You have come up with the perfect name for your website, you go to register it only to find it is already taken.
You could go with the .net, .org or .us, but it is never going to be like having the .com.
You open a web browser, type in the domain and you get page not found or one of those generic PPC pages.
Someone is sitting on the domain, so what can you do?
To find out who owns the domain, you can view the whois record for the domain. Domain Tools is a good website which displays various information about a domain.
Find the registrant details of the person to contact. You have the option to either calling or emailing the contact, providing the details are correct.
If you choose to email the owner, use an email address that cannot identify your business or why you might be interested in buying the domain. As soon as you announce that you are working for IBM for example, the owner is already going to see dollar signs. It is for this reason that large companies use broker services. Domain companies like Sedo offer such a service.
Write a brief email asking the owner if they are prepared to sell the domain. Wait to see what response you get from them before you mention a figure. It is difficult to know what kind of response you will receive, but it is likely that if they mention a figure it is not going to be a low figure. Most website and domain owners usually believe their domains and sites are worth a lot more than what they are probably worth.
Domain appraisal companies are mostly scams. Unless the domain is a single dictionary word, it is almost impossible to reliably appraise a domain with no developed website.
You could use a keyword search tool, such as the Overture keyword tool to get a rough idea of the search volume of the phrase. A higher number of searches, usually relates to a higher value.
In the end a domain, like realestate, it is only worth what a buyer is prepared to pay. If you can get a telephone number for the domain owner, you could probably negotiate quicker by calling them rather than sending emails back and forth. If you aren’t a good negotiator, it could pay to get some help from someone who is.
If you aren’t convinced domains are a good investment, check out this article.