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I am helping my church with their new web site (two of them actually) and there is a domain name that they really want, but it's taken. The domain isn't in use (at least not for a web site). I've looked up the owner and I have the Administrative Contact email that was registered for the domain.

Is there anything I should know before I send this person an email? Is there some way this is usually done without going through a GoDaddy (or someone else) agent? Do I just need to send an email explaining the situation and asking if they are willing to sell it?

If they are, how should I handle the transaction?

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I wasn't sure if this should go on SuperUser or ServerFault. Thoughts? –  Max Schmeling Aug 11 '09 at 17:57
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I think ServerFault is fine ... this is administrative in nature. –  tomjedrz Aug 11 '09 at 18:17
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4 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

First, check out the domain on whois, and do a complete DNS lookup. There isn't a web site, but is there an email domain in use? If you browse to the site, do you get an error, or is it "parked"? Does the registrant have lots of domains or just a few? Look on sites like sedo.com to get an idea on pricing.

Then, send an email to the admin contact, indicating your interest to purchase the domain and asking if it is for sale, and negotiate. Be patient.

Once you come to terms, I would use escrow.com or sedo.com to actually run the sale. Their process reduces the potential for you paying and the seller not delivering. It costs a few % but is worth it. In the process, you pay escrow.com, the funds are verified and the seller notified. Then the seller "ships" (i.e. transfer the registration) and tells escrow.com and you. You accept and tell escrow.com, and they get the funds. There is a process for resolving disputes. I have used it successfully a couple of times for just this kind of domain transfer.

An alternative is to talk to whoever you plan to host the domain; they may have a service to broker or facilitate transfers.

Finally, sedo.com has a "broker" service which costs $69 on top of the sales/escrow percentage. I have never used it so I can't recommend it.

Good luck!

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Seconded. We always go through Sedo, and it's always easy to do and works great. The buyer gives them the money, we transfer the domain to their GoDaddy account, and then we get the money and they get the domain. –  Dan Udey Aug 11 '09 at 21:40
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i'd also recommend checking to see if the domain is blacklisted.

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Some registrars allow you to lock the domain. The person needs to also make sure the domain is unlocked so that they can transfer it to another domain host.

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You'll probably need to go trought "GoDaddy (or someone else) agent" - depends on where you will be hosting the site:

a) Many hosting companies offer to transfer registar to them - You pay the old owner, he hands over domain transfer code, you give the code to your hosting company, and they take care of the transfer. You'll probably need to pay a fee for first year usage of the domain also to your hosting company. Also be aware that this is not as easy as it seems if you're using a hosting company with no support other then a FAQ or Wiki.

b) If the site is already on a registar you can live with, then you need to arrange that the domain owner/contact information gets changed to you - you will get a login in the registars homepage, and then change the DNS entries to your server / your hosting company servers in the control panel.

Anyway, just ask if the owner is willing to sell and don't be ashamed to negotiate the price if he's just a domain squatter.

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Where the site will be hosted makes no difference. –  Sam Aug 11 '09 at 20:45
    
I have found the process to be easier if the seller is a squatter. Selling the domain is their goal! –  tomjedrz Aug 11 '09 at 23:40
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