Don’t Buy a Domain Name on Behalf of Someone Else

I have never advertised domain brokerage services, and I have no interest in becoming a domain broker. That hasn’t stopped people and companies from asking me to broker domain names on both the buy and sell side. I recommend that if you are not in the brokerage business, you shouldn’t agree to acquire a domain name on behalf of someone else (or sell one for that matter).

A while back, a personal acquaintance that isn’t in this business asked me about a domain name that was related to his business. I did a cursory check and saw that it was not a developed website. He asked that I pursue the domain name for him, and I agreed to help him out at no cost because I am not a broker and I figured it would be straightforward enough. After an email exchange, I was able to get the owner to sell it for an agreeable price. Unfortunately, the buyer decided against making the purchase, and that left me in an unfortunate position.

As someone who buys domain names as part of my business, I am often asked for advice about domain names. When the advice is from someone I don’t know (aka blog reader), it’s easy to say “sorry, I am not a broker or consultant” and the conversation is usually over. When it comes to being asked for advice from friends and family, it’s more complicated. Most of the time, this is casual conversation that doesn’t go anywhere. On occasion, I will agree to help a friend with their domain name needs, which usually amounts to hand registering a domain name on their behalf.

Agreeing to buy a domain name on behalf of someone else was a bad decision that I am not going to repeat. If you aren’t in the business of brokering domain names (ie having contracts with clients and operating a corporate entity), I would recommend that you don’t agree to buy a domain name on behalf of someone else. You can offer guidance and advice about the process of buying a domain name, but it’s unwise to get in the middle of a transaction, especially if there is limited benefit.

If a deal goes south or problems occur during the transfer process or after, both parties may look to you to help resolve the situation. It can be a time suck at best and a potential financial problem at worst.  At the end of the day, your reputation is on the line.

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. I feel for you. While many of my friends are business owners, I get these requests constantly. I usually provide the advice or chase after the domain in question but limit my involvement. I typically “represent the buyer” in a broker capacity while negotiating and set up escrow for 0% commission and then step aside. If a friend is asking for a lot of work, I opt for explaining how to go about the research themselves. I never put myself in the position of buying the name on their behalf unless it’s a small acquisition and I’m not concerned about the getting stuck with the cost.

    • Although I have done so in the past I never offer to do this for someone (for free) and won’t get involved more than a few words of advice.

      Otherwise it ends up taking a tremendous amount of time to get things done right – even just the parts (not negotiating) but dealing with the transfer at the registrar and/or etc.

      Everything has to be explained and there are a ton of nuances and gotchas.

      Usually people who wants domains are not realistic as far as what they want to pay. And if they have money to pay then someone should be getting paid to do the handholding (which can take quite a bit of time). If they don’t have money it’s a non starter.

      As far as “If a friend is asking for a lot of work” – nobody expects a lawyer or a doctor or an accountant do provide free labor. For that matter a handyman wouldn’t spend 1 hour at your house doing a repair as a friend (if you had money) they would expect to be paid or perhaps a trade of time would be done.

      I’ll tell you the best way to handle this. If a friend doesn’t want to pay for the work pass them off to someone who only does the work on a paid basis and let them handle the transaction.

  2. As a kid I didn’t really understand “no good deed goes unpunished” but as I got older I saw the wisdom of the saying.

  3. You can help friends move or paint a room or build a deck but a domain purchase is a financial transaction involving negotiations, payment, transfer etc.

    Maybe give them some background on the industry but then have your friend engage the services of a professional domain buyer broker.

    Same for the sales side, tell them to hire a professional that specializes in domain sales.

  4. In the case where the domain is already registered, and you’re negotiating the terms of the transfer, I couldn’t agree more with this advice. However if the domain is unregistered and the person to whom you want to gift the domain doesn’t have the expertise or time, and you are fairly certain they would appreciate it, then I see no harm in registering the domain to them in their behalf, but make sure you specify them as the owner when you do so. I did this for a friend and accidentally used my name, and told them I’d transfer the ownership to them asap (sadly it takes 60 days after it’s registered or renewed for that to happen, icann rules). They completely flipped out on me the moment I said “hey I bought this for you”, accused me of stealing their name even after I said it was theirs to do with as they pleased. Lambasted me despite that anyone could have registered it for 9.99, what I had really done was the opposite of what they accused me of (stealing “thier name”, weeks after they had come up with the name during with time anyone could have got it for 9.99 at godaddy). They were incensed beyond reason, and to this day they hold me in contempt for it. It was sad, and I learned another chapter of human behavior. People literally act insane when it comes to domain names. In the future if I saw a domain might be perfect for some, and in fact they should own it to prevent reputation damage, I would inform them first, and then offer to purchase it for them in their behalf. For the particular person with whom I had this unfortunate encounter I don’t think it would have made much difference. Some people are just best avoided, and if they’re in a tought spot and you want to help them, sometimes you just shouldn’t. Sadly.

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