Expert Advice: How to Buy a Domain Name That’s Taken

Creating a website is an exciting project, whether it’s for a small business, blog, or personal use. But, it can be frustrating when you have your heart set on a domain that’s already taken. 

Unfortunately, there are already over two billion websites on the internet. So it’s not uncommon to think of the perfect domain name only to find that it’s already taken. 

Here’s the good news:

You can still buy a domain name that’s been registered by someone else.

Keep reading to learn:

  • How to check domain name availability
  • How to buy a domain that is taken
  • Tips for buying a domain name from its owner

Why Your Website Needs a Domain

Your domain name serves as your website’s address on the internet. For example, the URL Walmart.com is the domain for the Walmart Corporation. 

It’s made of the domain name, “Walmart”, and the top-level domain, “.com.” 

Other common top-level domains (TLDs) include:

  • .gov
  • .org
  • .edu
  • .net

Every website needs a domain to exist on the web. Typically, you’ll register your domain name for one year — and it’s a good idea to set up automatic renewal to ensure you can keep it.

Choosing (and Getting) the Right Domain For Your Company

The domain name you select is important. It affects your branding and can provide search engine optimization (SEO) benefits.

Take some time to make sure you’ve selected the best domain for your company. It should be simple to share on social media and advertising materials — that means short (three words or less) and easy to spell. 

In general, .com domains are preferred over other top-level domains, but they’re also the most popular. If you have a more generic brand name or business name, there’s a good chance the .com TLD is already taken. 

How to Check if a Domain Name Is Available

Before you purchase a domain, you need to check its availability by performing a domain name search.

Most companies that offer website hosting also offer domain search and registration services. You can run a domain name search through Bluehost

To check if your ideal domain is available, enter it in the search bar and click Search.

If no one owns the domain you want, you’ll have the option to purchase it. 

If the domain name you entered is already registered to someone else, Bluehost will suggest similar domains that are available. You can select one of these alternative domain names, or you can explore more unique TLDs to match your company name. 

Don’t get so attached to your first domain name idea that you won’t consider alternatives.

Learning how to buy a domain that is taken is fairly simple. But negotiating with the owner of a domain can be a long-drawn-out process. 

You’ll be better off if you’re willing to consider an alternative. 

Think about it. 

If your heart is fully set on someone else’s domain, they have more leverage in a negotiation. You can get a better value if you’re willing to say no to an overinflated price.

How to Buy a Domain That Is Taken

When learning how to buy a domain from someone, it’s important not to get swept up in the chase. If you don’t do your due diligence, you may end up overpaying for a domain or even losing your money altogether. 

Here is the step-by-step process for how to buy a domain name from someone who already owns it:

  1. Research the domain name’s value
  2. Find out who owns the domain
  3. Get the domain owner’s contact information
  4. Negotiate with the domain owner
  5. Pay for the domain with an escrow service 
  6. Transfer ownership of the domain

Let’s break each of these steps down.

1. Research the Domain Name’s Value

Purchasing a new domain name costs around $10-$15 on average for one year of registration. However, if you want to learn how to get a domain that’s taken but not used, it will likely cost much more than $15.

Some individuals make a business of buying new domains and re-selling them at a higher price. If you don’t know how to calculate a domain’s value, you may end up over-paying.

Consider the factors that affect a domain names’s value, including:

  • TLD (.com vs .net)
  • Name length (the shorter, the better) 
  • Spelling
  • Keywords (for SEO)

You can work with a domain name appraisal service like EstiBot to determine your maximum budget before you negotiate.

A good domain name appraisal search can help determine a fair domain price and explain the rationale behind a domain’s value.

Ultimately, business owners and individuals need to decide if the selling price is worth it in the long run.

2. Find Out Who Owns the Domain

The first step in learning how to buy a domain that is taken is finding the owner.

Start by checking to see if the domain is being used for an active website. Type your desired domain into the URL bar of your web browser. 

You’ll see one of three things:

  1. An active website
  2. A “domain for sale” landing page
  3. An error message

If you see an active website, your chances of purchasing the domain are slim. But, it doesn’t mean you can’t ask. To find the owner of the domain, try checking the footer or Contact Us page for a phone number or email address. 

If you see a “domain for sale” landing page, that’s good news. You’ll find contact information on the page or even a form you can use to make an offer. 

If you see an error message (or can’t find contact information on an active website), you can use a WHOIS lookup to find the registered owner.

3. Get the Domain Owner’s Contact Information

A WHOIS record provides registration and contact information for every registered domain. The data is publicly available because the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) legally requires it. 

You can find this information by typing your domain into the search bar at lookup.icann.org.

However, some web hosting providers offer a proxy registration service to protect their client’s privacy. If that’s the case, you’ll see contact information for a hosting company rather than the real owner. 

4. Begin Negotiations with the Domain Owner

Once you have the registrant’s information, it’s time to reach out. If you landed on a “domain for sale” page, you might be able to enter a bid for the website directly on the landing page.

Otherwise, contact the owner via email, find out if they’re willing to sell, and then ask for a price or make an offer.

If the owner uses a domain broker or domain broker service, you may need to negotiate with a middle man. A domain broker buys and sells domains for other people. Like real estate agents, domain brokers assist with connecting buyers with sellers and negotiating a fair price.

5. Use an Escrow Service to Pay For the Domain

Buying a domain name isn’t as simple as purchasing a product in a store. You have to pay the current owner, and they have to transfer the domain to you. 

But who goes first?

Should you pay first and trust, the owner will transfer the domain? Or does the owner transfer the domain and hope you pay the agreed amount. 

There’s no guarantee that the owner will transfer the domain after they receive your payment. That’s why you should always use an escrow service to manage domain sales.

An escrow service is a third party that ensures everyone sticks to the agreed transaction.

You pay the escrow service, and they hold on to your money until the domain transfer is complete. Then, the escrow service gives your money to the original owner. 

If a domain seller doesn’t want to use an escrow service, this could indicate a scam. You shouldn’t agree to buy a domain if this is the case.

6. Transfer Ownership of the Domain

Let’s say you contact the owner, make a bid, and they accept. 

Congratulations! You’re one last step away from owning your dream domain. 

Once you’ve made your payment through an escrow service, the last step is to wait for the current owner to transfer ownership of the domain to you.

How to Transfer Domain Ownership

To transfer ownership of a domain, the current owner needs to disable the transfer lock and retrieve a transfer authorization code. The new owner will then use the transfer authorization code to request a domain transfer and purchase another year of registration. 

The domain transfer is done through the original owner’s domain registrar. A domain registrar refers to the company that the owner used to register the domain

Each registrar has a transfer process, but the necessary steps of how to transfer a domain to another person remain the same across providers.

And that’s it! Now you know how to buy a domain that is taken and make it yours. 

Purchasing a new domain is an exciting and necessary step when creating any website. If you find yourself wanting a domain that’s taken, you’re not entirely out of luck. 

You can take steps to find the domain owner, negotiate a price, and purchase the domain. However, be prepared to spend more time and money if you want a domain that’s already registered. 

Otherwise, you can still consider brainstorming alternatives. Who knows, you just might find a great domain name when you weren’t expecting it.

Learn more about Bluehost web hosting services today, and receive a free domain for one year with the purchase of a web hosting plan.

Desiree Johnson
Desiree Johnson | Content Specialist
Desiree Johnson is a Content Specialist at Bluehost where she writes helpful guides and articles, teaches webinars and assists with other marketing and WordPress community work.

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