Property Developing Online - Part 1 - Finding the gems

For saleProperty developing online is comparable with property developing offline in many ways with valuable neglected properties that need work scattered throughout the world that could turn a profit, the main biggest difference being that doing it online means you can find a bargain without having to have a huge budget/mortgage and you can do it from the comfort of your home.

The idea is to seek out a property (website) that is either not monetised or very poorly monetised that could do with some work put into it and then buy to either add to the portfolio or sell for a profit. Older sites often rank naturally for their obvious terms and can sometimes be improved upon greatly and very easily with a little on site SEO. It doesn’t always take big bucks either, you can start with as little as $100 and turn it into something much more if you can find a good buy.

This is not meant to be a bible or an exact ‘how to’, just my experiences which may give you a better insight if you have not already spent the time trying it for yourself, after all most of us could spend a spare hour per week doing this.

PotentialI often take an hour here and there to do more research looking for a new project, it can be fruitless and very laborious at times but when it works it can offer a great sense of satisfaction that can make a days work very rewarding!

The search
There are a few key areas of property developing online with the first and main one being the search for your new project. Sure there are a variety of websites that offer sites for sale such as:

There are many more like Ebay and for sale areas in lots of other forums, these are generally not happy hunting grounds, compare these to estate agents or realtors, everything for sale there will be carefully looked at by people as knowledgeable as you if not more so and often with deeper pockets, that means there is rarely a bargain to be had unless you see value in a site that someone else cannot. I have also noticed a decline in quality of the listings with very few being original or attractive.

My preferred route is to seek out new life forms.. to boldly go… you get the point. Going looking for a site that is not listed can put you in the enviable position of not being involved in an auction and dealing direct one on one trying to barter a deal for a site that has not been raped with adsense/link sales and the like, these gems are hard to find, harder to negotiate and buy but they are out there.

The criteria
When looking for a property to buy I am usually looking for one of the following

  • Neglected site that hasn’t been updated
  • A for sale notice on it somewhere in some form
  • No or very little monetisation
  • An old site that ranks well for its obvious terms

SearchThe technique
For a start, and remember hundreds of other people do this, there are a few search engines so I get results from Google, Yahoo and MSN as they show different results and each one may help uncover new sites.

When looking it is very easy to think of the obvious terms to look for, the use of  ” ” can be very important as it means you want an exact match to help narrow the search.

  • “websites for sale”
  • “domain is for sale”
  • “domain is now for sale”
  • “website is now for sale”
  • “website is closed”
  • “site is closed”
  • “sponsor this site”

Those are the obvious one’s and although the results change they are often fruitless and too obvious to find a gem that someone else has not found before you. If you like working in a specific niche you can expand on that idea using more detailed terms such as;

  • tattoo “website for sale”
  • tattoo “website is now for sale”
  • tattoo “domain is now for sale”
  • tattoo “for sale”
  • tattoo “site for sale”

Obviously you can replace the word tattoo with your preferred niche or topic, that method had worked for me in the past and can throw up some good sites that may not have already been barraged with emails from like minded developers. Remember local search can give different results from .com so use all varieties.

By far the best sites found in my experience are made by thinking outside of the box, the previous search terms focus on someone selling their website that has decided in some way to announce it on the site, they may already have come to an inflated valuation that you cannot afford or justify, what if the site is old or neglected or broken and forgotten about? what if its was built 10 years ago and gets a few hundred or thousand visitors per day and the owner, although would consider selling, has not thought to announce it on the site and just left the site. Those sites are the real gems.

To find them you have to be more creative in your search terms, focusing on neglected websites you could use searches such as

  • “website no longer updated”
  • “website is no longer updated”
  • “website last updated” {insert year}
  • “website will no longer be updated”
  • “no longer be updated”
  • “we are now closed”
  •  unfortunately website for sale

Perhaps you can think of even more creative search terms? The more inventive you can be thinking outside the box the less results you’ll likely get but the better gems you may find. With good search terms and patience you could find an old websites built years ago with no sign of adsense or the like and sites that were perhaps built and last updated pre 2000. That doesn’t mean when you find one it is for sale, but it does mean the owner has long since walked away from the site and it’s fair game and attractive to approach.

I have an email folder full of failed contacts for sites that I found and approached, the Bacteria Museum being a PR7 was/is a really nice one but alas they really do want someone to sponsor the site rather than sell and I did offer a fair price for that one which was refused.

I know for this blog it is easier to work with real examples which people like so another site that I did find was Aurora Webcam, it has been redesigned now and looks very good, at the time I found it in January this year it was a PR6 website with lots of backlinks from education sites, NASA and more. On the homepage was a notice “this website is now closed” or words to that effect which led me to the homepage, bingo!

Once you find a suitable candidate then comes approaching the owner, if you think the hard work has all but been done think again, making contact can often be quite a task in itself, I’ll deal with this on Wednesday in Part 2.

About Scott Jones

Scott hails from the north east of Scotland and started earning online at the end of 2000 building websites for local businesses during which time he won an award from Lord Alan Sugar for Excellence in Enterprise. After having quite a bit of success with domaining Scott mainly runs educational evergreen websites which generate over 3 million visitors per month but is always on the lookout for a fresh thinking out of the box way to turn a buck. Follow on Twitter.


  1. I can do the first part easily so I am looking forword to part two.

    You know the same can be done with myspace accounts? I have managed to find a PR3 myspace account using that method and registered it successfully.

    • I have to admit I just never worked on getting traffic, income or pages on myspace, I know it’s a huge industry though.

      • I got the PR3 account, and I am working in building a huge list of friends.

        After that I can place links on it or send bullitens as a method of advertising and not spam

  2. Great article easily found sites using your out of the box search terms Nows the hard part finding the owners & completing the deal 🙂 Awaiting part 2

    • Nice one Neale, it can sometimes go smoothly from there but I have had lots of bumpy rides which I’ll go into detail about so others can learn from my own mistakes.

  3. This is an interesting idea. I hadn’t really thought about it in property development terms, but you’re right there are clear parallels.

    Will you cover valuing a site in a future post?

    • I can tell you what I have done in the past for sure Jay but I don’t really think there is a formula, there is a certain thought process I use though, so I’ll jot it down for a post.

  4. I’ve never really considered buying an existing site before. I had a bit of a look with a few different searches and saw quite a few options so will be interested to read part 2 on Wednesday.

    I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to contact domain owners before to see if they were interested in selling, but they were domains with no site. So taking it a stage further to existing sites might prove more successful.

    • I love buying older sites, as a one man band sometimes its much easier to find & buy a site that needs work and has potential and has backlinks rather than always starting from scratch.

  5. Just out of curiosity, what would you have done with Did you have an idea of how to develop it, or would you just try to flip it?

    • Good question Adam, the site structure needed work so it may have retained its PR6 if I had it, I researched it’s backlinks and liked what I saw. Sites that are well linked to and old like that,I would be hard pushed to flip or sell, I am buying a 1993 domain name this week for $9k for the long term and buying a 3000 page 1997 travel website for $12k which I have no plans to flip as it will take me months to do something with. I put a lot of value on aged sites with good aged links and would really need to be approached with deep pockets to part with a good gem. I do look to buy sites to flip and find a buyer but I like to make them pay me back first so the sale is then pure profit. I probably would have redesigned Aurora Webcam and created an income from it. I am 31 so need to think about creating a balance between current income, longer term sites and retirement.

  6. Developing the online properties is new and more valuable rather than land properties. But developing such property takes time in the development. Good helpful content on how to search to find out web sites which are for sale or purchase/ lease etc.

    Bingo Live’s last blog whats new?

  7. You know Scott, I posted about this earlier today on my site. Your post has given me lots of food for thought, I think you have made many very intriguing points. I just wish I’d discovered it before I published my own article!
    All the best,


Leave a Reply