Story of A Domain Name: VoucherHotel.com

I just I realised how long I haven’t been posting here. It feels kind of nostalgic, considering that this is one of the first sites I create in 2006 (originally was called alfanhendro.com), along with SG-House.com (which was acquired by iProperty in 2010).

During these 7 years, I have had my share of ups and downs of online business. During my peak earning period, I was bringing home as much as mid five-figure dollar amount every month. And due to some circumstances, I had seen that earning drop to as little as 5% of the amount for a few months, which wasn’t enough to even pay for my expenses and had me scrambled to cover for my mortgages. I have recovered, sort of, though still not doing as well as I’d like yet.

During these 7 years too, I have registered or bought more than 500 domain names, almost all of which I acquired with some plan to develop. But time passed quickly, and certainly registering domain is a lot easier than developing them. A lot of of the domains end up being parked. I don’t even bother to park them in Sedo or some other PPC parking. And I have had to let a lot of domain names dropped too, those names that I no longer have interest for developing and not deemed to have any significant value as investment.

As time passes, I have received occasional offer to buy domain names from me. Some I rejected straight away, some I accepted if the offer is reasonable and I’m not urgently planning to develop the website. I have sold some domains at low 4-digit, some more at few hundred dollars.

Few days ago I have just completed a sale of a domain name via Sedo for $3888. Of course, the value is not significant compared to selling operational website making money or even compared with online business earning; but frankly, this is the highest domain name sale I’ve had thus far.

The hard question is, almost every time, on what is the right value for the domain name. This is true when selling domain name, and also true when buying domain name. I experience this when I bought domain name VoucherHotel.com, for the most money I had paid for a domain name.

I registered VoucherHotel.co.id (Indonesian cctld) early 2012 and start developing a hotel reservation site on voucherhotel.co.id in May. In June 2012, through sheer luck, I found out that the domain name VoucherHotel.com has expired. That is when I go through the process of learning about domain name drop-catching. I learn about various stages of domain name drops and various services for backordering domain names.

I also learned that the domain name voucherhotel.com has exchanged hand a couple of times for the past 10 years, but always among domain investor, with no website developed. Prior to expiry, it was registered to a Chinese owner, with a China registrar, HEBEI Domains, which (fortunately or unfortunately) doesn’t offer expiring domain in pre-release auction.

I placed a backorder with most major services. Pool.com was said to be unscrupulous, so I wait till last minute to place a backorder with them. BackorderZone owner was said to have questionable past, so I wait till last minute to place a backorder with them. NameJet shows number of backorder places, and not wanting to attract interest from other domain drop watchers I wait till last minute to place an order with them. Snapnames seems to be most trustworthy, and not showing number of backorders, so I thought it’s safe to place a backorder with them early during the PendingDelete period, since I was afraid I would somehow missed out the deadline due to timezone difference or last minute internet connection problem.

Alas, probably due to my backorder, the next day Snapnames display VoucherHotel.com in the list of Featured Domain Names. And as fate has it, on the day of the drop, Snapnames got the domain name voucherhotel.com and place it in private auction among people placing backorder. There were two other bidders in the auction. In NameJet, the last time I check before backorder closed, there were no other backorder than mine. I know I will always wonder, if only I had waited last minute to place order in Snapnames, will there be these other bidders too?

I did my research. This domain name VoucherHotel.com is probably not very useful for international user. In English, it will be better to get HotelVoucher.com than VoucherHotel.com. But in Indonesian, VoucherHotel.com is the right order of words. Not only that, “buying voucher hotel” is also how Indonesian refer to the activity of booking or reserving hotel room. In other words, there could be no better generic domain name than VoucherHotel.com for hotel reservation site targeting Indonesian market, other than “Hotel.com” (which will cost tens of millions of dollars, if for sale) or “BookingHotel.com” (which is also acceptable in Indonesian language but will also cost a few arms and legs).

So there were two other bidders. One of them is a respectable domain investor in Indonesian domaining scene. His domain name collection didn’t seem to too large in quantity, but many of which are extremely valuable and travel related, for example something like flightticket.com in Indonesian. (Man, if you are reading this, just let me treat you for a cup of coffee).

The other bidder is a huge domain investor, with collection of thousands of domain names. She seems to be an international investor, but with many domains in her collection referring to Indonesia, I wonder if those whois information are real.

Nevertheless, I must decide how much I want the domain and how much I can afford to spend on the domain. I was the first one to place a backorder; Snapnames say I was the high bidder, eventhough at that point everyone has same bid, $69. If all bidders don’t do anything, I would win the auction. In the next two days, there were no activity in the auction. But it was calm before storm.

I know that the most dangerous time would be near the end of auction. So I stayed awake to watch the auction end, nevermind that it was ending at 2.30am in my timezone. Just as predicted, 5 minutes before auction end, there were one bid. I was outbid.

The auction was extended, since there were last minute bid. Knowing the other bidder must be watching too, I don’t bother with waiting till last minute. I quickly countered with higher bid. The other bidder wait again, and place a bid again near the ending.

No problem. If this is a contest of stamina, I have prepared. I had good rest in the afternoon, and I had prepared my tools. I had one laptop with my home broadband, one laptop with mobile broadband, one ipad with mobile broadband, and one smartphone with mobile broadband. Each mobile broadband is from different provider. In other words, I was ready for war.

One thing I was not really prepared was that the bid amount would climb up so quickly. I thought it will end at around $300, or even $150 if I’m lucky. But no, it keeps on climbing quickly. I knew I want this domain very badly, and I must make quick decision. And after many rounds of outbidding each other, I finally got the shiny domain name VoucherHotel.com.

At what the amount the auction ended, I won’t tell. It is true that it was higher than I expected. But it is also true that I would still go on bidding even if it ended substantially higher. In other words, I was valuing the domain name a lot more than my money (which wasn’t even in very good shape at that point of time).

But how much is the domain VoucherHotel.com is really worth?

Let’s see the appraisal value from most trusted services:
Estibot estimates it at $5700.
Valuate values it at $5700.
Epik Appraisal appraises it at $5700.
Sedo suggestions suggests $2999.

Are these numbers to be trusted?

Experienced domainers will say that domain name value is only as much as the amount buyer willing to spend and (as little as the amount seller willing to accept). For me, for this domain VoucherHotel.com, I still don’t know how much it’s worth. I certainly couldn’t afford to pay too big amount when bidding due to my circumstances at that time, but I can say that now I won’t even let it go for $50000. :)

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