Buying and Selling a Domain Name

Because there are hundreds of millions of domain names that have already been registered, you may have difficulty finding one that you are satisfied with for your business. And even if you do find an acceptable domain name, you may see a better one that has been registered and is for sale. In these situations, you may want to buy a domain name rather than registering a new name yourself.

Domain names can be offered for sale (i) directly by the current registrant, (ii) through a domain name broker, or (iii) both of the above at the same time. If you wish to buy a specific domain name that is already registered, you can perform both an internet search and a “Whois” search under the desired name. Most often, you will either be led to a site that is actively using that domain name, or to a site—either individual or brokerage—that says the domain name is for sale. If the name is for sale, the asking price will often be listed as well.

For example, if you search for “dublindogs”, you will find an site with no indication that the domain name is for sale, and if you perform a Whois search for that domain name, you will locate the registrant and his contact information. However, if you type in” dublinpets”, you will find a link to a brokerage site that tells you the domain name is currently for sale and the asking price. In addition, a Whois search will take you to a site listing the domain name registrant, its contact information and statement that the name is for sale.

So in this case of dublinpets, you may have the choice of either buying the .com domain name through a broker or making an offer directly to the registrant and trying to negotiate an acceptable price. There are also valuation services available if you want a second opinion on the asking price for a domain name.

The method of completing the purchase and sale of a domain name will depend on the circumstances. If a brokerage service is used, it may be able to handle all of the details, including the payment method and arranging for the domain name transfer by the registrant. If an individual is selling the domain name, then the terms and payment method will have to be worked out in a Domain Name Transfer Agreement that is either signed or agreed to through email exchanges.

A Domain Name Transfer Agreement typically contains the following provisions:
  • Details of Domain name(s) to be transferred
  • Transfer details
  • Payment provisions
  • Warranties, if any
  • Indemnities, if any
  • Further assurances
  • Undertakings

The domain names to be transferred should be listed in their “” format, without the “www” or similar sub domains, which are not a part of the registered domain name.

The transfer provisions will depend on the registrar involved, since each has a different process. If the registrar allows for an instant transfer process, then the buyer can open an account at that registrar and request that the seller transfer the domain name into the new account. If the registrar does not have an easy intra-registrar transfer process, then the seller’s registrar can initiate the transfer. Some registrars, such as the one administering the TLD, still require hard copies of certain documents.

Unless the transfer is for a small amount of money, it is in the interest of both the buyer and the seller to designate an escrow agent to handle the receipt of funds from the buyer and the release of those funds to the seller once confirmation of the transfer is received.

In some cases, the buyer can demand that the seller represent and warrant (a warranty is a legal assurance) that it is the true owner of the domain name, has the right to transfer the name, and is not aware that the name infringes on any trade mark or other intellectual property right of a third party. If warranties are given, an indemnification for breach would often accompany them. An indemnification for breach is simply an undertaking to pay on demand an amount equal to the amount of any damages or losses suffered by the buyer if the warranties given by the seller prove to be untrue.

It is important for a buyer to get the further assurances of a seller that if future help is required to complete the transaction, switch registrars, etc., then the seller will provide the assistance needed. In addition, the buyer will want the seller to undertake not to use the domain name or any associated trade mark after completion of the transfer.

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