Long gone are the days when you simply thought of a cool name and registered it through netsol. Of course, back then too you thought long and hard about whether you really liked that domain name, because you had to pay $100 or $75.00 US for it. You certainly wanted to be sure that the name you were going to register was "the one". But even then, domain name speculation was a big enterprise, and investors started to amass stockpiles of names in the hopes they would sell some of them for big money. And, yes, some sure did sell for big money. And yes, they still do!
Let's fast-forward to the present. New domains cost less than $8 US annually, and if you're paying more, you are not getting the best value for your domain registration. You can visit my new domain names page for hints on creating a new, unique name for your website or company. But before you try to spin out hundreds of names in the hopes that one is available, you may want to consider some options for purchasing a domain name that fits your needs.
First, there are the formal channels. By that, I mean companies that specialize in bringing domain name sellers and buyers together. Two of the biggest: Sedo and BuyDomains. I'll profile them below:
I have bought domains (and websites even) from Sedo. Listing your domains for sale at Sedo is free of charge. If the listing successfully results in a sale, the seller pays a 10% commision on the final transaction price. Included in that fee is the Sedo escrow service, and especially if you have a domain of high value, you will want to ensure that the funds you receive are legitimate before ownership of the domain is transferred to the buyer. For the buyer, Sedo takes steps to ensure that the seller indeed owns the domain and manages control of the domain until you have paid the funds owing. Sedo then transfers ownership to you, rather than you paying for a domain but waiting for the original owner to transfer the domain. I recommend Sedo for high-dollar transactions, where buyer and seller both want the security that comes with a brokerage and escrow service to protect the interests of both parties. With 8 million domains listed for sale, it is highly likely you can find what you are looking for!
An expanding domain name brokerage, growing through market acquisition in the domain name real estate brokerage world. Currently over 2,000,000 domains listed for sale. NameMedia manages a large distribution channel, including large sites such as register.com, buydomains.com and AfterNic. NameMedia also has partnerships with 8 of the top 10 leading registrars so they offer domains for sale thorugh this wide network. If you sell your domain name through these sites, you will pay an annual registration fee of $19.95 then 20% commission fees, steep in my opinion. But as a buyer, you have no concerns in that regard. Search either through the BuyDomains or AfterNic site and you will be able to see if there are any results that match your requirements.
Now, moving to the less formal channels, where commissions typically take no part in the selling and purchasing of domain names. There are many large forums dedicated to the sale of domain name, websites and web services. Here's a few I visit:
DigitalPoint - visit all the time
NamePros - some educated folks here in domain valuation
DNForum - don't visit here much, but another large forum
SitePoint - I visit SitePoint mostly for websites for sale.
On any site that charges you to post/list domains and websites for sale, you really need a nicer domain with a higher price tag attached to justify the listing fee. This is where, as a seller, you need to have a good idea of how much your domain is worth.
Now, you'll find lots of posts at all of these sites with domain names for sale. You must do the searching here, and assess whether or not the domain you see for sale has value. Some domains of course, you will just like, but try to purchase domains with an intention in mind of what you could make that domain name into. Or, if you want to become a domain name speculator, you need to have some knowledge of what domains may appreciate in value over time.
Try to purchase from members with an established reputation. As the buyer, you will likely pay via paypal first, and trust that the seller is going to push the domain. Members with good reputations get them for being honest and trustworthy, although even that is no guarantee you might not get ripped off. Exercise good judgement and caution in these transactions, and if in doubt, use an excrow service, recommended anyway for transactions of large value.
Like any public forums, there are some members at each who may try to sell something for more than it is worth and take advantage of newbie-ness. This is where you need to be an educated consumer. Research the domain name marketplace, watch and see how much domain names sell for before you try to buy. Buying domain names can be addicting, so it is good to decide on a niche that you want to target as well, rather than just buy blindly.
Designer's Tip: My personal favorites are old and keyword-targetted domains.