Escrow Services Reviewed

Subscribe to Elliot's BlogI had a chance to use EscrowDNS for a transaction this past week, and since I’ve used and Moniker escrow services before, I thought I would compare these three escrow services. Aside from a registrar relationship with Moniker, I am not personally connected to any of the companies, so this is as unbiased as possible and based on my own personal experiences.
Moniker Escrow Service:
How it works: Buyer and seller agree to a transaction online. Buyer and seller sign and fax/scan the agreement to Moniker, which is then approved by Moniker staff. Seller pushes domain from Moniker account or provides EPP code to Moniker for a transfer from another registrar. Buyer sends Moniker the funds via wire transfer or other form of payment. When Moniker has money and domain name, they push the domain to the buyer’s Moniker account and the seller can request the funds be disbursed.
Fees: $5,000 sale = $149 $10,000 sale = $200, $50,000 sale = $450
My Take: I really like how Moniker controls the entire process, although it can sometimes take extra time since they must review the signed agreements manually and since people don’t always sign and fax their agreements back quickly. The company is known throughout the domain industry and other various industries, so trust isn’t a problem (I have done several large transactions with them without any problems).   When I am dealing with non-domain investors who don’t know Moniker, most are willing to use them after researching their reputation, but some are still a bit hesitant if they don’t have their name registered with Moniker.
Overall, Moniker provides great support (email and phone) and I trust them entirely. My one and only beef is that they will usually report a private sale with DNJournal unless you tell them otherwise (happened to me twice). Make sure you ask for confidentiality – especially if you sign a separate NDA with the buyer/seller, as Moniker isn’t a participant to that side agreement and may report it publicly.
EscrowDNS Escrow Service:
How it works: Buyer and seller agree to a transaction online. Buyer and seller agree to the terms outlined in the online agreement. Buyer sends payment to EscrowDNS escrow account. Seller receives a prompt that buyer has paid, and seller is instructed to push the domain name into EscrowDNS’ account at the registrar. Once EscrowDNS has the buyer’s account number, they push the name to buyer and send the funds to the seller.
Fees: $5,000 sale = $200, $10,000 sale = $177.50, $50,000 sale = $500
My Take: Although they are relatively new to the escrow business, I thought they handled my transaction well, especially with their manually managed emails. Their communication via email was stellar, keeping me posted along the way. The company doesn’t have a long history, so non-domainers may be reticent to use their services initially for large transactions, but I wouldn’t hesitate using them on future transactions with other domain investors who know of the company. Most of my trust is due to the reputation of the company founder Justin Godfrey (with whom I have never done business but know of several positive dealings).
Overall, the transaction was completed very quickly – in less than 48 hours, something that is good when dealing with another professional domain investor. I was a bit concerned when I received an email from them telling me there was a bit of a shortfall in the seller’s payment after they told me to transfer the domain to their escrow account, however, I was assured that they were going to cover the shortfall temporarily, so the transaction wasn’t delayed. All together, my most recent transaction was completed in under 48 hours. Escrow Service:
How it works: Buyer and seller agree to a transaction online. Buyer and seller agree to the terms outlined in the online agreement. Buyer sends payment to escrow account. Seller receives a prompt that buyer has paid, and seller is instructed to transfer the domain name. Buyer and seller need to discuss whether the name will be pushed to buyer’s account at the registrar or whether it should be transferred to another registrar of buyer’s choice. Seller then confirms that the domain transfer was initiated. Buyer then confirms that the domain was received to begin an “inspection period.” Buyer then accepts the “merchandise” to inform the transfer was completed and funds should be disbursed.
Fees: $5,000 sale = $162.50, $10,000 sale = $175.50, $50,000 sale = $445
My Take: is very easy to work with and the process is almost completely automated. People in and out of the industry know of and trust them with their money, so I’ve never had anyone not want to use them when prompted – even non domain investors who haven’t used an escrow service before. It is very easy to initiate and follow through with a transaction, and they have pretty good phone support, which is helpful when people forget to update the transaction.
My only issue with is that it seems a bit peculiar that the escrow service doesn’t take possession of the domain name and the money. Also, why is there an inspection period that begins after the domain name is received? I haven’t run in to this problem before, but what would happen if the seller says the name is transferred but the buyer adds privacy service and says he never received the domain name? While I am careful about who I do business with, I am concerned that this could be an issue, although I would hope they have internal safeguards. I do use more than other services because it is quick, generally trusted by non-domain investors and I can easily explain how to do a transfer.
All in all, I think domain owners have some great escrow options.

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. Thanks Elliot. Good post. I believe it is worth noting that Moniker currently does not have the ability to do these transactions in California.

  2. I like Moniker and as well; haven’t used EscrowDNS.
    Had a sale last year where the buyer; an end user insurance company; never did verify to that they’d received the domain; even though of course was holding their money.
    After my contact tried to get a response from them for about a week past the “inspection” period, and could see that the name had been transfered, they sent me the proceeds.
    Your privacy question is a good one, Elliot. Would be nice to hear from the various escrow companies how they handle–or would–if/when this situation comes up.
    Claude–what’s the problem with CA?

  3. Are all these escrow services legal ? I was under the impression that escrow services were controlled on a state-by-state level as Claude points out. Seems fishy

  4. Steve/Dave:
    I am not at all saying anything is fishy. If you look at the fine print on the Moniker website under escrow they state that paperwork is pending in California. However, it has been months. My thought is that on a state-to-state level there probably are restrictions. Would be great if the companies themselves could address this issue.

  5., which I have used numerous times, have received considerable criticisms in the domain forums for having been gamed, and for not being proactive in rectifying problems between buyer and seller. I don’t think they have a relationship with registrars and specifically avoid any direct involvement in the domain transfer. No oversight of the domain exchange is their MO, and something to consider should you need assistance or troubleshooting.
    @Elliot (in reference to EscrowDNS) – “I received an email from them telling me there was a bit of a shortfall in the seller’s payment after they told me to transfer the domain to their escrow account”
    That’s alarming. Buyer’s deposit of funds should occur FIRST … and be verified FIRST (the full amount). And only when that confirmation is successful, should anyone receive a prompt to transfer the domain name. Sounds like a troubling sequence of events with the saving grace being that EscrowDNS made up the shortfall. Don’t like that word “shortfall”. What is a buyer thinking sending partial payment when an agreed upon price has been finalized? There’s more to that story.

  6. Have used Escrow and Moniker. Moniker transactions tended to be slower because of the sign and fax. Never had a problem with Escrow even with large transactions. Any distinct advantage to EscrowDNS that would offset the less trust issue?
    I wouldn’t say there is a trust issue that’s any different than other companies that are new to the market. They are very quick, IMO.

  7. I’ve always used for the selling of higher amount domains, and have had smooth and well handled transactions so far.
    However, I agree that their ‘transfer verification’ stage is a potential disaster point if the buyer has malevolent intent. Seems unlikely though, as the buyer’s money is also tied up during any dispute.
    To cover this possibility I always ask my account manager (at GoDaddy) to initiate the transfer. It adds an additional layer of verification should it ever become necessary.

  8. Hi Elliot, nice overview. I have used EscrowDNS and in the past.
    One note I’d like to make about that none of the above posters mentioned – there is a lot of opportunity for sellers to game the system as well.
    Say the buyer transfers the agreed amount to The seller creates an account at the Buyer’s registrar and transfers the domain name to that account with privacy. do not do much checking and there is a danger that they will view this transfer as an indication that a transfer between the parties has taken place hence releasing funds to the seller.
    In a worst case scenario the seller ends up with the cash and the domain name.
    I’d really like to build relationships with various registrars – at least the top few – in order to avoid such scenarios.

  9. LDA
    ” Seems unlikely though, as the buyer’s money is also tied up during any dispute.”
    Good point. I have never had any problems with but I don’t get a warm fuzzy feeling when I used them either.
    “To cover this possibility I always ask my account manager (at GoDaddy) to initiate the transfer. It adds an additional layer of verification should it ever become necessary.”
    Good point.

  10. Thanks for the review Elliot. I wanted to address the California situation so folks know why we currently do not do California Escrow Transactions. California is one of the few states that require a separate escrow license for anyone doing an escrow transaction online or in person. In fact, no other escrow company can do a transaction legally in the State of CA. unless they have this license which only one company has.
    We are in the final stages of this process….which is quite tedious and expensive to complete. It has been more than a year of work to complete and now we are just waiting for approval.
    The real point of escrow however is to consider every domain like a real piece of valuable property. We require signed agreements because they are required in a court of law if the transaction goes south. If you are approving online escrow terms and not getting a signed document, you are likely to be stuck if there is a problem. Second and most important is to make sure that both the domain and the funds are held in escrow before changing ownership and releasing funds. Most others do not do this, they rely on a buyer and a seller to change ownership then funds are released. This is not true and legal escrow. A perfect comparison is when you sell your house, the buyer never pays you directly, they pay the title / escrow company. The escrow/title company also holds title of the house until payment is made into escrow. This ensures a safe and secure transaction and when we invented the whole domain escrow process for the industry in 1998 and applied for a special escrow bank account, this was also Citibank and USbank’s requirements.
    Also remember by doing the above, we can also do payment plan options, lease to purchase options, licensing rights options, and many more creative transactions where most other companies cannot. I have personally seen a 50% increase in creative financing transactions over the last 12 months and this is also the reason that most financing companies such as Domain Capital, Domain Attorneys, and real banks use Moniker for this service.
    Bottom line, most do not follow the true legal process so be very careful.

  11. Thanks for the info, Monte.
    Based on it; and the other comments of how domain escrows can be gamed (that I hadn’t been aware of); I think I’ll probably stick w/Moniker for escrows from here on out; especially so for the high value ones.
    Again; would be nice to hear from the other cos on this important matter.

  12. Interesting how this blog censors comments that are contrary to their own. You just lost a reader.
    Huh? What did I sensor?

  13. Elliot, thanks for the review. I have also used for $100,000s in transactions and I really liked their system. The point of creating was to combine an service with the ability to interact with the customers and help the transaction flow smoothly. Obviously Moniker knows domain names and I’m not sure if I have ever used the service but I’m sure they offer a good service. I didn’t open EscrowDNS to compete with any escrow services that are currently established. I wanted to start EscrowDNS to offer a service that people want with the added security that is needed with this transactions. By having us push the domain names to the buyer we can eliminate any concerns with the buyer adding privacy to the whois information. We also have credit card and paypal authorization forms in place that a buyer must complete in order to pay with these methods. For anyone that hasn’t tried us out or is skeptical about us go ahead and drop us an email. We’ll let you try our service out for free and you can be the judge.

  14. I would like to add my 2 pence worth to this discussion if I may. I have used a lot, under different account name in case they are reading, and until about 12-18 months ago was impressed by their speed of payout BUT now I am wholly unimpressed as even when I have chosen 1 days as inspection period and buyer HAS accepted the domain is in their possession still it takes 2-3 days to even despatch the money. I asked them “why” and they failed to answer (as they probably have no real answer). Also ,I agree that any buyer with ill intent could easily con into believing they did not have the domain name and get out of paying.
    Next time I am trying and see how they perform. If better than then I will close my acct and tell them why !!.

  15. In fairness to they replied ;
    “” reserves the right to provide the Buyer a written 48-hour notice if an Inspection Period has ended without the Buyer’s involvement “”
    Make of that what you will. So in other words FORGET what number of days that you say is inspection period, if buyer fails to formally advise that they accept the domain then add another 2 days on for good measure. Not happy with that.


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