Saturday, February 16, 2013
Today it happened for the third time— all proof that the domain MLS is fundamentally flawed.
And that Owen Frager is a nice guy— too nice or crazy. You decide.
Among hundreds of people in my various networks who know me from some past shared experience, few pay attention to my social posts. But over time the takeaway is "this guy knows about domains."
And out of the blue every once in a while the PM comes with a common theme: "Hi Owen you're the domain expert perhaps you can give me advice. I registered my last name as a domain in 1999 because it was the trade name of my graphic design firm."
"Several years later I accepted an offer to join an agency and didn't focus on my business or site. The credit card expired, the domain was sent to auction and a guy bought it who wanted to sell it back to me for $28,000."
"Since I didn't need the name for my business, I passed but set an alert should he let it go. Fast forward 10 years later, (August 2012), I get an email telling me my name is up for auction but I could buy it now for $2,500. Sounds cheap and I am known by my last name so I should really own it for email and portfolio site. Owen what do you think?"
I say "let me do some digging, maybe I know the owner and can talk to him." In less then 60 seconds I plugged the LLLL surname to 367K others with the same name, 32 million companies doing business under that name in the US; 29 million in UK and 19 million in Australia and was presented with a "Buy It Now For $300" link.
Yes someone had it listed on Sedo for $2500 and GoDaddy for $300 and by chance the whois site I happened to use was aligned with one MLS, not the other. Needless to say within two minutes my friend got his surname back for $300.
So last week it happens again. This time from a relative, a realtor who added "the" to the front and "Group" to the end because his exact match business name came up as taken when he tried to register it and he was not informed that he could purchase this name on the aftermarket. Again he accepted his domain fate and years go by.
Suddenly he gets a letter by snail mail from a very official credible looking organization, suggesting that his business would improve with a shorter name that would truncate the "the" and "group" so it would be an exact match to his dba name. They claimed to be exclusive brokers for this name that's never been available before and won't be again after it finds its new home. They explain they work with Realtors and have proven success helping them get better rankings and more prospects with improved names. They advise that the name will go to auction in 30 days and already 50 others with that same dba name have bids in already, however for $18,000 they can secure it his forever if he acts today."
My friend confides that ten years ago when he started out he would have thought such a price crazy. But he has seen first hand how handicapped his business is with the workaround name. He explains that there are several competitors with similar names and there have been cases where clients have referred him to friends only for them to look up the number on Google and give the listing to the wrong party. "$18K is a third of the commission I lost on that one deal."
So he wants my advice: Should he take his chances with the auction and possibly pay less but also could pay more. Or should he just buy it since he's been obsessing over it for so long. Again I say, "let me do some research." What I discover is that the "broker" has no authority to sell this name. Its not going to auction. They are just preying on people hoping they will sell it then buy it. So I plug it into GoDaddy and to my amazement it's available to hand reg and with coupon I got it for him for $1.17!
In both cases and a third, I made no money on the deal even when I could have bought it and resold it at a big profit and both would think they got a great bargain.
Am I crazy. Too nice?
Perhaps there's money left on the table to be made from personal name nabbing?