Want to sell a domain name? Keep your WHOIS public

A number of startup founders I know own domain names, some are for their business, others they bought years ago for ideas they had that never left the ground. I was recently talking with a founder in SF who said she wished someone would buy some of her domains since many of them aren’t being used and have no relevance to her brand.

The first question I asked was, “Is your WHOIS info public or private?” It turned-out that the WHOIS was private and the domains she wanted to sell weren’t listed on any marketplaces.

It’s a common mistake I see amongst people that don’t spend much time in the domain world and bought names years ago and have kept the WHOIS information private. While it might make sense to keep your WHOIS information private if you’re planning on using the domain for a business idea that you might not want people to know about.

The problem is, if you move on and years later want to sell the domain, you need to remember to turn off WHOIS privacy. When a potential buyer sees private WHOIS the assumption usually is – this domain is not for sale. Couple this with the domain not being listed on any of the popular marketplaces and you shouldn’t be surprised that potential buyers don’t come knocking.

So if you bought a bunch of domains years ago and you want to have the best chance of selling some that are just sitting around there’s an easy way to accelerate the process.

There is no cost to list domains for sale on marketplaces like these and you don’t even have to come up with a price, they’ll just send inbound offers to you. If you want to go the distance you can even update the DNS settings to forward to a “For Sale” page that companies like Uniregistry will generate for free.

Sounds too easy? Well taking these steps are easy. The challenge and reality is, there’s a good chance your domains are junk. Sorry, I’m not trying to be mean but I am trying to be honest. Most people who randomly buy domains don’t end up buying domains with a ton of re-sale value.

That being said, there’s no way to know until you actually make it easy for a buyer to know the domain is for sale. If a year goes by and you don’t get a single bite, the domain might not have a ton of resale value.

So dust off those domains sitting in your registrar account and let the world know you actually are open to selling them, and you might just find yourself selling one or two of them.

{ 12 comments… add one }

  • Xavier.xyz February 9, 2017, 10:53 pm


    I own a small portfolio of almost 1,000 domains. Could you imagine how many phone calls and emails I got from spammers and scammers per day? I am having success with ‘buy it now’ or ‘Make offer’ landing pages. The first thing the buyer will do is go visit the url. If the url doesn’t show a ‘domain for sale’ banner, the buyer will look at whois. Rarely I will get inquiries by the use of whois.

  • Nick February 9, 2017, 10:58 pm

    @Xavier.xyz 1000 domains is a “small” portfolio? 😉

  • Snoopy February 9, 2017, 11:37 pm

    “The first question I asked was, “Is your WHOIS info public or private?””

    I don’t think many domain buyers do whois lookups anymore. To me the above just sounds like coincidence rather than causation.

    Agree about listing on marketplaces but if there is no inquiries at all the likely reason for that is they are not good domains.

    • Morgan February 10, 2017, 7:49 pm

      @Snoopy – tons of buyers still do WHOIS lookups. In fact most startup founders I know have never heard of Sedo, Afternic or Uniregistry so the WHOIS lookup is all they know…

      • Snoopy February 10, 2017, 10:26 pm

        Morgan, a whois lookup is done as a last resort by people who know how to do them.

        Buyers do not need to know how about any marketplace, all they need to do is check availability at Godaddy and/or look at what is on the domain.

  • AbdulBasit Makrani February 10, 2017, 1:23 am

    There are plenty of domainers who hide their WHOIS and I wonder what kind of domainer they are! 😀

    • Rob February 10, 2017, 1:59 am

      The kind that dont like the spotlight or the 15 minutes of fame, unlike you.

      • AbdulBasit Makrani February 11, 2017, 1:44 am

        That’s your mentality as to think I do for fame.

        • Nick February 11, 2017, 7:08 am

          Pay no attention to him. Thats a troll comment as it clearly makes zero sense for this conversation or he would have explained himself.

          • AbdulBasit Makrani February 11, 2017, 7:11 am

            Thanks Nick!
            Exactly! There was no connection/relevancy to what Morgan published and his comment. But you know, I like when people get jealous as it shows I’m on right path 😉

  • Julio Maysonet February 10, 2017, 3:07 am

    I was one of those people that use to have whois private until I kept reading about “Do you want to sell your domain name” make your whois public. The thing that made me change from private to public was when I read about who owns the domain when the whois information is private “The registrar” from then on I made my whois public. I use my webmaster@ email address and my google voice phone number so everyone can see.

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