How I Privately Acquire Domain Names

I’ve been asked how I go out and attempt to acquire a domain name in private, and I am happy to share how I do it – although I don’t think there is anything special to it. There are a couple of ways to go about it, with the most common being via email, and the lesser used phone call. I believe the best way to acquire a domain name in private (that may not even be for sale) is to make a phone call to the owner.
With a phone conversation, you can hear the owner’s tone and gauge whether he is actually interested in speaking with you about selling his domain name. For most sellers, it’s much easier to negotiate a sales price via email because there’s more of an opportunity to craft the email. Because of this, you may be able to have a “real” conversation on the phone rather than a contrived email about how the guy has spent the last 10 years owning the name but hasn’t had the chance to develop his multi-million dollar plan. Sure, he might want to develop it, but chances are good that he would rather sell it. You can get a feel for that over the phone, rather than an email.
Phone conversations are also good because most people will pick up their phone when someone calls, whereas emails can be easily ignored. Phone calls are much more personal, and they show the buyer’s sincerity. Emails are impersonal, and they are much more easily ignored. The main obstacle I’ve found is that many phone numbers in the Whois database are either intentionally incorrect 555-1212 or they’ve been changed. If you can’t get in touch with the owner, you can’t try to buy it. This is where emails can be valuable.
While there really isn’t a special method to my efforts, I thought I would share an email that I typically send if a phone call didn’t go through:

Subject: Offer for  
Dear (personalized if possible),
I am interested in purchasing from you. I would like to offer you $xx,xxx (always a reasonable offer) for the domain name. If you would consider selling, please let me know and we can discuss the terms and payment details. Please give me a call if you have any questions. I can be reached at (xxx) xxx-xxxx.
Elliot Silver (
always my real name)

By addressing the person by name (when possible), he can tell that I didn’t send a bulk email, and that the offer is sincere – this is important because of the amount of Whois spamming to huge lists of similar names. I also make an offer that is reasonable. If I offer $100 for a $100,000 domain name, it’s probably going into the garbage, or I will get a “f-off” response.
How do I figure out what’s reasonable? I do my research on the name and make an offer based on my gut and research. No, I don’t think it’s wise to offer $100,000 for a $100,000 domain name, but maybe $60,000 if I want it. Trust me, if you make a reasonable offer, you will usually get a response. Before I sent emails with offers (when I first started), I simply asked if the domain was for sale. If I received a response, it usually said it might be for the right price. Well, instead of responding with an offer on the second effort, I figured I might as well just make an offer and grab attention. Just like a 1-click lander is usually more profitable than 2-click, I found that starting with an email is a better bet.
I’ve heard all the stories about people making those $100 offers and getting lucky. Yes, it happens on occasion (just like the jackpot slots), but with all the spamming, it’s happening less and less these days – although maybe on some extensions it could be more fruitful. I would rather make reasonable offers and negotiate than rather than wasting my time trying to get lucky.
When it comes to making offers, you usually get one chance to make an offer before the owner sends your email to the trash – or worse – his spam folder. Once you’re in his spam folder, it’s game over since he won’t even see any follow-up emails. With all due respect, if you don’t know how much you’d pay for a domain name, you probably shouldn’t be buying it 🙂

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 for sharing, it is a good example for potential buyers to follow. It could be that many end-users simply do not know how to make an offer properly or what the proper etiquette for making one is. Now they could use yours as an example.

    From a Sellers point of view, do you receive many inquiry emails from potential buyers that write that they are interested and ask what the price is without making an offer.
    Do you even respond to such emails?
    i have received a few such inquires, but they never respond back after i quote them a price, so i don’t know if they didn’t like the price, or if they are just bots, and i shouldn’t bother responding

    I do receive emails, but I won’t respond unless it’s either personalized and/or an offer is presented. If someone really wants one of my domain names, there are plenty of ways to reach me, and if they have done their homework, they will present a fair offer for me to consider.

  2. Thanks as always for a great article. I have a related question:
    Do you or have you ever cold called a seller? Here’s my situation: I’ve done as much research as the domain owner as I can think of. I’ve bought a registrant report on him and looked for current contact info on his other names, I’ve googled him repeatedly using variable search queries, and I’ve emailed him on every email I’ve found for him. I’m at the stage where I’m about to give up.
    The only thing I haven’t done, is cold calling him. He lives in the UK so I’d have to be mindful about when I call “my” time, but I was wondering if you had ever done this or if it was “common” practice to your knowledge.

  3. Excellent article Elliot, I’ve always wondered how you went about this.
    Peter – Did you even read the article? The first 3 paragraphs explain how the phone is better than email!
    ” I believe the best way to acquire a domain name in private (that may not even be for sale) is to make a phone call to the owner.”

  4. Ya, I was referring to an absolute cold-call, in that you didn’t even give him a heads up via email first (as I always have). In my case, the person lives in the UK so in my mind it would have seemed an even more unusual thing for a cold call. I take it from comments #3/4 that I should just go ahead and give a call. Heh. Thanks

  5. Thanks for sharing this info Elliot – getting a glimpse into what the “pros” do will help the community to participate in a more respected fashion.
    Thanks and keep sharing!

  6. A few months ago I sent a snail mail offer to a owner ( a small city btw) he wrote me a letter back saying his appraiser set the price at $300k…I didn’t write back 🙂

  7. Just a general comment “APPRAISALS” for the most part are useless and are a waste of money. In my opinion you cannot ascertain a “true” value from any type of appraisal for DIGITAL ASSETS. I am not going to discuss names that I own, but recently sold a name for five figures and the purchaser of that particular name received an appraisal from a major domain registrar for


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