Property Developing Online - Part 3 - Making contact

This is the third in a series of posts devoted to developing online and this could be the part that makes or breaks your ability to get a deal done. If you asked any offline property developer what the hardest part of their job is I would guess it would be finding the gems being land or property with potential.

12.jpgWe are lucky in that I could do various types of searched and find 20 websites I would like to own, further nobody gets homeless here so most people have a price and could move on, I have a price, Al has a price, the person you contact has a price even if they don’t know what it is yet. Finding good sites is easy, finding good old neglected sites is harder but they have the added benefit that they are often not monetised and therefore can immediately start paying for themselves. The present owner may not be aware of the full earning potential thus avoiding having to pay any income multiple or the like.


I think in the deals that I have done, or tried to do, the hardest part is quite often making contact, touching base and getting a response, by that I don’t mean getting ignored after creating my email, I mean once I send it, it often bounces right back at me. Stands to reason I guess, initially looking up the contact page for an email address and trying that can get a bounced email with an error the mailbox if full, full after years of spam filling it up on a site long since forgotten about by it’s owner.

The bounce back
In my previous example of the webcam site that is exactly what happened, fear not I spent an entire weekend on and off searching and sending emails for sites I found that I liked and I wanted this one so it’s time to think out of the box again!

The next move
The next step after a bounced email is to lookup the Whois which will usually give you one of 3 results

  • It has the same email address as the contact page
  • It has privacy protection so that you can’t get any extra info
  • It has a different email address to try (not with my luck)

In my case with the Webcam site the Whois listed the same email address that I had already tried. So onwards with fire in my belly!

InvestigateMy next tact was to re read the website where I found reference to someone who used to help update the site, on one page was her name & email address so I sent her an email asking for contact details for the owner. Often the website design company may have knowledge as to the owner that you do not so always worth approaching if you get stuck. In this case the same result, all emails I sent to her were bounced back undelivered.

Google the name
Starting to get a bit annoyed, but also more determined in a funny sort of way. Next method to try is to Google the actual names of both the owner and the web designer, sites like friendsreunited etc can all help here. I found mentions of the web designer and eventually a post of hers on an art forum with a different contact email address, yeah you guessed it the email address was no longer in use.

If the owner has a unique name that really helps when googling it, on another site I remember googling the owners name and finding their own profile page on SETI which led me to them eventually, back with the webcam site I was beginning to think I was spending more time than was justified on this, an unhealthy obsession or just plain stubborn? either way I spent a bit of time chasing leads on googling the names through various site with no success.

There was a phone number for the owner (who lives in Alaska) but I’m not a great lover of cold calling, I am better at thinking out an email than talking of the top of my head on the phone, plus I like to keep a documented record of every email when buying a site so that I have proof of any agreements, such as continued use of the copyrighted unique content. When buying a law website I had to negotiate use of the articles on the existing domain, the lawyer wanted an extra $500 per article if I wanted to own the copyright to them - no thank you sir! Just permission for continued use will be fine.

However telephone is still an option but there is always snail mail, it’s easy to think that’s more hassle than it’s worth, preparing, printing and posting a letter to Alaska from Scotland, after all the hoops I had already jumped through it almost seemed like a bridge too far.

The solution?
Send Real Letters OnlineQ. But wait, in the age of the internet surely everything can be done from your seat?
A. Almost unbelievably, yes, you can send letters snail mail from your computer! A quick Google and I find Pixel Letter, a service that lets you send letters all over the world, cheaply, all you have to do is load some money and type letter and give them the destination address. It costs 0.55Euros for one letter

Good Job! I also did a test letter to myself to satisfy my curiosity that it worked, which was actually quite funny because I forget that I tested it and 3 days later I received a letter which when opened said “Hello Mr Jones, is the domain name still for sale”, I almost got excited as took me a minute or two to remember that it was me that sent it!

Houston we have contact!
I digress, so I sent the Webcam owner a letter to Alaska! Job done.
A week or so later and I did receive an email reply from the owner to say he received my letter, in this instance when we got down to talking about money I offered $1500 and that was knocked back, in the end for this site it just  was not to be, I can tell you one thing wasn’t for the lack of trying ;)

So in summary the various methods of finding owners for contact from my own trial and error have been

  • Contact page
  • Whois details
  • Web Designer
  • Google company or individual name looking for more recent activity online that may lead you to a more recent email address
  • Friends Reunited
  • Search for any businesses that are in the same street or close by the owners contact home address and see if you can email someone that may know them
  • Telephone
  • Snail mail which can also be done online

I remember hearing about one guy who had to hire a translator to speak to a website owner in another country over the phone to try and buy a site,  going the extra mile will often be the difference between success & failure here as with anything in life.

Phew :) that turned out quite long so I’ll stop there, next time I’ll work on the assumption that contact has been made and you have received a reply .. hip hip hurray!

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. Well another fascinating article that sure will help me when buying an old gem laying somewhere.

    I quite like the idea of pixel letter, and I might give it a try because its not hard to manage.

    But yeah, thanks very much for yet another awsome article that sure will help me and many more

    BTW What happened to the top posters in the right sidebar?

  2. Wow, a lot of effort put into finding that guy. Did he come back with a price he wanted for the site or just knock you back completely.

    • It was a lot of effort and I have had similar attempts with better results but it’s important to show that they don’t all come off, we never got close to talking exact figures, I think we were poles apart in our location and valuations.

  3. I tend to do a lot of hinting around on Google too for names and trying to link them to contact details. Google is great at finding what you need.

    I have not thought of sending a letter in the past though. That was cool :)

  4. Thanks for more invaluable information Scott.

    I particularly like the reference to Pixel Letter, who’d have though of it hey?

  5. You really did put a lot of effort into tracking that owner down! Did you factor the time involved in doing this when deciding how much to offer for the site?

    - Martin Reed

    • No I dont think of it like that Martin, if I was selling a website I wouldn’t factor in how many hours were spent building it up, it comes down to numbers and therefore the time it takes me to find a gem and buy it is part and parcel of being self employed, also I quite enjoy it in a sadistic sort of way, thrill of the chase and all that!

  6. My first thought on Pixel Letter is how does the output look? Is it presentable, professional, all typed or some handwriting? I like to send letters for certain types of correspondence but don’t always get it done. This would certainly help.

    • It is all neat and typed and very presentable, I have found use for it in other ways as well Wayne, very handy. You could do what I did and always send one to yourself to satisfy your curiosity.

  7. I had a domain with out of date whois info that someone wanted the put an ad in the local paper

    For the benefit of Mr Doolally
    Please contact me on 020 123 123 if you know Mr Doolally

    I wondered what the hell it was about, got my attention though

  8. Scott, I was fully expecting the story to go in the direction of you buying the site for $500 and now it’s generating revenue through the roof! This is actually an even more useful article because it shows just how hard you are willing to work at this game even though there is no guarantee of things going your way. Good stuff.

    • And I wish you were right Ryan but alas on this one I worked hard for zero pay-off so it was a good example as you say, still when you do get one, a real old gem, it is such a great feeling and makes all the time invested worthwhile.

  9. Sending snail mail online thats a new one great tip thanks

  10. Google and WHOIS is probably the most-sought after methods.

  11. You sure put in a lot of effort to get that site. Sorry that it didn’t pay off for you.

    That is a good idea to reset your top commentators every month. It sounds like a great way to keep your readers from being to discouraged to try. Do you have a bit of code that you used to do it?

  12. senty4love says:

    thanks 4 this lovely info. .however do u know how 2 find info of sites. . .nominate only display name, no email info though

  13. Great tips. I even went so far as to do a background check on the Owner’s name, found his current address and the site luckily had a feature that gave the left and right neighbor’s names so I went ahead and snail-mailed both of them with a $50.00 check to cash if they’d contact me and the promise of a $300.00 check if they’d successfully help me get in contact with the owner.

    Alas I ended up finding the web designer and he sold me the site since the owner ripped him off years back!

  14. I’ve never bought an existing site, never really thought about it. I’ve always created my sites from scratch and seoed etc. But I guess with enough money you can buy any site out there, unless its making the owner buckets of cash per day.

  15. You are correct Jenny. People are not going to sell their goldmines, but in some cases its possible that an individual gets tired of maintaining their site and thinks its time to move on. But to me nothing is more appealing than having a website that makes you loads of cash for little work. The sites best targeted for buying up would be ones that are niche markets which are controlled by webmasters who aren’t very much into web marketing. This takes a businessman with a good eye for potential.

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