoned negotiator. However, do not pay too much. If the price is less than five or ten times the lawyer's fee it probably pays to just do it yourself.
posted by caddis at 6:54 PM on August 23, 2004

Response by poster: I think I'll ask them to make me an offer taking into consideration that the domain name is based on my name and that I've been using the domain to point to my professional site for several years. There's also the goodwill thing that spacewrench mentioned.

I found a free appraisal site that seemed much more legitimate than I thought it would be at first, and their suggested price seemed reasonable. I also paid for an appraisal so I have a better idea of what to look for.

geekyguy: I like your suggestion about me doing the hosting and design, but that's what the people who contacted me do.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:05 PM on August 23, 2004

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