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How to Buy Expired Domains Before they Get Auctioned

Do a little leg work and you can nab expiring domains for a fraction of the price.

Competition for top expired domain names on NameJet and SnapNames is fierce, and auction prices go sky high. What if there was a way to usurp the auction process and buy premium expired domains at fixed prices? There is. It takes a little work, but your smarter domainer friends are already doing it.

When a domain name expires, it gets added to the queue at partner expired domain services (e.g. Network Solutions to NameJet). You can take the easy way out and backorder the domain, only to face off against 100 people in an expired domain auction…

Or you can contact the previous owner and buy it at a fraction of the price. People have been doing this for years, and I ran an experiment last year to see if it was worthwhile.

Now, the expired domain companies and their partner registrars aren’t dummies. That’s why they switch whois information to private and often block archive.org access as soon as a domain expires. That makes it harder to find the owner. So you need to sign up for an account at DomainTools to look at historical contact for the domain.

Once you get the email address from the historical record, you send an email to the owner:

“I noticed you let domain name xyz expire. I might be interested in buying it…”

99% of the time your email will bounce. If it’s a good domain and expiring, odds are the owner has outdated email information. So your next step is to pick up the phone and call the number in historical whois.

I tried buying about 50 domains this way last year, focusing on three letter domains and other high value domains identified by FreshDrop. Here was my experience:

1. Received response from 5 out of about 50 domain owners. Majority of others had no valid contact info.
2. 3 of 5 said they planned to renew the domain and just hadn’t gotten around to it.
3. 2 others engaged with me. On one I thought I had a deal, but someone else was also playing this game and convinced the owner to sell to him instead before I had a chance to counter. It was a good three character domain that also was a word. (The owner of that domain told me “man, you’re like the third person to call me today about this domain”.) The other was a three character domain that I nabbed for $2,500.

As an individual, it may not be worth your time to contact 50 people manually to acquire one three character domain at a good price. But if you systematize it, and perhaps outsource some of the contact legwork, it could be very profitable.

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  1. Richard says

    I look forward to trying this out, it seems like a long shot most the time, but can be very rewarding. Great post, thanks for sharing your experiences with this method of domain snatching.

  2. Attila says

    You know, its funny you mention. Someone a year ago or so emailed me saying my domain expired and that they would like to buy the domain off me if I am no longer interested in it.

    After that email, I realized the domain was in fact in a “grace” period. I obviously didn’t know it expired and didn’t want it to expire either, therefore I renewed it before I lost it completely.

  3. Acro says

    Or you can do as that ‘gentleman’ from South Florida who bids on tm domains on Namejet and contacts their owners saying he will do it to protect their interest from cybersquatters.

  4. rob sequin says

    Arggh. Now the secret is out.

    I have about the same results… about 50 tries to get one good domain.

    Same for trying this when I come across domains that don’t resolve. An unused domain is usually crying out for a buyer.

    Persistance, whether buying or selling eventually pays off.

    • Andrew Allemann says

      @ Rob – I recall using a service (that has since shut down) that would identify all the type-in domain names and then tell you which ones didn’t resolve. It was cool.

  5. Steve Cheatham says

    hmmmm… again People who code this stuff use it to the maximum benefit then sell it to the public. That the only way to stay ahead of the herd on an idea like this.
    just 2 cents worth from a master “coder” that has been working the net for years.

  6. Play says

    Persistance, whether buying or selling eventually pays off.

    I got one domain this way, I knew if expired I would loss it to big fish.

  7. EM @ KING.NET says


    Why share this golden secret… now it’s getting tough. I will have to offer more to get the name. This mean less revenue for me. LOL


  8. bernard says

    What a secret, this is easy to find alone. And I guessed, it has a rather unefficient result.

    To do it on autopilot, you need to build a database of existing domains you target, cache the whois info and send a email directly after you noticed the domain to expire.

  9. bernard says

    And I guess you will have more success catching SEO domains (good backlinks, but zero value domain name) than a good domain.

    Seriously, if anyone want to grab something from you for a surprisingly high value, won’t you try to investigate why?

  10. Attila says

    Well, you guys suck. Please refrain from posting articles like this. I was after a prime domain on namejet and one of you jerks tried this method. What did you gain? The owner renewed it and flipped you the bird. And what did the domain community get? Absolutely fking nothing. Not even a chance to battle out for the domain in auction.

    Shame on you cheap domain investors wanting something for next to nothing.

    The domain was UPC.com and would of paid up to $50k for it. Now the owner does not even want sell thanks to you cheap skates.


  11. Tim says

    There is a domain which is expiring this month that I would like. It was registered with this guy for 10 years, then last year it got extended for another year (either by the guy or automatically by eNom or regiStar) for 1 more year. This year I want to grab it.

    The dilemma is whether to email the owner for a private buy and run the risk of reminding him to renew. OR do the Namejet/GoDaddy/Snapnames/Pool backorder.

  12. Patrick says

    If you have the time this is a really good way of getting a good domain. The auctions are just getting more and more competitive and its rare to get a domain at a good price nowadays.

  13. Jay says

    I’m not so sure about this method. I tried it for a domain in the grace period and all it did was convince the domain owner to renew. It was not a top domain that likely would have just expired after the grace period. Now the owner probably has more incentive just to hold it.

  14. Jay says

    Sometimes domain owners just forget about the domain. Do you think it is better to possibly let it drop and use a crop-catching service? How do you decide what approach to use?

  15. Omar Negron says

    I tried doing this but the results weren’t worth my time. You can get deals possibly but what you are really doing is letting the person know they may have a valuable asset that is worth more than they thought.

    Have you ever tried to contact websites that may have a good domain name but the website is old or not even being used (I don’t mean parked, I mean not being used at all like a broken site or a site that doesn’t even resolve).

    Anyone had success doing this and acquiring a good domain this way?



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