How to Grab an Expiring Domain Name

How to Grab an Expiring Domain NameYears ago, when domain names expired they would drop, or become available for hand registration by anyone. Whoever was the quickest to register a dropped domain would be the new registrant. That is how many of the largest domainers, like Frank Schilling, built their enormous portfolios.

Today, the story is different. Domain name registrars realized that they could auction expired domain names to the highest bidder and generate additional revenue. If no one wanted the domain names in an auction, the domains would then drop and become available for anyone to register. Much of the time, however, domain names are successfully auctioned.

Because auctioning domain names is not the core competency of most domain name registrars, they partner with an auction house.

When Domain Names Are Auctioned

A domain name that reaches expired status and is not renewed by the owner will be listed at an auction service (see FAQ for exception to this rule). The domain name does not immediately go into auction, but is immediately listed on the partnered auction service with an auction scheduled for the near future. Such a domain name will be exclusive to that specific auction service.

For example: If the domain name DomainSherpa.com is registered with Moniker (the registrar) and the domain name reaches expired status, within a few days of expiring the domain name will be listed at SnapNames.com (auction house partner to Moniker). Domain names are exclusive to one auction service, as an auction cannot take place at two locations.

Joining the Domain Name Auction

If you – as a business owner, entrepreneur or webmaster – want to register a domain name that is about to expire, the procedure to follow for the best chance of purchasing the domain name is outlined below.


1. Determine the Domain Name Registrar


Most major domain name registrar have an exclusive auction partner. In order to determine the auction partner, you first need to figure out who the domain name registrar is.

The domain name registrar for a domain name can be determined through a WHOIS lookup. Take, for instance, DomainSherpa.com. If you wanted to purchase this domain name, you can visit www.whois.sc/domainsherpa.com and find out that the domain name registrar is Moniker (see figure below).

How to Grab an Expiring Domain Name

Sample Results from WHOIS Lookup


2. Determine the Auction Partner


Once you know the name of the registrar, you can look up the exclusive auction partner using the table below.

There are three major auction houses:

  1. Go Daddy Auctions (http://auctions.godaddy.com)
  2. NameJet (http://namejet.com)
  3. SnapNames.com (http://snapnames.com)
Domain Name Registrar Auction House Partner
Go Daddy Go Daddy Auctions
Wild West Domains
Ascio Technologies NameJet
DirectNIC
eNom
Fabulous
Network Solutions (NetSol)
Speednames
1&1 Internet None
EuroDNS
FastDomain
MarkMonitor
Rebel.com
Schlund+Partner
Bulk Register SnapNames.com
Directi
Domain.com
Dotster
Melbourne IT
Moniker
Name.com
Register.com
Tucows
NameScout Pool.com

(Missing a registrar? Send us an email and we will add it to the list.)

Always track your expiring domain name at the auction house that is partnered with the registrar on record for that domain. It is your best chance of acquiring the domain name.

Note that expired domain names at registrar resellers, such as through the Go Daddy Reseller Program, will be auctioned at the same auction house partner of the registrar.


3. Play the Odds


If you fancy yourself a gambler, you can take your chances that no bids will be placed, wait for the domain name to drop, and hand register it for about $10 at any number of domain name registrars.

But unless the domain name you want is undesirable to anyone else (e.g., it does not include real words or have a high search volume for the words), the odds are not in your favor. With over 210 million domain names registered and an active, worldwide domain name investing community, it is highly likely that someone else will also find interest in the domain name you are watching. As such, skip to Step 4.


4. Backorder/Bid on the Domain Name


If you really want the domain name, place a backorder at the appropriate auction house. A backorder allows you to monitor a domain name status and be notified of the start of an auction.

If the domain name has already expired, join in on the auction and bid on the domain name. Not sure how much to bid? Start by learning how to value generic domain names.

To place a domain name backorder or bid, you will first need to sign up for an account at the auction partner you identified in Step 2.

Frequently Asked Questions About Auction House Partners

Question: Shouldn’t I bid on the domain name at all the advertised drop catching services, like Pool.com and others?

Answer: No. While this was the best process years ago, today most major domain name registrars are exclusively partnered with one auction house. As a result, the domain name will either sell at the partner auction house or be dropped.

If a domain name is dropped, then a drop catching service like Pool.com will work fine. At Pool.com, you only pay if they are successful at catching your domain name. But if you are going to pay $60 for Pool.com to catch it, why not just go to the auction and bid on the domain name – you will have a better chance of obtaining it.

Question: The domain name I want is not expiring for a while. Can I enter an auction bid now?

Answer: Many auction sites will allow you to backorder the domain name for free. Follow the process above to find the domain name registrar and auction partner site. Then sign up for an account at the auction partner site and enter a backorder. But remember, the domain name may transfer to another registrar at some point so refer to Step 1 above periodically.

Alternatively, you can monitor a domain name for free at a number of locations. DomainTools.com offers a free domain name monitor tool, as does DomainHole.com (both available with free member registration). Once you receive an email notification that a domain has changed status from active to expired, you can follow the process listed above to enter a bid at the auction partner site.

Question: Are there exceptions to the rules and processes listed above?

Answer: Yes. For a vast majority of domain names that expire (greater than 99%+), the rules and processes listed above are valid. However, there appear to be exceptions to these rules. For example, registrars “warehouse” or take for their own domain name portfolios some domain names, and other domain names a renewed even past their expired or redemption periods. In addition, there is at least one registrar that does not have an auction partner, allowing expired domain names to simply drop and be available for hand register.

Question: I like the original creation date (1995) of a particular domain name I am watching. Will it be maintained if I buy the domain name in auction?

Answer: Domain names that sell through auction partners will maintain their original creation date. Domain names that go Pending Delete or Pending Deletion, will have a creation date that coincides with when the domain is next registered.

Question: What is the auction house for TLDS, LLC DBA SRSPLUS?

Answer: If you search “srsplus” you’ll find the registrar at https://srsplus.com/. Visiting that site, it says (under their logo) that they’re powered by Network Solutions. Knowing that, you can just look at http://www.domainsherpa.com/auction-partners-of-domain-name-registrars/ to see who Network Solutions uses as their auction partner.

If you *really* want to be sure the auction partner is NameJet (because it’s a name you cannot afford to lose in the drop), you can email the technical support team at SRSPLUS and ask them if they follow the same expiration/auction procedures as Network Solutions. Be specific and ask, “Will the domain name, (fill in), expire and be available for auction on NameJet.com as the process is listed at http://www.domainsherpa.com/how-to-grab-an-expiring-domain-name/?”

Question: Can you tell me how I can find the auction house for UKRNames.com?

Answer: Unfortunately not. There are about 1,000 ICANN-accredited domain name registrars around the world. Most do not have an auction partner; it’s only the largest registrars that do.

To find out if UKRNames.com has an auction partner, you will need to contact UKRNames.com technical support and ask them if they have an auction partner for expired domain names such that you can follow the procedures listed at http://www.domainsherpa.com/how-to-grab-an-expiring-domain-name/ to register the domain name (fill in).

Question: Can I contact the registrar and negotiate to buy the domain name directly?

Answer: Registrars are not set-up to negotiate the selling price of expiring domain names. Their technical support team likely won’t even know what you’re referring to, let alone who to refer your inquiry to. It’s likely your offer won’t even be worth their time to handle. Unless you know the founder, president or chief operating officer of the registrar, you won’t even be able to have a dialogue about it. In addition, depending on how they interpret the ICANN registrar rules, it may not even be possible.

Question: So what do I do if I cannot find the auction house of the registrar?

Answer: Use one of more of these domain name backorder services.


What did I miss, get incorrect or need to clarify? Please tell me in the comments below.

[Peer review thanks: Justin Godfrey]
[Photo credit: banky177]

Escrow.com for Domain Names

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43 Responses to “How to Grab an Expiring Domain Name”

  1. Scott Mcdermott says:

    is there any difference in the procedures you documented or with the way the market works for less-profitable TLDs like .org, where many folks are non-profits or non-business entities that don’t have a ton of money? I would think this makes the auction and secondary market less interesting, and there’s probably a lot more drops without auction?

  2. Scott Mcdermott says:

    I am trying to find the auction house partnered with “Registration Technologies, Inc.” (http://registrationtek.com/). They appear ancient, but still active. I have attempted to contact them and received no response to my queries. How would I go about finding the auction house they are partnered with? Are you certain that all auctioning partnerships are exclusive?

    • DomainSherpa says:

      If you’ve reached out to them and they have not responded, they likely won’t respond to me either. If they’re a smaller registrar, then it’s likely they don’t have an auction partner as it costs capital to make the technological and business process connections between the registrar and auction house.

      There are likely exceptions to every rule in the domain name industry, but for the most part each registrar — if they have an auction house partner — with only have one partner from what I’ve seen.

  3. Alison says:

    Hi, I have been “stalking” a domain for my dad and it was to have expired today. Just Googled your piece this morning. The domain we want is registered with 1&1, which you list has having no auction house. Does this mean they eventually drop them? Or do you have any other tips?

    Thanks!

  4. Dale Ehrgott says:

    Hi Michael,

    Great information, thank you. Any chance you know who does the auctions for domains that are under the Dynadot.com registry? Thanks and have a good day.

    • Hi Dale,

      Were you aware that Dynadot has their own expired domain auction marketplace?

      http://www.dynadot.com/community/help/question/what-is-expired-auction

      “When a domain is not renewed by the registrant, it is auctioned off. The highest bidder for the domain will receive the domain into their Dynadot account.

      “Auctions last for seven days, and you can bid anytime during that period. You may also place a proxy bid for higher than the current minimum bid. If someone else places a bid, the system will automatically bid for you until your max proxy bid amount is reached.

      “If you are the highest bidder when the auction ends, you have 2 days to pay for the auction. Once you pay the domain is moved into your Dynadot account in about 4 days, provided it is not renewed by the original Registrant.”

      BUT, like GoDaddy auctions take place during the registrant’s grace period (40 days after expiration), so even if you win the auction for the expired name and pay the money it appears that Dynadot can cancel the order. See http://www.dynadot.com/community/help/question/auction-canceled-renewed.

      What happens after the auction if no user bids on the domain name and the registrant doesn’t renew the domain name during the grace period? I don’t know. I’ve put in an email to their support department to ask. I’ll update this post when I hear back.

      Best,
      Mike

    • Hi Dale,

      I heard back from Dynadot (excellent support response time), and once a domain name goes through their own auction marketplace, it is deleted and is eventually available for registration by anyone.

      Hope that helps you out.

      Best,
      Mike

  5. Zuheb says:

    Hi Micheal , Is the process same for 2013 or has changed somewhat. This article has cleared many doubts . Is there an article where i can find timelines about the exact dropping dates of each registrar. I think its different for each registrar.

    • @Zuheb, yes the process is the same today that it was when I wrote this article in 2011.

      I don’t have an article that identifies the exact dates and times of dropping domains at the registrar. It’s a good idea; I’ll find someone who is an expert on the topic to come on and discuss it.

      Thanks for commenting and asking your questions.

  6. Mac says:

    Hey Michael, I have a question. I owned a domain from 2006 to 2010 than I missed to renew it and someone booked it. Now when I see the whois data of domain it shows that that creation date is from 2006 till 2013.

    Now my question here is I am about to buy this domain as it is about to expire today, but I want to get it with creation date 2006 and not 2013. how can i do that? or is it like if i order it so it will dafault show its creation date 2006?

    Any help would be great. By the way excellent article.

    • Hi Mac,

      See the question above: “I like the original creation date (1995) of a particular domain name I am watching. Will it be maintained if I buy the domain name in auction?”

      In short, if you use the auction partner of the registrar then it will maintain the original creation date. However, if the domain goes through Pending Delete or Pending Deletion, the domain name will have a creation date that coincides with when the domain is next registered.

      Best of luck to you,
      Michael

  7. Great post! This all great information for anyone looking to get into the domain game, which by the way is kicking butt!

  8. Boluji says:

    Wel done Mike.

  9. Boluji says:

    The article and the feedback are evergreen. Previously I do not have any flare for expired domains, but with this sky is my first steps to expired domains.

    Thanks

  10. Ross says:

    Hmm go to an auction and buy expired domain, simply :)

    • Hi Ross,

      Yes, but you need to know which auction company to go to to put your bid in. For example, if the domain name is expiring at GoDaddy, they run their own auctions. So putting in a bid at NameJet.com will do you no good — instead it will waste your time. And in some cases you need to put your backorder in with payment, so it will cost you as well.

      Best,
      Michael

  11. Mike Howard says:

    Great article. This will be quite useful to us to grab a domain name that our competitors have registered!

  12. ThemePremium says:

    How can I backorder a domain name that is in pendingDelete status but is registered by 1&1 (so no auction partner). Please reply. Thanks.

    • Hi ThemePremium,

      Sorry for the massive delay in responding.

      If a registrar has no auction partner, like is the case with 1and1.com currently, then you need to put in backorders with large companies that might be able to grab the domain.

      I suggest putting in a backorder at these locations:
      * Pool.com (currently free to place a backorder, charged if grabbed)
      * SnapNames.com (currently free to place a backorder, charged if grabbed)
      * GoDaddy.com (currently $19, but if don’t grab you can reuse on another domain — email support at GoDaddy if you have questions)
      * Pheenix.com (new player in the backorder marketplace, I think it’s $19 to backorder)

      Best,
      Michael

  13. Drew Towers says:

    I read something very interesting the other day. It was a guy revealing a secret he had used to acquired hundreds of domain names… Here’s his basic plan.

    I’m assuming he would scrape to find domains that were about to expire, at which point he’d then filter the list for whatever he was looking for – brandable names, pagerank domains, high traffic domains, etc.

    Taking under the assumption they had abandoned their websites and did not care too much about them any longer he would cold call them using the WHOIS info in the domain and offer to give them 50 dollars just for re-registering the domain (which he would pay for) and then simply walking them through transferring it over.

    He claimed he had a 66% success rate with this method. (I think he had written a little more in-depth about it, but thats the basic run-down). I imagine it still works very well.

    I thought to myself, what a creative son of a b*. That’s thinking outside of the box. Boy do I miss the day when the aftermarket was just one great big river rarely fished (for lack of better words.) Now its just so saturated its lost its appeal. I am sure something new and exciting will come along though.

    Regards.

    Drew (@DomainSnatcher)
    and a shameless plug if you don’t mind:
    Download my Non-API Dropcatcher @ snatcher.org

    • That’s awesome. For someone that’s willing to “dial for dollars”, I bet there would be a percentage that would convert. It’s a funnel, and the more you put in the top, the more you’ll get out the bottom. 66% success rate sounds high, but I have no data…one would have to try it and see. If anyone is interested, I’d love to interview you after you’ve made the calls and gathered the data!

    • Tommy says:

      66% does sound high but that is a great outside the box type method!

  14. James Banks says:

    Thanks mate, fantastic article by the way I’ll pass it on.

  15. Excellent, well written article! Thanks Michael!

  16. BullS says:

    The Justice Department needs to investigate this BS domain catching scheme as it only profits certain companies.

    It is like houses go to the auction blocks and certain companies get to bid first and the shiddy ones goes to the public.

    When the domains are dropped, it should be in the OPEN and anybody and everybody HAVE THE EQUAL OPPORTUNITY to hand reg.

    Plain and simple.

  17. Stan says:

    Nice article. I’d be interested in a different article that investigated the legal grey area that is
    expired domains and auction houses and the scam that Mike Mann eluded to in his interview.

    • @Stan: I agree. That would be interesting. Jamie has provided some interesting info as well, so clearly there is more to publish on this topic.

      Thanks for posting a comment. I’m glad you found it useful.

  18. Jamie says:

    “Any domain name that reaches expired status and is not renewed by the owner will be auctioned by an auction service.”

    “Some” domain names that reach expired status, would make the above statement correct.

    Thousands of domain names that reach expired status never make it to any auction service and are released by the registry. Many at that time are captured by a dropcatching service like SnapNames but many are captured by private entities and never auctioned.

    There is no easy way to explain “all” things about expired domain names. As you stated Michael, Network Solutions domain names go to the partnered domain auction service NameJet.com BUT, not “all” do… NSI customers have the option to opt-out of having expired domains go to auction. If a customer picks this option, the domain name would go through the drop process and go PendingDelete around the 71st day after the expire date. When it is released from the registry, the domain name is fair game to the major dropcatching services and the private ones. This still doesn’t mean anybody would grab it, and the domain may become available to hand register.

    Warehoused domains.. well that is another story and one that can also prevent an expired domain to reach public auction. Tucows, Register.com and more warehouse domains, so again, not “all” expired domains will hit the partnered auction services.

    Autorenew status is very confusing to many, so that often throws people off watching a specific domain.

    If a domain name is “force” deleted at GoDaddy by a customer.. that domain name will also skip the auction and go PendingDelete etc.

    Register.com also sends some expired domains to NameJet.. but they also warehouse domains.

    I could go on and on with different situations but expired domain names are very confusing and if somebody wants a specific one… I’d suggest contacting a domain professional to get the correct answers and best advice for a specific domain.

    • @Jamie: Great feedback. I appreciate you taking the time to go into the details of this article, because it’s the details that make it useful. So, thank you.

      Regarding my statement above, “Any domain name that reaches expired status and is not renewed by the owner will be auctioned by an auction service.”–it did overstretch. I’ve modified it to be: “A domain name that reaches expired status and is not renewed by the owner will be listed at an auction service (see FAQ for exception to this rule).” Then I added a FAQ to clarify. Please check my thinking:

      1. Some domain names don’t go to auction and are instead held by the registrar in their own portfolios (you called this “warehousing” by the registrar). This is probably less than 0.001% of the domain names….actually, probably even less. I suspect it would only be premium domain names with massive exact match local search quantities. Not surprisingly, I cannot find any information from registrars about their procedure, quantities of domains their keep, or ICANN’s rules (if any) about this.

      2. Some domains are listed on the auction sites, but then never go to auction. This may be because of #1 above, or relationships the registrar has with big-time domainers, or the previous registrant finally realizing the domain name expired, or … who knows? It could be a lot of reasons, none of which are documented.

      3. If a registrar doesn’t have an auction partner, expiring domain names simply drop.

      Other notes:

      * “Thousands of domain names that reach expired status never make it to any auction service and are released by the registry.” I think this is only if the registrar a) has an auction partner and b) nobody places a bid at the auction house. In that case, it drops normally and is deleted from the registry and available for anyone to hand register — including backorder services like SnapNames.com or Pool.com. I’m not sure why a registrar wouldn’t list an expiring domain name at the auction house as it could lead to extra revenue for them. Can you, Jamie?

      * I would think that the auto-renew of domain names happens well before any domain name is listed at an auction house. That’s just my “common sense” thinking, which clearly may not be reality. :)

      * Great point you made: “If a domain name is ‘force’ deleted at GoDaddy by a customer.. that domain name will also skip the auction and go PendingDelete etc.”

      * You stated, “Register.com also sends some expired domains to NameJet.. but they also warehouse domains.” I’ll look into this and clarify the article further when I hear back from Register.com.

      Thanks again for all your input, Jamie.

      At the end of the day, this article is geared to startups, business entrepreneurs, webmasters and marketing professionals who need to understand the process, and I guestimate that the process listed in the article above accounts for 99%+ of all expired domain names. All of your points are valid and appreciated, but if someone is interested in buying a good, brandable domain name for their business, they should follow the instructions above to have the best chance of grabbing it.

      • Jamie says:

        1. “Some domain names don’t go to auction and are instead held by the registry in their own portfolios”

        Registrar, not registry.

        Warehousing: I have no clue to a percentage of warehoused domains but I know it happens. Tucows even admitted it on my blog “I know you don’t like that we’re allowed to select expiring names for the Tucows Portfolio rather than letting them all go to auction or drop but that seems to be something we have to agree to disagree about.” ~ Ken Schafer (1st comment) http://www.dotweekly.com/could-you-explain-tucows

        2. Many that are listed and never make it to auction, is because the domain name is likely renewed by the past owner. I think in some cases, the domain may be warehoused or renewed and sold by the past owner.

        Why a registrar would release a domain before sending it to auction… To make the registrar look good! :) It is a rare case when that happens. At NSI, a customer has to request that the domain is not auctioned. Not an easy, one click type situation, so not many do it.

        At GoDaddy, the domain would need to be force deleted, so again.. not a one click process but it happens daily.

  19. Ron Bar says:

    Great Article.It will help many people get into the domain game.

  20. Stan says:

    Nice article. I’d be interested in a different article that investigated the legal grey area that is expired domains and auction houses and the scam that Mike Mann eluded to in his interview.

  21. BullS says:

    Good strategy but not good enough. I have my own trick but not telling…sorry.

    “You can show them the gold but don’t show them the goldmines”

  22. Teresa J. says:

    Loving this article. I’ve been looking for a reference for the partnerships and have been in need of such an article for years. Thanks for writing this. I’m bookmarking it now.

  23. Brad Pineau says:

    Amazingly thorough. Well done.

    • Thanks, Brad. I appreciate your feedback.

      If you have any other registrars that you want me to add, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I’d like this to be a living document on the web for those of us who are tracking domains that we may want to use for a business.

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