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I could see it happening if the site has a lot of potential that the current owner doesn't realize or can't develop, and the buyer offers two to five times what the site is making currently per year. In other words it makes $2,000 per year, the buyer buys it for $10,000, and develops it into a site that makes $10,000 or $20,000 per year.
I wouldn't think that's very common, though (I could be wrong). The ethics could also be questionable, unless the seller is aware of the buyer's motivations.
But who would sell for that, when you can just keep your own site for a year, two years, many years.. and keep earning the money for yourself?
Here are just a few reasons why someone might want to sell a site:
1) The person wants to retire and stop working altogether.
2) The person finally got burned out from doing all the work and needs a long break.
3) The person wants to go in a new direction on a different project or even try a new career.
4) The person has been doing a lot of risky/black hat things and figures it is just a matter of time before he's finally caught and the money dries up.
5) The person got doing something illegal and will be going to prison for several years.
6) The person has been diagnosed with cancer and been given 6 months to live.
7) Someone gave him an offer he couldn't refuse.
the buyer buys it for $10,000, and develops it into a site that makes $10,000 or $20,000 per year.
Remember that the buyer is taking a risk (that the business may not be able to be turned around), so it's certainly logical that the purchase price should be based on current earnings, not potential earnings.
[edited by: LifeinAsia at 10:45 pm (utc) on Nov. 13, 2006]