Why a Domain Broker Keeps Sales Private

Most domain brokers and brokerages are happy to report a successfully closed sale, and some report acquisitions as well. Each week, we see dozens of sales reported from some of the well known domain name brokerages. A solid public sale reinforces the aftermarket value of domain names, and it can also augment a domain broker’s reputation as someone who is able to get deals done at a high level.

Despite the fact that domain brokers can benefit from publicly announcing sales, there are important reasons for them to not disclose sales.

  • Don’t want to reveal private clients – When a public sale is announced, it let’s observers know who bought a domain name and who sold a domain name. The broker may not want to give competitors opportunities to poach clients. Additionally, other domain investors may approach either or both parties to the transaction to try and sell or buy domain names without a broker.
  • Harm acquisition attempts because people know who they represent – Discretion is important for some domain buyers, especially those who have significant amounts of money or have significant funding. If a domain owner is approached by a broker that is known to represent certain clients, it makes acquiring domain names more challenging, even if the wealthy buyer is not being represented.
  • Shows they can be discrete – When a deal goes under the radar and is not reported, it shows that the broker can be trusted with private information. Since it can help a broker to have public sales reported, a buyer or seller involved in a private transaction can know that the broker values discretion over publicity, even if that publicity can help the broker acquire future business.
  • In the middle of other deals – If a broker is in the middle of several acquisitions (or sales) and doesn’t want to risk the other sales from falling through, they may opt to keep individual deals private.

Some people wonder why there are so many unreported private sales. Not only does it often benefit a buyer or seller that requests a non-disclosure agreement, but the broker may insert a NDA in their sales agreement to protect their interests as well. It may seem counter intuitive for a domain broker to request privacy on deals, but it can actually help their business.

Separately, if you are looking for a domain broker, here is a list of domain brokers.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the DomainInvesting.com 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. Look, each broker needs to make money and every dollar counts. And this simple fact is major reason why all high value sales are not published. Still don’t get it? Well, think – if public knows that ABC.com is sold for $10 million, it would be hard to ask seller of XYZ.com to sell his/her domain for $50k. But as 10% commission on $50k sale is still nice money, it would be stupid to distractive all such potential clients. Clear? It is what I was told by one of big brokers in domaining industry in private conversation. And because this is happening, majority of domainers sells for much lower prices than their domain names are worth.

  2. Brokers don’t like the details disclosed to cover their own ass.

    It’s much easier to sell a domain for less than it’s value than what it’s actually worth. In the end they get paid regardless and no one get’s to question whether they sold it for too much or too little.

    • Todd, what is a domain really worth? Where is this book of values that you speak of? There isn’t one; just opinion from people like yourself who would never step to the plate with an actual offer. No one forces the seller to agree to a selling price, so I don’t get your argument?

      Big sales are rarely reported for the reasons mentioned above, AND because buyers (once made public) are inundated with spammy offers from every low-level domainer to buy their “premium” domain names. Just not worth the hassle for the buyer or the broker.

    • The seller agrees to the sale price of the domain because most of the time the seller does’nt know what it’s worth which is why they approach the broker in the first place.

      Brokers would not exist if they listed every name at what they think it’s actually worth. The seller trusts the broker to give the value but of course that value will be to the brokers advantage so they can flip it as quick as possible.

      I’m not saying all do this but you are clueless if you think this does’nt happen.

  3. Great points Elliot. I had considered that a buyer might not want to disclose pricing but I had not thought about the implications on the broker side of the deal.

  4. 1. Domain brokers represent very wealthy clients who prefer to keep their business deals private.

    2. Other domain brokers are ruthless, and they poach and pitch your clients that they can easily rip from your public listings and disclosed sales. Many high end brokers have learned it’s wise to keep your best high end listings and clients totally private.

  5. Keeping sale private allows brokers to manipulate with their commission. They go back and forth in buyer-seller counter offer negotiations and broker keeps both side posted different ways. I have seen situations when broker informed buyer how much he is going to pay (including commission), and the seller how much he is going to get (commission already deducted). Because buyer didn’t know seller’s number and vice versa, commission was unknown. Escrow allowed to split buyer’s payment to broker’s and seller’s part, so transaction was set the way where each party got the number they agreed on.

  6. The most recent sale I made based on completely unsolicited contact was in response to one of the brokers on Elliot’s list. I wasn’t even looking to sell the domain and was even reluctant. It was for a .US, solid mid $x, x x x, and the sale was kept private. I’m mentioning this because as I have posted elsewhere, I believe the new gTLD phenomenon may be resulting in .US finally getting increased awareness and desire in the mind of the public. The .US TLD, however, appears to be flying almost completely under the radar with the domaining community. I’ve been getting increased interest from potential buyers on .US including multiple inquiries on a multiple-worder I had not even thought about selling. (The one I just sold was a rather long multiple-worder in fact.) I had thought about not saying anything, but feel perhaps it’s best to do so. After all, at some point it’s time. I’m guardedly optimistic that one of the “winners” of this whole new gTLD phenomenon will actually be .US, and I think it makes some sense, too. As the public is made very much aware of all these new TLD’s, it’s only natural that at some point people would tend to think of “.us” and “.usa,” the latter being one I suspect will never be allowed to exist of course. If that’s one of the side results of the avalanche of new gTLD’s, that would be a nice and long awaited development.

  7. Great article. What resonated with me is point #3 about brokers who value the privacy of their clients over publicity. I have yet to come across a client who wants their domain transactions broadcast to the general public. Just like any other type of business sale, domains should also fall into this category where privacy comes first. Published domain transactions are fun to read about, however they represent a small portion of the overall secondary market.

    Since the majority of high value domains are sold under NDA’s, I would encourage sellers to pay attention to the types of domains that brokerage firms are taking under contract for sale. The quality of the inventory for sale is usually a good indicator for what that broker specializes in.

  8. I honestly leave that up to the client if they want it reported… some do, dome don’t… for various reasons ie taxes, not giving competition hints on verticals that work for them and so on.

    • I agree with Kevin, it should be up to the customer because they will have different reasons depending on their situation if they want it reported or not.

      It’s not black and white. I think a lot of top-draw clients like to have their dealings made private but not all of them.

  9. We’ve discussed this on a few occasions, Sellers and Brokers alike really NEED to respect a buyers privacy, publishing a sale without their permission is not only inconsiderate, it can be libelous in a COL.

    Like most I had my first big domain sale and wanted to announce it to the world, but I asked the buyer before I did and he requested that I NOT disclose it, I asked another buyer permission and he refused as well for some of the reasons Elliot outlines here..

    If you think about it, how does disclosure of domain sale in any way benefit the buyer? I cant think of one, So I stopped asking and simply don’t disclose sales out of respect for the buyers privacy.

    I don’t boast and if I do it’s usually about my kids who are well on their way to a prosperous future.

    • Well, I’ve added some healthy disagreement with you without mentioning you by name, Raider, but apparently it’s gotten held up in Elliot’s spam filter. For some reason a lot of my posts wind up there, though there’s nothing about them that would make you think they would. Even Elliot has expressed that he doesn’t know why this happens with mine…

  10. Respecting people’s wishes on privacy is definitely very important, but I’ll completely disagree with any suggestion that there is any kind of default mode or policy pre-obligating anyone or any obligation whatsoever of asking permission first unless all of that has been agreed to beforehand. So unless it is stipulated in the agreement otherwise, there is no privacy to respect by either the seller or the buyer, and you are not failing to respect anything if you feel it is advantageous to disclose and do so without asking or consulting the other party. In the example I just gave above, for instance, the only obligation I’m aware of is only on the broker to not publicize or disclose, but not on either the buyer or the seller. Theoretically either of us is free to do that. I was actually glad it was being kept private in that sense, however, and still desire the full details to remain private, but felt it was a good idea to only mention the .US TLD without going into anything further. So one can still follow the golden rule without being constrained under any kind of preconceived ethos if such has not been an explicit part of an agreement.

    • “So unless it is stipulated in the agreement otherwise, there is no privacy to respect by either the seller or the buyer”

      You know I like you John but I strongly disagree with you on this one, There is such a thing as professionalism and announcing to the world who buys your products in not only unprofessional it’s very disrespectful.. I’m sure you’ll agree were all in the business of selling unique merchandise here, almost like selling a piece of art or memorabilia, the auction houses usually have the decency of not disclosing WHO bought it but will often publish the sale amount.

      What your suggesting here has no limits, meaning either the seller or buyer could publish anything they want about the buyer because an agreement does not exist, We can publish his name, address, phone, email and even disclose the business plan they have and their’s nothing wrong with that? I’m not talking legalities, I’m talking about what’s right.

      I like to think that business establishments have a duty to protect the privacy of it’s customers, Knowing that whatever information I give or what I’m buying will be kept private, Consumers expect that of ANY business, Domain names INCLUDED.. Ask any of your buyers if they mind you disclosing the sale and report back with what they say OK?.

    • It’s only natural you should like me, Raider. I’m so very likable, a real sugar bear. Bears are also much more than just lovably honey sweet and cuddly and cute. They are huge and beautiful examples of God’s mightiest warrior creatures as well, receiving all of their attributes and might from God their maker. Like you I also oppose the darker sides and deeds of life, often fighting and devouring in favor of the light. And like the bear I normally devour all and walk away the victor of the fight, and leaving light where there was night.

      Now in reply to your latest post here, I will add more on the topic in another post, lest this one in growing somewhat long may wind up caught in the spam filter as so many of mine have before for some reason even Elliot has indicated he does not know. Although we disagree a bit, perhaps not so much as indicated in your last post here, however. I may post again much later tonight or this weekend, though, as it is already a bit late into the evening and I want to focus on some other things and possibly go out for a while too. So, see you later as they say…

    • Oh well, first Howie and now you, Todd. What part of the phrase “examples of” do you not understand?…(rhetorical only – don’t bother, not really interested in what new nastiness you’ll have to say)…

      Congrats – you’ve just been devoured by the sugar bear…

    • Okay, back to the topic at hand…Raider, I would say that the mistake you are making here starting with your first post is that you are conflating or confusing your own personal understanding and administration of the “golden rule” with that which is unquestionably normative and binding upon everyone. Related to that you are effectively being overly dogmatic about what the true and binding meaning and requirements are of phenomena like being considerate, respectful and professional.

      So in your first post you relate:

      “Like most I had my first big domain sale and wanted to announce it to the world, but I asked the buyer before I did and he requested that I NOT disclose it, I asked another buyer permission and he refused”

      In your own personal understanding and administration of the “golden rule” principle here and what it means to be considerate, respectful, professional and so forth, you apparently felt you were under an obligation to consult these buyers absent any NDA or simple prior statement of a wish for privacy. Based on everything you have written you doubtless would have preferred to be treated the same way. However, the important thing to realize is that this is merely your own personal position on the “golden rule” and the other principles involved, not an authoritative position binding on all other and which can be easily known to all others. You were never under any real obligation to consult these buyers at all, and you were free to publicize these sales at will. The extent to which you would publicize every single minute detail of any communication between you and the parties involved would certainly be the subject of the exercise of judgment and discretion, but the bare bones minimum that is normally involved in such public announcements was also certain a matter of your own free choice unbound by any true restriction whatsoever outside of your own personal conscience on the matter.

      By the way, since most folks in the industry, me included, appear to favor the real estate analogy regarding domain names, I would point out that normally ownership and sales data is a matter of public record regardless of anyone’s preference, unless of course extra steps are taken for a measure of privacy.

      So let’s look at the example of Ron Jackson’s excellent contribution to the industry in the form of DNJ, most notably here the sales records reported more or less every week and archived going back years. I don’t know exactly what all of his policies are for the sales reporting, but over the years I have gleaned that at a minimum he normally requires some semblance of proof that the reported transactions have occurred. However, I have never once come across any indication whatsoever that he requires the consent of every part involved to the publicizing of the information, in the same way that physical property/real estate (public) records have no such requirement. I have no doubt that he would defer to the terms of any formal NDA agreement if he knows of its existence, and probably even to the wishes of another party to the sale if he happens to learn of them. I doubt very much, however, unless I’m quite mistaken, that his policy is to seek out every party involved to secure consent when there is no indication of any requirement of privacy or nondisclosure. Others can correct me if I’m substantially wrong, but I’m inclined to doubt that I am. I’m confident a great many of us greatly appreciate and like what Ron Jackson has been doing all these years in publishing the sales data and even more or less look forward to it every week. However, I also doubt very much that any of us would be inclined to accuse him or engaging in behavior that is unethical, inconsiderate, disrespectful, or unprofessional – not at all, and quite the contrary.

      So the bottom line is that there are issues of personal preference, principle, conscience, formal requirements or the lack thereof, judgments about what is in one’s best interests, etc. that can go into any decision to publicize or not publicize a sale. While there is no objective moral requirement whatsoever to refrain from publicizing absent formal permission of some kind, nor any authoritative one-method-only requirement of consideration, respect, professionalism, and so forth, any moral requirement that does exist in the “golden rule” allows one the flexibility to engage in a variable administration of the binding principle. Simply put, you are free to publicize or not publicize absent any clear requirement to the contrary.

      I’m going to click submit here without proofreading this, so pardon any typos.

    • Elliot I just posted a lengthy reply to Raider which apparently got caught in your spam filer (again), so if you could approve…Perhaps it doesn’t like long ones. I’ll also send it to you in another email right after this…

  11. Elliot, I was having a good run here but my last reply just got blocked, so if you could check your spam folder and approve…

  12. I haven’t been able to report a purchase for a client (I am exclusively a domain buyer broker) for many years now.

    I would very much like to report my deals but buyers do not want purchases reported for a variety of reasons.

  13. Well with Elliot having rescued my June 18th, 2014 7:48 pm post from his spam filter early yesterday and no rebuttal since I’m going ahead and declaring that I won the mini debate on that point. Mine was the clearly more balanced and reasonable position so not exactly out on a limb there. 😉

  14. Okay, here we go – as just reported by Frager:

    “Plus a news Wall Street start up seems to be making a play for premium dot US domains. Does the influence of the new G’s suddenly make the world stand up and take notice of what is, in my view, the most untapped, underrated opportunity in domain branding today–dot US as in Frager.US.”


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