nomis5 - 7:57 am on Apr 1, 2010 (gmt 0)
The deal is finalised and the money is safely in my account. I received so much useful advice in this thread, so here's a few of my experiences during the deal. Hope it helps someone. Remember, this was a low £six figure deal, a lot lower or higher and I would have a different story to tell.
1. The site was a .co.uk and the registration transfer proocess is different compared to a .com. This caught the buyer out. The domain transfer went through in a day even though I had lost the password and login to my ten year old account with Nominet. Very impressive of Nominet.
2. We used escrow dot com. The company is big and known to both the buyer and seller. Using accountants / lawyers /bonded bank accounts etc was never on for a deal of this size.
3. The escrow company promised the money would be sent within 24 hours of the buyer confirming receipt, it actually took two and a half days. Top tip - stock up on brown trousers for that time period!
4. The buyer and myself (with my partner) met for a couple hours to agreee the deal. I can't stress how helpful this was. Forget the contracts, lawyers and accountants, if the buyer won't come to you then spend the money on a ticket to visit him /her even if they are on the other side of the world. Putting a face and a character to the voice on the telephone is 100% required. Take your partner / business associte with you to the meeting. Not because that puts you in a better bargaining position but because two heads can judge a character far better than one.
5. Be mentally prepared for a couple of moments when you wake up at 4 in the morning and realise with absolute clarity that there is a way for the buyer to run off with your domain and leave you without any money. The process is not 100% water tight.
6. The escrow company only deals with domains not websites. Unfortunately you will be selling a domain and a website and you are on your own as far as the website content is concerned.
7. Particular to this deal was that the buyer wanted to host the website on the same ISP. He was rightly concerned that a change of ISP might affect the SERPS. This posed a large problem because my ISP was in the middle of a server upgrade and would not allow transfer of the website from the existing account to a new account. Why, I dont' know. In the end I cleared out my account of everything but the domain and website to be sold and passed control of the account to the buyer. That process was a nightmare because I had 15 other packages in that account, about half of them with working websites.
8. Do get some advice on taxation, it can make a huge difference. In the UK, if the sale proceeds were taken as income you would end up paying 40 - 50% tax, but if the proceeds are are taken as a capital gain (as mine will be) then you will be taxed at 18% maximum. With the current UK tax laws, that is halved to 9% tax if you claim the Entrepreneurs Allowance as I will. That difference put a hugely diffent view on a deal. The sale proceeds are effectievly your income for the next four or five years and instead of being taxed at 40%+ you can take the income as a lump sum and be taxed at only 9%. But as I say, take tax advice, this will not be the same in other countries and even in the UK your personal circumstances may give you a very different result.
9. Be aware right from the start that if you post your story on Webmasterworld or whatever, the buyer might just be a Webmasterworld reader as well! They could possibly identify you as the seller / buyer if you give some specifics about the deal, as I have done. I never asked the buyer about this so I'll never know if he read this thread. But it has its plusses and minuses depending on what you are trying to achieve.
10. Finally and most importantly you need to have built up some trust in the buyer and vice versa. If you simply can't commit to some level of trust (that's why point 4 is so important) then in my view I can't see how a deal can be done. All the lawyers and accountants in the world can't make the deal 100% water tight. All they can do is use their very limited experience of website / domain deals and take their 10% cut. My buyer turned out to be a man of his word and absolutely trustworthy.
I wish anyone else going down the same route all the luck in the world.