Buying Domain Names Privately

I was just asked about how I buy domain names privately, and instead of replying to a comment/email, I thought I would make a post out of it, since the question has been asked before.   The question I received was: just curious if you could provide some detail on your process of buying a name privately. I am not seeking specifics like prices you paid, etc. But more general stuff like, do you use an attorney to write up a sales contract and liability release, do you use escrow, etc.
When I purchase in private, I only use an attorney if the deal is more complicated than normal, if I am working with a seller who is unfamiliar with domain sales, or if the seller requests it. I had an attorney draft a sales agreement template several months ago, and I generally use that – making changes as necessary. Since most of my purchases are unsolicited offers by me, I am more comfortable moving forward with a deal than if someone contacted me out of the blue to sell me a domain name.
I am vigilant about doing a domain history search (using Domaintools) to make sure everything lines up. I want to make sure the seller has the right to sell the domain name. I also trust my gut – if something doesn’t seem right, I don’t do the deal. If I see a great name that is too cheap, I will typically stay away unless I am confident that things are legit. A few things that I look out for in the history check are that the email address didn’t recently change, the contact email isn’t that of the developer who might be managing the name but doesn’t have the right to sell it, the name wasn’t involved in a dispute, and anything that looks suspicious.
50% of the time I will use an escrow service like or Moniker. is more widely known outside of the domain industry, so I will use them if I am dealing with someone who isn’t a domain investor. I don’t want someone to get confused about using a domain service they might not trust. That almost happened once, so after I close a deal, I do my best to make things as simple as possible.
The other 50% of my deals are done using wire transfers or payment via Paypal. These are done exclusively with people/companies I know and trust, or if the value is less than it’s worth to use an escrow service – going on gut instinct again. I also use my AmEx when I pay via Paypal, so if something does go wrong, I am fairly confident that I will be covered. It’s important to know the person who you are dealing with when sending a wire, as your options for financial recovery may be more limited.
The most important thing is going with your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, you are probably right. If you aren’t 100% comfortable going at it alone, you should invest in an attorney to assist you. I know a few who are familiar with the industry, and I’d be happy to make a recommendation if you’d like. There seem to be new scams popping up every day in the domain industry, so it’s important to learn what to look out for and avoid the pitfalls.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn
  1. This is a great post regarding the process after you find someone willing to sell a name but what about the approach. Do you normally approach domain owners via email? If so, what do you generally write?

  2. Nice post Elliot. How about another one just like this, but covering how you approach a domain owner when you want to buy their domain and the initial steps in setting up a deal?

    Sounds like a good post for tomorrow 🙂

  3. I prefer email as a first approach. It’s less intrusive, and allows you the opportunity to provide information to domain owners that you are a trusted source. (This is not to discount the telephone, as many “veterans” prefer the old fashion method of picking up the damn phone!)

    I start with an introduction of myself. Then tell them why I am contacting them….ahh I hate typing – here’s a “canned” message I send out (edited here for context and to update Elliot on my new role @ NameMedia):

    Dear Elliot,

    My name is Ted Olson. I’m the acquisitions manager with BuyDomains – an award-winning company, and the
    world’s leading source for Buying, Parking, and Selling premium domain names.

    I am contacting you in regards to your domain:

    I appreciate the work you do informing the domain industry with sound advice, based on “actual” experience.

    We’ve communicated in the past (briefly) on a few different domains when I was in a sales role.

    I have recently climbed the corporate ladder and am now the Acquisitions Manager with NameMedia – I’m the guy that buys domains for BuyDomains.

    I hope that we can continue to work together in the future and keep up the great work.


    Ted Olson

    Ted Olson | Acquisitions Manager – BuyDomains
    BuyDomains is a Division of NameMedia Inc
    Direct: 1-781-839-2852
    NameMedia Inc | 230 Third Avenue | Waltham, MA 02451

    CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This e-mail and any documents attached to it may contain confidential or proprietary information or content. The transmission is intended solely for the information or use of the individuals addressed, or copied, as intended recipients. If you are not a named recipient, or you were otherwise sent this by mistake, you are hereby notified that any disclosure, copying, distribution or taking of any action as a result of or in reliance on the contents of this e-mail is strictly prohibited. If this message has been received in error, please delete it immediately and notify the sender by return e-mail. Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.

    Hi Ted,
    Thanks for sharing – and congrats on the new role!

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