An Investor’s Experience with NYC Domains for 4 Years

Whenever I read an article, tweet, forum post or listen to a podcast that generalizes the death of the new TLDs I switch off. Not because I’m a big fan of all (or even many) new TLDs, but because:

  1. I have experience of new TLD sales, and a side of the story that isn’t being represented as part of the new TLD discussion.
  2. I’m cynical that the author has an ulterior motive in protecting a .com portfolio or even in some cases the critic doesn’t know how to seize an opportunity and so they become an opportunity killer.

Today, I will share some information about my own .nyc domain name sales as well as my perspective on new TLDs. Maybe this article will provide a little balance or at least hopefully present information on sales in a geo-TLD niche and why we shouldn’t group all new TLDs together.

While I’m waiting for my car to be worked on for its inspection, I visited a Panera Bread to grab lunch and write this article. On entering I had to do a double take at their recruitment poster.

Panera .jobs gTLD

Now I live and breathe domains and this was the first .jobs domain that I have seen in action and it felt a little strange that for a split second I asked myself if it’s really a domain. My eyes and brain had to do a little work to figure out if this was a period in a sentence or really a domain name.

Their designers made a conscious decision to change up the font for the domain, but not to underline and not to add the www. in the front (some people have suggested this is a good way to introduce domains with unfamiliar endings).

As I waited for my order I typed in and yes, it’s a domain and it forwards to, which is reasonable and a perfect use of this domain. They also have which finds the same destination.

It definitely gave me pause for thought. That split second hesitation of “Is that a website?” is a hurdle that new TLD adopters have to be aware of and adjust for. If they can use it to start a conversation with their audience to turn it into a positive, while the market adjusts, it may not be so negative and this is the main challenge of new TLDs.

Before I go into my .nyc sales data for the last few years, below I’ve outlined my perspective on the different groups of new TLDs and the opportunities for end users and investors.

[If on a mobile device, the chart may be cropped. See all 4 columns here.]

By considering the different proposition that each type of new TLD brings to end users and investors, I think that geo-TLDs are exceptional and have an advantage for investors. Now if you’re reading this post you may be a domain investor, but if not, you may be wondering why domain investors are important for new TLDs.

Personally, my view is that investors play an important function in the growth and success of new TLDs because they provide a cash boost for a registry at the landrush phase (when a new TLD is launched and anyone can register a domain with that extension) and throughout premium priced domain releases and premium auctions as well as ongoing yearly renewals. This cash boost can help with marketing and awareness campaigns.

Another important function of domain investors is that they assume part of the risk that the registry has when it makes the initial investment to get the domain extension up and running. This sharing of risk is important, it creates an additional group of stakeholders who have interests aligned with the registry to ensure it is successful and thrives – ultimately to protect and grow their investment.

As you will see in the table below, many of my domain sales were due to ‘outbound’ marketing which could have been a phone call or an email from me to a prospective buyer of the domain name. The reality is, only a small percent of these emails and calls actually convert into a sale.

When investors reach out to prospects to sell a domain on a new TLD, part of the work is in educating people and organizations that there is an alternative to .com. This ‘awareness spreading’ organically comes from investors reaching out to hundreds if not thousands of potential end users and the registry and namespace benefits from this (through a greater awareness and more registrations and usage in future).

Note: It took me a long time (even after drafting this article) to finally decide to publish it because of the information that follows. Why would I want to show so much information? Am I giving away my pricing? Will this information hurt future sales or limit my opportunities if there are more investors in this space? Will I have 34 people contacting me angrily because they disapprove of my ROI? The answer is probably yes to a few of those questions, however I feel it’s important to share perspectives and experiences especially when one side is being misrepresented. Therefore, I decided to add some transparency and share my own experience with real sales information and my experiences so far investing in domains other than .com.

I’ve completed 34 domain sales (updated: 2 of those deals included 2 domains, so really this is 36 domain sales) since starting to register .nyc domains in October 2014. Although I’m being honest about the perspective I’m sharing in this article, I also don’t want to give up all the niches that I invest in – so I’ve hidden characters in the domains in the table below. All other information, including fees, commission, registration price, renewals, % return and year sold are accurate.

Below is the list:

  • 36 domains sold
  • 33 .nyc sales
  • 1 .boston sale
  • 2 .com sales

[If on a mobile device, the chart may be cropped. See all 14 columns here.]

As shown, many of the sales were initiated through an Efty landing page. Efty just increased their prices but for $12/month you can point the DNS of up to 1500 domains to them and you’ll have some pretty good looking splash pages with the domain price and inquiry form. Any inquiries get emailed to you to continue the negotiation, or a click to buy now sets up an transaction.

I recently switched over to Undeveloped. Same situation, you update the DNS on unlimited domain names, set prices and visitors to the domain see a splashpage and form. What makes Undeveloped different is that they charge a 9% commission (booo!) but they have integrated an instant “Buy Now” (with a credit card) and installment payment options more effectively as well as acting as an escrow service (yea!). I’ve had one sale through Undeveloped (#29 above) and I was actually negotiating with one other person, when a different visitor to the site clicked “Buy Now” and paid $3,000 instantly. I transferred the domain to an Undeveloped holding account and they sent me the funds. It was completed in 24 hours.

The table below consolidates the information above to show yearly income and returns in each TLD. Yes, I made money with a .boston!

[If on a mobile device, the chart may be cropped. See all 8 columns here.]

So just focusing on the first of the three tables above, showing 33 .nyc sales (in 31 deals), you can see how the income has grown yearly. Extrapolating the sales for the 6 months so far in 2018 this suggests that the relationship is more exponential than linear. Of course this isn’t a huge number of sales and it’s only been a few years so we can only conclude so much from this.

The average rate of return for domains sold dropped from 1,656% in 2016 to 776% in 2017 mainly due to selling a few names that were premium purchases ($265 each) and not the usual $20. As my portfolio of domains was growing significantly, I did feel some pressure to sell domains for less that their value – but without a huge bankroll, managing cashflow, renewals and new registrations is a huge consideration.

There is another part of the equation that I haven’t spoken about so far and it’s important for a balanced view of domain investing (not just with new TLDs): a growing portfolio of names and renewal fees.

[If on a mobile device, the chart may be cropped. See both columns here.]

The table above shows my spending on .nyc domains as my portfolio has grown from 5 to 578 .nyc domains. Although not quite breaking even, I’m close and it’s my strengthened belief in the .nyc domainspace and confidence in my investment strategy that has pushed me to acquire more names.

Here are some additional pieces of information that have informed my perspective:

  • Since beginning to register .nyc domain names and increasing to 578 domains I have only ever let 6 domains drop
  • Outside of the 36 domains itemized above (in 34 transactions), I’ve had 28 offers on other domain names that I attempted to negotiate but ultimately rejected (or the buyer rejected!)
  • The value of the rejected offers on the 28 domains I received was $25,300
  • The success that I’ve had with developing and marketing a few .nyc domain names (including the feedback and respect I get for one of my favorite domains

I started out with the landrush auctions in October 2014 wanting to register, and – and I knew that I’d have to pay over 1k for each of these domains. was out of my reach selling for more than $4,000 but I was the winning bidder for ($2,903) and ($1,152). Two out of three wasn’t bad and the plan was to buy and sell a few other domain names to help pay for these purchases.

Fast forward a few years and I feel I’ve cut out a niche and proven that investment in new TLDs can be successful, especially in a geo-TLD. This article shows part of my hustle, specifically with .nyc domains – I hope others share their experiences too.

Would be great to hear your feedback in the comment section below about what resonates, what you disagree with and any alternate experiences and perspectives.

24 responses to “An Investor’s Experience with NYC Domains for 4 Years”

  1. Firstly, thanks for putting up some detailed numbers, that is very rare!

    My view (from a biased .com person): If the reg fees are $20 per year then it does not sound profitable.

    Yes did well in the first half of 2018 but what happened when you have a bad year. There is no “meat” to consistently make a solid profit.

    What is the value of your time? Lights, computer equipment, tax, accounting fees, subscriptions etc?

    Having said all that reg fee names in .com would not do any better, been there, done that, available names are picked to pieces and “good sound names” have been regged 5 times before.

    1. Thanks for your comment and for making it through the entire article!

      Reg fees at $20 are tough. Also, that is the best case scenario after negotiating with registrars and moving names around to get the best deal. Conservatively I plan for $25, but tend to get better deals.

      Although I wish renewals were $8 or cheaper, the benefit of higher renewal fees is less investor competition – this has really provided opportunities through landrush as well as other phases when reserved names were released or premiums were auctioned.

      You mentioned what about a bad year – and to be honest the first year wasn’t great but it was expected. I think I just grew my portfolio in line with my confidence in the domainspace. As more offers were coming in for domains, even if I turned them down or couldn’t get the price I wanted, it was building my sense of how liquid some of the domains were. Now many would say how can these names be liquid? They aren’t 3L .coms or keyword .coms! But over time, to manage my own risk, I’d reach back out to people who had made offers and at least negotiate up to my floor price or higher. So I think that this has given me some confidence that I can weather a few bad years – we’ll see.

      You comment about the value of time and overhead is really significant and something I didn’t mention in the article. If I’d have worked in a coffeeshop instead or researching, registering, negotiating, transferring and renewing domains, I’d probably have an extra $50-100k in my bank.

      Running a business that is making a loss while also having a full time job that gives me a W2 also has some tax advantages though, and there is a way to quantify it and factor that benefit in.

      Thanks again for reading and your comment.

      1. Regarding the value of time. About 4 years ago I decided to have a solid crack at the reg fee .com area. I spent about year going through millions of popular keywords, looking at names, looking at usage of terms. Starting with stats and then careful looking at each name that looked good.

        Of those millions of terms I registered maybe 500 names over a year. I spent hours each day on this, to register 1-2 names. Had some serious machine power crunching numbers day and night. I also used godaddy 99 cent-$3 coupons to register them to keep costs down.

        So far three of those names have sold. I’ve dropped about 400. Revenue is maybe 10k but having said that 8k was from selling probably the best name I found. Costs so far are probably $4,000-$5,000. I’ve probably spent 2,000 hours on it.

        What is that $2.50 per hour? Yeah I have up on that idea.

        1. I definitely hear you. Don’t want to think about my hourly wage!

          When I worked (a little) with .coms and (a lot) with .co.uks, I had mixed success. I was still learning. A few years ago was diluted with the launch of .uk, the domainer market was broken, I made some nice sales and got out at the right time.

          Then I moved into .nycs, and you can see how my portfolio grew, as I started to make sales. I still feel as though I’m risk averse, but there are some great buys out there that I couldn’t ignore.

          I’ve tried managing my risk, by only increasing my portfolio as sales and offers have increased – even if I turned down an offer or failed to negotiate it to a price I wanted – they were still positive market signals.

          Whatever we invest in, it’s a matter of managing risk for potential reward. There’s a chance of a few bad years (which I accept the risk) but in my calculation there’s more likelihood of continued sales.

          If you’ve read some of my monthly review articles since January, you’ll know my belief that one word, generic, call to action type names are a great buy. One of the names I sold this year was, a $20 buy that less than a year later sold for over $3,000. This isn’t .com level sales, we won’t see .nycs selling for $100,000 any time soon (maybe in 10 years), but these are great returns (15,000%) that I don’t believe are a complete fluke. It’s one niche in a geo new TLD that is profitable.

          I did a poor job concluding my perspective in the article, but the conclusion should have been – there are different ways to make money with domains, even with domains that don’t end in .com. Finding momentum in a smaller, more niche markets may be a really good option that is all too often discounted by critics who perhaps may have interests aligned solely with .com.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Matt!

    These are very similar (order of magnitude) to the .io sales that we regularly see to tech startups. Just like you said, there are niches that are profitable if you know where to look and how to work them.

    Hope to read more from you soon.

    1. Really nice to see a comment from you Michael.
      Thanks for all your sharing with DomainSherpa and DN Academy.

  3. Matt – I applaud your transparency and willingness to share this data. This is pretty rare in domaining and there are very few domainers who will talk openly about the ROI of a portfolio. Thank you for the openess, it helps all of us to grow.

    If I’ve read the numbers correctly, it looks like you’ll have spent $56k on acquisitions and renewals by the end of 2018 (since 2014). The sales data shows just over $36k of sales (excluding sales fees / commissions) over the same period. Assuming you make another $11k of sales by the end of 2018, you’ll still be running at a total loss of $9k ($56k – $47k).
    With annual renewals of $12k, you’ll have to sell at least $21k in 2019 for the portfolio to reach break even. Things could become messy if you have a bad year but it sounds like you’re prepared for that risk.

    Based on the numbers above, and the opportunity cost of your time (“If I’d have worked in a coffeeshop instead or researching, registering, negotiating, transferring and renewing domains, I’d probably have an extra $50-100k in my bank.”), it’s hard to say that a loss making exercise proves that the investment in this TLD is a success. I think you’ve proven that there is end-user demand for the .nyc geo-TLD, but to-date, that demand has been satisfied at your expense.

    You seem like an intelligent guy and you know how to close a sale, so I don’t doubt that you have the ability to learn and adapt. My only advice is be careful to avoid the emotional attachment that comes with the higher upfront costs. The sunk-cost fallacy will quickly trap you if don’t learn to drop the losers and keep the portfolio efficient.

    I recently posted a similar write up, based on buying and selling .CO domains. I hope there are some parallels there that might help you with your onward journey.

    Wishing you the best of luck with sales and looking forward to reading more about how things evolve.

    1. Thanks Nikul, I’m sure I’ll share progress again. Maybe in a year.

      I hear your perspective. Being so close to .NYC and following registrations and drops daily, receiving offers accepting/rejecting I feel I have the pulse (but I may be wrong!).

      But .NYC domains are really thriving in the city and making their way into end user hands. I’m not the only investor out here but there aren’t many of us. Businesses are starting to register them for $20 at GoDaddy and this is great for the namespace.

      Hopefully, this article and my experience with a geoTLD shows that this niche is massively undervalued and forget investors, .NYC is great for end users.

      Also another consideration about the loss is that it has provided tax benefit against regular W2 income so that’s another plus.

      The on paper loss also wouldnt exist if I didn’t buy to hold/develop many premiums.

      I wrote an extended response to a comment on Konstantinos’ article on about this and also the offers that have been rejected.

      Plus I gave an example on Konstantinos’ blog of a .NYC domain I registered earlier today and why I think it’s difficult to take this investment strategy to .coms. I think I’ll repost that comment here later.

    2. Nikul, just a follow-up comment.

      I read the thread you linked to and took a lot out of it. That was generous of you to share so much and another great perspective.

      One thing to add about if my activity was a success given the 50k opportunity cost (e.g. working in a coffee shop), is that I conservatively view my portfolio’s value at a few times the 50k. Even at 500 avg a name, that’s 250k.

      If the value of the portfolio increases in line with the cost of the renewal (plus interest on debt) then I really shouldn’t sell the names below value.

      Of course mentally it’s better to avoid the debt and cover expenses, but as with most businesses some period of time where expenses are greater than revenue is expected.

  4. In regards to offers rejected 25k.

    This doesn’t mean much because the only way to sell at higher prices is to reject most offers. It isn’t revenue that can be “trapped”. It is like underbidders in auction they could sum to $100k on an auction that ends at 10k. Rejecting offers is just how you got the revenue you are getting.

    Accepting all offers and revenue total would drop for most people.

    1. “It is like underbidders in auction they could sum to $100k on an auction that ends at 10k. ” – That’s not how I arrived at the 25k.

      I didn’t sum multiple offers for the same domain only the single, highest offer on each domain that I rejected and didn’t sell.

      All offers added up would have given at least a 10x return and in many cases we’re offer above $1k on a $20 purchase, 50x+ (again, no double counting offers on the same domain).

      An offer I forgot to add in, that I didn’t accept, was for $8,000 for (that I paid $2,900 for).

      Many of these offers could still be accepted today, possibly negotiated up a little, or a lot, or down if I was desperate! But it’s not my strategy and the market is showing so many signs of strength (sales, offers, usage, awareness, SE index/rankings, Alexa, registration numbers, reaction and respect my business card/email address gets when I interact…).

      The offers are a signal of the market. Getting no offers would also be a signal, a worrying signal.

  5. A really valuable post – thank you so much for taking the time to prepare it, and for having the courage to provide so much detail, Matt! Your comments regarding the function played by domain investors in the overall industry are insightful.

    Your chart of ngTLD prospects is interesting, especially the comments on the right hand column. While agreeing that the best opportunity in the generic category is over the dot domain name phrases, I think, priced right and with the right promotion, there is also a market to individual users and tiny companies for ngTLDs with good keywords.

    So do I understand correctly that while you used Efty extensively, and now Undeveloped, along with a mix of direct and outbound, that you don’t have your domain names listed other standard places like the Afternic network and Sedo? If so, why is that? In a future post would love to hear your views on the different options for ways to sell.

    Thanks again so much!

    1. Hi Robert – thanks for the comment. The next article I’m planning is exactly for what you asked!

      I do have my names listed at Sedo (although now I need to reverify due to GDPR by adding a cname or aname – I get confused which!) and also at Afternic.

      I find listing at Afternic is very useful (although I’ve only ever had a few offers over there) because when people try and register a name at GoDaddy for a name I have listed at Afternic, a really compelling window of info about the domain is shown that helps justify the premium price). Just no fast transfer (instant buy and transfer, I forget what it’s called) with .nyc.

      Stay tuned – I’ll try and have an article up about it in the next few days.

  6. Thank you for being generous and sharing your domain investment strategy. You amaze me with your analytical skills, patience, and focus on a niche that you are familiar with. It’s been very educational for me.

  7. Hi Matt, I personally think you did great with your NYC DN. I just get .com. However, I believe I’ll
    have to consider testing something along your line. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks George. I have a few .coms but I think geo-nTLDs have a unique advantage out of the nTLDs.

      Are you in Miami? Are you seeing any usage/traction there with .Miami?

    1. Thanks Doron. Efty really helped a lot of those sales too!

  8. Thanks Matt, for a hard and honest look at the nuts and bolts of successful domaining. This article will be very helpful for newcomers to the industry letting them know that behind every sale is a mountain of capital outlays for purchases, renewals and labor. It’s not a bed of roses! Your article is a refreshing and realistic portrayal of an unappreciated domain industry niche. I wish you continued success!

    1. Thanks Keith. I think the next 12 – 18 months will show if the strength I’m seeing with sales are more permanent.

      I see domaining as a business, just one with fewer moving parts. No employees, no walk in customers… But as you say still capital outlays, time and hard work.

  9. Thanks for write this amazing stuff for us. It is very helpful for me because i want to create learn investors experience nyc domains

  10. Thank you for writing this – refreshing to see some real honesty by a domain investor. Often, we hear how the new gTLDs of geoTLDs aren’t worth investing in and you’re paving a path in this niche market. It’s really made me reconsider my thoughts and what I hear in the industry.

  11. Thanks for your comment Jason.

    My advice really is start small, increase portfolio size only when you make sales and see a growing market and finally be prepared to lose it all!

    I’ve written more recent articles about my belief that new gTLDs are a good option for start ups and end users but have limited opportunity for investors.

    That being said, that limited opportunity can be realized with a careful strategy.

    Good luck with everything.


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