Cashing in on Unused Domain Names

A step-by-step guide to help you maximize the chances of selling a name

The following article is from Lee Hodgson, a domain name consultant at, a

firm dedicated to helping businesses choose the best domain names for their Web sites.

Cashing in on Unused Domain Names

If you are a typical Webmaster, you will have registered several

domain names over the last few years with the intention of

developing sites, but for one reason or another, the sites never

happened. Now that selling domain names for profit is a bustling

business, why not cash in on those unused names?

Here is a step-by-step guide to help you maximize the chances of

selling a name, and just as importantly, maximize the selling


Step 1 - Establish if your name has any commercial value.

We all like to think that our names are the best around, but you

only need to glance at the number of names on sale at domain name

auction sites to see that supply easily outstrips demand, even for

supposedly "scarce" dot coms. In order to sell your name, it must have something going for it. There are a lot of "nice" names around, but nice does not

necessarily equate to valuable.

Let us look at a couple of free ways to find out if your name has any

resale potential.

1) Ask other domain resellers

The easiest way to do this is to log on to one of the big domain

name resale sites (http:/// or, for example) and join in a chat room

discussion. Just ask a simple question like: "Does anybody like" or "Do you think holds any resale value?"

If you get a positive response from the chat-room floor, chances

are that you have a name with some resale potential. Otherwise,

it is time to try another method...

2) Get some appraisals

On, you can get an unlimited number of free opinions

on the value of a name through their "Appraisals Board":

Once you submit a name for appraisal, other Afternic members are

then free to value the name, and also comment on it. In order to get your name appraised by other members, you need to

publicize it to them. You do this by appraising their names, and

then suggesting your own name in return. Do not be put off by the

thought of having to value other peoples domain names. Read the

valuation guidelines, and since you can choose to value any name

you like, choose names which already have plenty of appraisals.

You can base your own valuation on these.

It is worth noting that Afternic members tend to be very "generous" with their appraisals, so do not be surprised if the

first valuation you get back suggests you can sell your name for

some astronomical sum you only dreamed of.

Here are how Afternic appraisals typically translate into real-world sales values, all amounts in US dollars:


Appraisal Amount            Sales value
0 - 5,000                   0-250
5,000-10,000                250-1000
10,000-20000                500-1000
20,000-50,000               1000-2500
50,000-100,000              2500-5000
100,000 upwards             5000 upwards


Once you have gotten some feedback, it is time to move to the next

stage - a professional appraisal. This is going to cost you money,

so think before you leap. If you did not get any positive

chat-room feedback, or the appraisal values were very low, then

you are probably going to have a great deal of difficulty selling

the name. In that case, getting a professional appraisal might

just be a waste of money.

A professional appraisal is an excellent way to get an independent

valuation of your name, which you can then send out to potential

buyers. There are many firms doing domain name appraisals. Check

out,, or for starters.

Again, do not get too excited if your name is valued at some

enormous amount - even professional appraisers tend to suffer from

the same "generous evaluation" syndrome that Afternic members fall

victim to. Just consider the appraisal amount the ceiling of

the price you can expect to get for your name. If you get half

the amount, you have probably managed to get a very good deal.

Step 2 - Promote or die!

There are 101 different ways to promote your domain name. One way

I do not recommend is blanketing companies with unsolicited email.

Writing mail to 200 banks asking if they want to buy "" is not likely to win you many friends,

nor make you any deals. Your time would be better employed using

the methods listed below:

a) Update the domain name registration information

Many potential buyers will look at the information in the WHOIS

database as a first step when investigating a name that they are

considering buying. So make it perfectly clear that the name is

for sale. Update the name of the owner to include "(This name is for

sale)" after your own name.

b) Put a promotional Web site up

The other obvious way for a potential buyer to find out if a

domain name is for sale is to visit the Web site. Do not disappoint

them. Get some free Web space from Hypermart or Geocities, and put

a simple, one-page Web site up, showing that the name is for sale.

Include a form or at least an email address so that interested

parties can submit offers.


c) List the name on

These are the biggest domain name brokers on the Net, with over a

million names listed. But having so many names is a double-edged

sword. The site attracts many potential buyers, but unless your

name really stands out, you have very little chance of making a

sale here. List anyway, as this is a very important site, and by listing your

name, it will be picked up by meta-domain search engines (see

d) List the name on

This is by far the biggest domain name auction site on the Net,

and is particularly suited to small-cap names - i.e. those names

which sell for under $5,000 (the vast majority). According to Afternic, by listing at their site you are reaching

up to 20 million potential buyers through their partner network.

You really must list your name here.

e) Submit your site to is one of the new breed - a meta-search engine for

domain offers. In other words, they have a huge database of

domain names which are available for sale, across a large number

of domain name listing sites. You can also add your name to their

database directly, which is highly recommended if you find your

name is not already there.

f) Submit your name to other domain name listing sites

If you have some spare time, go ahead and list with as many of the

smaller domain listing sites as you can find. (Try using to find them.) Most suffer from lack of

liquidity, but the scattergun approach can sometimes pay dividends.

Step 3 - Make The Deal

You could get lucky, and receive an offer just days after listing

your name. Typically, though, names are listed for months before

any offers arrive. The key here is to be patient. Think about it -

a party needs to come along who believes that the name is right,

even essential, for their new Web site. Nobody else is going to

make you a worthwhile offer.

Here are a few pointers that will help you negotiate a deal once

the first offer comes in.

A) Private sale

  • Pros:
    1. The buyer may reveal their identity. If it is a corporation, you should be able to negotiate a better deal.
    2. Likely to take much less time than other methods.
    3. There is no middleman to take a commission.
    4. You are free to negotiate deals other than straight cash. Leasing, profit-sharing, or stocks are all possibilities.
  • Cons:
    1. You will have to arrange the transaction yourself - payment, escrow, domain transfer, registrar transfer.
  • Tips:
    1. Do not say how much you want for the name - simply invite offers. If someone has a serious interest in a name, they will not back off because you refuse to name a price. Initially, they may only offer 25% or so of the amount that they are prepared to pay. After receiving their opening offer, use the professional valuation you received in step #2 as your counter- offer. This will set the boundaries of the negotiation.


  • Pros:
    1. GreatDomains lead you through the whole process.
    2. Buyers normally open the negotiations.
  • Cons:
    1. Sellers pay a hefty commission, especially on names with low dollar value.
    2. The process can take many weeks.
  • Tips:
    1. List your name as "Make An Offer" - then you are forcing buyers to make the first offer.


  • Pros:
    1. No commission for sellers.
    2. Three types of auction to choose from, including a new "Make An Offer" auction.
    3. An "overtime" feature where you can negotiation a fair price with bidders on an auction that did not reach the reserve price.
  • Cons:
    1. The process can take many weeks.
    2. Only straight cash offers are possible.
  • Tips:
    1. Even if you get no offers for weeks or months, resist the temptation to keep lowering your opening bid. Buyers will latch onto this, because it is a sign that you are desperate to make a sale. If you are confident that your name has value, name your price and stick to it. Your patience will be rewarded.
    2. Set a high reserve price. If the auction does not reach the reserve price, you can always negotiate a fair price in overtime.
    3. If you only have one bidder, stay firm during overtime negotiations. Remember, if they did not want the name, they would not have bid on it. If you fail to agree terms, you can always re-hold the auction and accept a lower offer.

Wrapping Things up

Once you have agreed on a deal with the buyer, then you will have to

complete the deal. They send you payment, and you transfer the

name to them. It is best to use an escrow service here. It protects both parties,

but can be quite expensive, so make sure you have agreed before-hand who will pay for it. Normally the buyer pays, but sometimes

the cost is shared. Good luck!


About the author:

Lee Hodgson is a domain name consultant at, a

firm dedicated to helping businesses choose the best domain names

for their Web sites.

You can contact Lee at: [email protected], or at: To subscribe to the weekly

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