HomeAway CEO: VacationRentals.com Domain Name Bought for $35 Million

I read a report on The Next Web this morining, and it listed the sale of VacationRentals.com as the most expensive domain name sale of all time. I don’t recall hearing about the sale anywhere, but the embedded video confirms the sale price.

In the video, HomeAway Founder and CEO Brian Sharples mentions that the company primarily bought VacationRentals.com to keep it away from a competitor. From the looks of it, VacationRentals.com had been a very active website before the acquisition, although Mr. Sharples sounds like the purchase was a defensive measure primarily for the domain name: “The only reason we bought it was so Expedia couldn’t have that url.” (Start the video at about the 15 minute mark to hear it).

I am sure most people won’t update their list of the most expensive domain sales / purchases of all time, but it certainly is a big sale that should be noted.

Interestingly, TNW did not include the $35.6 million sale of Insurance.com or the $16 million sale of Insure.com. From my perspective, both of these domain sales are similar in nature to the sale of VacationRentals.com since they were active websites and weren’t exclusively domain sales.

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. I am 99% sure that both Insurance.com and Insure.com were pure lead generation sites when QuinStreet bought the domain names. And because of this, some people argue that they can’t be considered as “domain sales.” However, almost the entire value of the purchases would have been in the domain names because it wasn’t like these were sophisticated businesses with a multitude of assets other than the domain name. All QuinStreet had to do was implement their own lead generation forms to replace the forms that had been on the page previously (and I’m quite sure that is what they did. Perhaps somebody from QuinStreet could confirm). Regardless whether QuinStreet implemented their own lead gen forms or they continued to use the ones from the previous owners, almost the entire value of those purchases was in the domain names.

  2. VacationRentals.com was already an established business with 30,000 listings back in the year 2000. I’m sure it was already generating a nice, profitable revenue stream when HomeAway acquired it.

    I don’t think this would fall under a pure domain only sale.

  3. In my opinion, buying the domain for $35 million as a defensive mechanism to block competition is load of crap.

    How much is this company worth? Can they make back this money? How likely will another domain such as vacations.com, rentals.com, and other great names may be acquired for far less.

    Seems like this purchase is an excuse to get publicity. Don’t believe it.

    • It was a quick comment made in a 45 minute presentation. I highly doubt it was to get publicity.

      Obviously it wasn’t strictly a domain name deal, but the way the CEO discussed it, the acquisition seemed to focus on the url.

  4. IMHO, Expedia is smart enough not to spend $35 million on this domain name; instead, they utilize a better marketing strategy to keep a step ahead of the competition. I can see if this were Property.com, Properties.com, Equity.com and other names.

  5. VacationRentals.com in an industry defining domain name. “Vacation Rentals” is the biggest industry search term. Hard to argue with owning the industry with a $35m purchase as a building block to a $2.5b company. Defensive acquisitions are just as important as aggressive market capturing business moves.

    • Even though VacationRentals.com is an industry defining domain name that doesn’t mean this domain name can block competition. If you know Porter’s Five Forces, you will see that there are many ways to gain entrance into an industry.

      Many end-users don’t need the highest search term to produce revenue. The top websites are more brandable than searchable. $2.5 billion is the total value of the company with all stocks.

      How accurate is the search data. If you own a domain name with: -10,000 exact match searches per month
      -Rank number #1 on searches
      -Somehow you only get 30% of those hits per month

      Are people actively searching? Don’t want to use the EMD? Rather find a better website?

      VacationRentals.com is worth this much money because of its traffic and domain name combination. IMO, this company didn’t pay $35 million just to keep this domain name away from Expedia. Why waste 1-2 million unique visits per month?

      No domain name alone is worth $35 unless there is a company and traffic attached to it. We can argue that Jobs.com is worth millions; however, the domain name already scores traffic and is a developed website.

      What domain name is worth $35 million as an undeveloped website? Would spending millions to block competition online a smart move? A company ca advertise a number of different ways. There is AdWords, websites, affiliates, word of mouth, print ads, commercials and other avenues.

      Would any company spend $35 million or more to just keep a domain name away? VacationRentals.com is a developed website. HomeAway is using this website, which is generating 1-2 million UV per month.

      What is it? Did they buy to keep away from competitors and just let the domain name sit around? Or are we hearing this domain name purchase as a excuse to keep competition away? The website is developed. It generates million of monthly visits. HomeAway shows they own this domain with their brand featured below VacationRentals.com.

      The domain name is not collecting dust; it is being used to promote their vacation rentals. How reliable is search data? The keyword is not their main source of traffic. They are also advertising for AdWords for their company name and that $35 million domain name as a website. It gives them two websites to operate. It wouldn’t make sense to advertise your website twice unless you are using two different websites to capture this business.

      Many companies acquire another domain name as a form of advertising. You can advertise two websites for one keyword.

      IMO, people look to the domain name purchase of $35 million rather than the marketing strategy and established website as the motivation. It is mostly domain investors who think this name is worth the $35 million price tag. It is not worth $35 million as a domain name alone. Cloud.com is not worth $35 million as a domain name alone. Frank Schilling even mentioned Cloud.com as a domain name worth a $3-7 million price in 2011. With cloud computing, storage, server, music, and other services, the domain surely increased in value.

    • So, what you are trying to say is you don’t think the domain is worth $35 million.

      What’d they buy then ? A $1m domain and $34m in good will ? What’s the other stuff they bought and the worth ?

      The guy who buys it says it’s worth xxx because of the domain. . . you wrote 12 f’ing paragraphs describing why he didn’t ?

      congratulations!!! today on the internet, you won!!!
      the prize is nothing

  6. It takes a brain to understand that this domain name is not a defensive purchase. When you get a brain, maybe you will return to argue a better point.

    • Basically it seems that what you’re saying is that the founder and CEO of the company was lying when he said it was a defensive measure in the video I posted.

      To quote him again in case you missed it, he said:

      The only reason we bought it was so that Expedia couldn’t have that url.”

      I disagree with you.

    • J. What is it then ? What was the purchase about ? Break it down for us Einstein.

      btw, once you win the prize, you can’t come back asking for more prizes.

    • If I knew more than the CEO and founder of HomeAway, I would be running many companies. Obviously, I don’t have a speck of influence as this innovator. However, I do have a brain and use it often.

      For the most part, HomeAway is buying up established websites that are exclusive to their business (BedAndBreakfast.com) to expand their influence. It’s no secret that buying the competition saves money (i.e. Google) and expands business operations.

  7. This comment was directed toward Adam.

    Now that you mention the CEO, the domain in question is a fully developed website that is also used to advertise the “Vacation Rentals”. It has far more use than a defense mechanism.

    This is my personal opinion and theory; If competition was the case, we would see this domain pointing at HouseAway, not functioning as a vacation rentals website that generates more than 1-2 million unique visits per month.

    As for your use of “lying” and mentioning the “CEO,” you are basically trying to stir up conflict when this is an obvious purchase. What company besides this rental giant has paid $35 million to acquire a domain as a defense tool? Why develop this defense tool?

    Does that make sense? We acquired this domain to keep it out of Expedia’s hands. If this domain was on the market, do you really believd Expedia would pay $35 million just to point it to their website?

    It’s a no-brainer this website holds extreme value as a fully operable website. It makes this company money. If left parked, it would be wasting its value and promoting another competitor. If this domain is pointed, it would be a waste of money. The last company I noticed that paid $3 million for a pointer domain was Bank of America.

    How many type-ins does VacationRentals.com produce per month? How much money is spent on AdWords for the “vacation rentals” keyword for both HomeAway and VacationRentals? Nobody analyzes this stuff. They just accept what is said.

  8. You’ve spent $35m of your investors money. It’s time for the call, so how are you going to explain the break down. Give it your best guess here. (Someone said they had 30,000 properties in their dbase. . . it currently claims 35,000 (not much growth over 13 years)

    Domain = $
    Revenue = $
    Customer Base = $
    Keeping it out of the competitions hands = $
    Good will = $
    Others = $

    • This is a website, not just a domain name to show you have money to toss around for a URL. Established website. When the owner of this blog sells domain names, is he developing and selling such sites to increase the sales price.

      How many domains are developed on MostWantedDomains.com and DomainNameSales.com? Not many. When they sell domain (PersonalLoans.com for $1m), are they really focusing on developing them and basing their prices on such sites?

      Is the CEO saying he paid $35 million for a domain name just to keep it out of Expedia’s hand? Was Expedia considering this name? Also, VacationRentals.com is an established website. It is one that is being utilized to generate massive leads and 1-2 million UV per month.

    • J,

      Question, did they change the website when they purchased it? Sometimes a company cares that it does have traffic but if they changed all of the old website to a new look and a new way it operates then they got it for the keyword rick domain.

      This does look like a company buying another comapanies asset which is the domain and redoing the website to there liking.

  9. It was a pure defensive move, here’s why.

    If Expedia were to integrate that URL into their entire network, not just the Expedia site but all of their affiliate sites, larger direct publisher network partners (travel sites) within 6 months HomeAway which is dominating the space would suddenly have a serious threat with Expedia. Expedia could essentially offer listings for free for a year, grab scale and then begin charging.
    But it would have been too late for HomeAway, they would have let a larger company that doesn’t rely on vacation rentals for their primary revenue stream create a top brand with little effort and chip away at HomeAway’s market share. Later on they would have had to endure a pricing war on services, and or spend a lot more on marketing to try to keep most of the searches ending up on one of their properties. You can only do that with paid search.

    So spending that money as a defensive move makes more sense, but only because it was Expedia that was after it.

    If it were just some random start-up that didn’t have the infrastructure, but instead had just raised say $10M, well that’s a much much smaller threat.

    It’s not just about the domain, it’s about who’s going to build behind it and what they already have in their arsenal.

  10. The domain is worth a lot because it means the company gets all the links associated with the domain. They get all the credibility the domain had which puts their sight at the top of the list when you google something.
    John Bond

  11. Once you have built into any domain name a website business you only have the business ongoing there, when you’re talking about and comparing apples and oranges. The other equally substantive tier of appraising domain names is brand estimations. So even if Google say, for a real solid upgrade reason to their brand expansion removed the website and only held a white screen there you would yet give them an estimated worth of xyz billions because of the name. No one or rarely anyone sensibly comments on this appraisal aspect. What, would Google.com tomorrow worth $8.95 because they’re not giving search results but are auctioning their property? Brands / brand are the first consideration before the next step in estimating the worth of intellectual properties.

  12. I just checked and looks like they are advertisng both on Adwords. Vacationrentals.com is number one for exact match “vacation rentals” and their company is beneath it.


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