How to Buy Back a Domain Name

Yesterday afternoon, I wrote an article detailing a couple of ways a domain name may go under new ownership, unbeknownst to the former owner. I suppose because of the surprise of this, sometimes these former owners have a poor attitude when discussing their former domain name, and that is not helpful to a negotiation.

I thought I would share a few tips to help former owners try and reacquire their lost domain names via negotiation with the new owner:

Be professional – Being an a-hole is not going to win you any points with the new owner, and it will likely lead to a breakdown in negotiation. When someone gets confrontational with me about a domain name my company rightfully owns, I generally completely ignore the person or have my General Counsel take over. I don’t have the patience to deal with people like that.

Know your rights – If the domain name is descriptive and it expired because an old email address was used as the contact email at the registrar, chances are good that the former owner doesn’t have rights to the domain name anymore. Making idle threats is pointless and immediately puts the domain owner on the defensive. Many won’t respond further. If the domain name exactly matches a trademark, the former owner may have more rights to the domain name, but it can be costly to litigate.

Be honest about what happened – Chances are good that a mistake was made if the domain name accidentally expired. Own up to mistakes. Most domain owners can easily do a Google search to verify if what you are saying is true. If you say that you had a major website on the domain name and are losing money (and the ability to feed your family) and I see no footprint, Google results, or images that show a website, I am going to assume you’re lying. Mistakes happen, and I am usually willing to work something out.

Be prepared to pay – The new owner of the domain name paid for the rights to buy it. The domain name may have been hand registered, or it may have been auctioned for thousands of dollars. Do a bit of research before contacting the owner to see if you can find out the sale price. This would be a good starting point in a negotiation. NameBio is a good place to start to find sale data.

It is very important to understand that many domain names that are bought upon expiration were bought for a considerable sum of money. If I paid $500 for a domain name at an auction, there’s no way I am going to sell it for $100, regardless of why the domain name expired. Now perhaps we can work out a fair price if you’re honest with me and willing to compensate me fairly, but don’t lie, threaten my company, or be a jerk about things.

What else would you recommend?

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. This has happened to me a few times and the best way to deal with them is to not deal with them at all. Everybody has some BS sob story. List the name at a reasonable Buy It Now price and forget about it. If they really want/need the domain they will buy it. Responding to them just opens yourself up to possible unwanted liability.

  2. Great article, Elliot. I don’t really have anything to add other than to reiterate your point about being courteous and taking some responsibility for the situation. If you lead with the wrong foot and start by making threats to a domain owner you are unlikely to get a deal done.

    Before making a legal threat, understand the time and financial impact of what that really means.

    Last I checked, to file a UDRP it costs $1500 minimum (if you do not have legal representation) for a 1 member panel.

    When the respondent is smart and opts for the 3 member panel the cost is $3,000 (both parties pay an additional $1500 if the respondent opts for the 3 member panel). Minimum spent will likely be 3k-10k or more depending on whether an attorney is used.

    They should know going in their odds of winning and be prepared to end up with nothing.

    The great thing about this business is that for larger portfolio holders, one extra sale probably won’t matter much and you get to choose to work with an a-hole. Or not. 🙂

  3. Your tips work well for the former owner/prospective buyer.

    I have a small diversification of my portfolio allocated to “Texas” .com domains given that’s where I am based and Texans are proud of their State and will often buy domain names with Texas in them because their business name has Texas in it or they went to a Texas university. A year or two ago, I bought on the drop (lots of Texans like me go back generations here to when Texas was a separate country from the USA and the country was giving out free land to European immigrants who would come to help the new country grow). A few days after I won it, I got an urgent, plaintive call from a nice Texas woman who explained it was the website for a book called “Texas Roots” that her deceased mother had written and she had failed to renew the domain name. As old school Texans do, we had a nice friendly chat and worked out that she would repay me what I paid for it plus a small profit to compensate me for my time and effort in dealing with her error. I felt this was fair. She PayPal-ed the money immediately and we made the transfer. She took the right approach and now she’s back selling books at $145 a pop on

    • Nice story! Thanx for being a human about it.

      My perspective is from only the registrant: the domain aftermarket has gotten too valuable, and the percentage which Registrars receive on renewals are too thin, that it only makes business sense for Registrars to pluck valuable domains from unsuspecting Registrant accounts for insider sales.

      With a renewal fee of, say, $10.00 for a dot com, ICANN keeps 18 cents, and Verisign charges a maximum of $7.85.

      How would it not be temptation for Registrars to sell out some of their clients?

  4. @Louise, as an employee of a large domain name registrar, I can say with all certainty that we make the domain registration terms very clear in our agreements with the registrants. My company only benefits if the original registrant fails to renew or redeem their domain name by the 42nd day after expiration AND if there was a domain name auction winner. If neither occurs, the domain is returned to the registry for another 30-day redemption period wherein only the original registrant is able to redeem the domain name through their registrar.

    Think of if this way, if you register a domain name for a one-year period, at the end of that registration period your rights to use the domain name have effectively expired. However, there are grace periods, registrar redemption periods, and registry redemption periods in place that provide you with more than amply time to correct a mistake or human error on the registrant’s side. As Elliot stated, being an a-hole to the new registrant is not smart business and you only harm your efforts to get it back without either paying a higher premium or costly legal battles that you will likely not win.

    The moral of the story is, you never really want to get to this point, so manage your domain names like you would your bank account or anything else that you should not neglect. If, however, you find yourself in this position, be cool to the new registrant and they will likely be cool with you. And, yes, it is going to cost you more than your renewal or the redemption fee.

    For those reading, now is a good time to log into your registrar’s control panel and view your expiration dates. Set up a calendar reminder and make sure your email is up to date. Finally, white list all emails from your registrar. If you think they are spamming you, opt-out of their marketing emails, but don’t block them. ICANN mandates that they send you at least 2 renewal emails at 30 and 5 days prior to expiration. Believe me, they don’t want you to lose any domain names.

    Hope this helps.

    And, thanks, Elliot, for the info.

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