Who is Buying Your Domains?

Subscribe to Elliot's BlogOften times domain buyers aren’t who they say they are, or if they are, they are buying on behalf of another entity. Domain owners should use caution when they are approached by a person or entity with whom they aren’t familiar. Domain owners need to research who a potential buyer is to maximize the sale or prevent a UDRP.
There have been times when companies inquire about a domain name simply to use the owner’s willingness to sell the domain name as proof of bad faith. If a domain name may even slightly infringing on a company’s mark – even if it’s generic, a company can claim bad faith in a UDRP if the owner names a price that he’d sell it.   This is ridiculous, because everything is for sale for a price, but it can come back to bite the owner in the ass:

“From July, 2006, the Complainant (using the services of a domain name broker) made several approaches to the Respondent with a view to purchasing the Domain Name from the Respondent. Initially, the Respondent did not reply. However, after a further approach in January, 2007 the Respondent indicated that it would not accept less than a five figure sum. The broker responded indicating that the Complainant was prepared to pay $10,000. The Respondent responded on February 20, 2007 indicating that it was not prepared to sell at that figure. This provoked the question “What would interest you in a sale then?” to which the Respondent replied that they were so far apart (not in the same ballpark) that the negotiations were unlikely to lead anywhere. The broker then asked if $100,000 would be enough and the Respondent replied that it probably would. There the correspondence ended.”

Another reason why knowing who is making an offer is important is because the buyer may be able to pay much more than he would lead the domain owner to believe. In the case where a large company wants a domain name for a large project, the domain value could be much, much greater to them than to the domain owner. Their objective is to get the domain name for the least amount of money, while your objective is to get the most for your domain name.
With this being said, there are a few things that every domain owner should do before even responding to an unsolicited domain inquiry:
1) Research the name of the person who contacted you. I recommend first doing a Google search of the person’s name in quotes. If the person’s name is “Greg” you should also look up Gregory or another name the person could be known as. Use sources such as Linked In or Facebook to see if the person is listed, and if so, see which company they might represent.
2) Research the email address of the person. Just like #1, search Google for the email address. This can be useful to see if the person is listed in a forum as a domain spammer or perhaps you will find something else out about the buyer.
3) View the email headers and see where the email originated. Make sure the email is from a legitimate source and the person is being truthful about who they are. If you receive an email from an unknown person/email address but the IP indicates they work for an ad agency or other F500 company, you will know where the buyer is probably from.
4) Before mentioning any prices, ask who the buyer is and what his plans are. I want to know that all inquiries are legit before even considering whether to sell a domain name. Why waste your time negotiating if there isn’t a chance of a deal?
5) Let them start with an offer. If they’ve emailed you out of the blue, they should make the first offer. If they insist on you leading off with your price, tell them to take a hike.   What person tries to buy a name without a clue how much he can/will spend? If they won’t make an offer, I would walk away – or not even respond.   If they are serious, they will come back.
6) Search the USPTO for any potential trademarks. If there is a trademark – even if the domain registration pre-dates it, you could be set up for a UDRP. If you receive an email from someone about a name where a trademark exists, proceed with extreme caution. Some people/companies are either uninformed or misinformed, but they think the domain is rightfully theirs if they have a trademark. Oftentimes, they aren’t very nice and think they have the right to take your name.

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. Major entertainment companies are using hotmail addresses to get info. They’ll contact you about 1 month before you get the letter from their law firm. Interesting to note though, the law firms are taking a much more friendly initial approach now and leaning towards a quick settlement with a decent offer for the domain to avoid litigation. I imagine this has proven to be much more cost and time effective for them.

  2. So Elliot would something like MensBaggies.Com be an infringement on anyone.Thats pretty generic.newbie
    You’re asking the wrong person. I don’t know what men’s baggies are…

  3. Like Kevin, I’m seeing a lot more e-mail inquiries from people using G-Mail and Hotmail. They use nicknames and numbers and searches usually come back negative for prior usage. I’ve asked who they are and typically the answers have been vague at best. I’m almost to the point of telling future inquirers that I won’t accept offers via email accounts like Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail, etc.

  4. Excellent post and great tips; recent email with the exact words from a gmail account “hey, is the domain for sale”, no name, telephone #, or anything (in my mind, kind of ridiculous). My response was simple, “no”, with all my contact data. Yes, it’s best to know who you are dealing with in all transactions and proceed with caution, and most importantly be patient.

  5. i’m sure if the sellers were buyers they would not (and do not) provide 100% info – all parties would like to maintain some competitive advantage – its a bit hypocritical that there s/b one rule for sellers and another for buyers.
    I disagree. Everyone should do their own due diligence before doing any deal. Both buyer and seller are looking to get the best possible deal. I’ve never given anyone any false information when I buy. If I want to pay you $5k for a domain name, I will make an offer and stick to it. If I can/will increase it, I will. If I can’t or don’t want to, I won’t. I send inquiries directly from my one email account and use my real name. If someone thinks they can get more from me and I am not willing to pay more, then they won’t get a deal.

  6. Hey Elliot,
    Thought you might find this interesting.
    I ,recently, was contacted about one of my domains by Alexander Schubert: schubert.info
    I searched and besides the personal website found this: icannwiki.org/Alexander_Schubert
    The interesting thing is that he was one of the founders of .berlin over in Germany along with a guy named Dirk Krischenowski.
    Wondering if anybody else has been approached by him or his company CyberInvest Group.
    Any info would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks, Koz

  7. @elliot-when i go to a car dealership i don’t show the salesperson my recent 1040? just the opposite – i put on a ripped up journey t-shirt and cut-off jean shorts – im not providing false info – its just my competitive advantage

    Bad example. A car has a set price and the dealer has a price at which he can sell it to move it. There is very little margin in which you can negotiate – unless you are buying a very high end vehicle. A domain name is a completely unique piece of property. If you want to buy a name from me, I will sell it for the price I deem fair. My job is to find out who you are. If I am not satisfied that I know who you are or who you represent, I won’t even respond. If you want the name bad enough, you will make me want to sell it by giving a very good offer. A dealer can’t and won’t do that.

  8. @scott-i totally agree-but it’s difficult to determine whether both parties adhere to full disclosure and integrity-i guess from a seller’ point of view, if you have doubts you can walk (i.e., not sell the name)
    @elliot-good point-cars are a commodity-no doubt about it-i’m trying to make a point-just not doing a good job of explaining myself.

  9. …another approach is to refuse to exchange e-mails at all. When the inquire comes in, simply respond by “saying” “Call me at…” with your phone number.
    The serious buyers will call you (though you’ll usually have to negotiate them up); the tire kickers and curiosity seekers will (normally) go away…and you’ve put little if anything in writing for a law firm to use against you.

  10. Yep, been there.
    I receive strange and myserious inquiries all the time. I attempt to due the due diligence but often they are simply a ghost.
    I am with you. If they are serious, let them put it out on the table.
    Whatever happened to honesty is the best policy?

  11. Wow.. you really hit home with this story.. This actually just happened to me with DOOM(.)com.. I contacted the maker of the famous video game, sales proposals both written & verbal, asking for a somewhat reasonable acquisition price, considering the age of the domain name, the benefits, traffic etc.. NO Response..
    Then i go on dn forum and say, “last 24 hours for a sale” or im listing it in the sept 18th moniker auction, 10 minutes later i get a phone call from a “domain investor”.. i researched his email, i researched his threads on various forums (using both his name & email) everything turned out legitimate.. I asked what he plans to use the domain for, he bluntly said, “i have someone interested in the name once I acquire it” , thats good enough for me.. Im asking for 80K, he says him and his investor buddies, dont want to pay more than $35K, to ensure they have room for profit on an immediate resale.. long story short, i sell doom(.)com for 40K, the next day I see the multi million dollar video game company with ownership lol.. i call up this “investor” (who is a great guy by the way) and i just laughed.. i think $40K is a fair price for the name, but for the video game company to hire this “broker” to negotiate with me was hilarious.. So even though you cross your t’s and dot your i’s, its possible you can get sold, even though you’re doing the selling :/

  12. I myself was approached by one such person. Being a fresh domaineer then i was a bit excited & thought it was a potential lead. But it turned out that he was only getting an idea of my price. Later I was contacted by a big corporation who started negotiation with nearly the same amount that i had asked for that domain. One should be very cautious in dealing with unknown queries.

  13. Elliot:
    Question — If you have a premium domain and are approached by a F500 company, I would think they would want to intentionally hide their identity to avoid the seller increasing the sale price significantly.
    Obviously if you know the buyer has a massive budget as opposed to a mom & pop buyer, I can see why they would use a Gmail or AOL address.
    So, how do you proceed without losing the F500 company’s interest or insulting them, but getting the best deal possible?
    IMO, if a F500 needs/wants a domain name, they aren’t going to let a “no” stop them. They will call and/or make a significant offer.

  14. Hi Elliot:
    How should we approach you to sell names? Is there an account we can send lists to?
    I will send you an email if I am interested in any of your names.

  15. Elliot,
    Great topic. Having been a domain buyer broker and seller broker on many deals, I’d like to offer some general comments to your readers on the offer side.
    I have never sent an anonymous email and I don’t recommend it. That would start off the negotiation with a lie and that is not a good strategy.
    So, I agree that interested parties should have their name in the offer or at least give the ability to the owner to find out more about the person making the offer in google if he chooses.
    Do I make the first contact by saying “Hi. I’m a domain buyer broker for X corp and they’ve hired me to buy this name for them.”? Of course not. IF I am asked I will say that I am a broker but I cannot reveal my client then we get to talking about the price.
    Most people want to sell the domains and most people have a price range in mind so getting to a price is usually not too difficult. If the owner of the domain is too hard headed, I may be chasing a couple other options for my client and other opportunities present themselves so then the owner is out of the deal.
    You made a comment last week about the fact that you can’t get $1,000,000 for a domain unless you turn down $500,000 and that is very true but regretting the loss of a $500k offer is something that the owner will have to live with forever.
    Every domain is different. Every buyer is different. Every seller is different so every deal is different.
    So, advice to owners coming from a domain buyer broker, reply to all inquiries after you research the interested party as much as possible. Try to get them to make an offer unless you already have it listed for a price at afternic, sedo etc (yes I check before I contact the owner). If you have it listed for sale somewhere don’t jack up the price just because someone asks.
    I guess I’m not saying much here other than to be respectful to all interested parties until they disrespect you. Also, I wouldn’t worry too much about the interested party trying to make a URDP case since that must be extremely rare.

  16. Hi Elliot, I posted on #12 about my doom.com sale, why did it get cut off?? i spent 30 minutes typing my story, and it only showed my last sentence?? what gives..
    I accidentally deleted it when I was removing the spammy part about your Ebay auctions. I just added the story back since that wasn’t intentional.

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