But you don't always have to settle. If you absolutely must have a previously registered domain name, you can try to purchase it from its present owner.
Below are three main methods of acquiring a domain name owned by someone else.
Buy Direct and Save -- Maybe
First, try visiting the URL in question. If you end up with a "parked" Web page or no page at all, you could be in luck. This means that the domain name is not being actively used and may be for sale.
Many domain names that are for sale will display a page that states, "This domain is available for purchase." If this is the case, contact the owner to see how much they are asking for the domain.
If there's no page at all, it's possible the owner plans to use the domain in the future, or maybe they are just hanging on to it. Either way, you may be able to convince them to sell. Many owners will consider this if the price is right. You can find the contact information for any domain by performing a Whois search at Whois.net or through most domain name registrars.
If a site does load, don't lose hope yet. You can still contact the owner and see if they're willing to part with the domain name. Be prepared to pay more, however, in this scenario.
If you pursue any of these options, you can expect to pay anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to thousands per domain name. The market sets the price, according to the popularity of the domain name and its keyword potential.
Enter the Open Market
There are also sites that specialize in offering popular domain names for sale. These companies purchase domain names in bulk and resell them, or act as brokers to match sellers with buyers. These resellers and brokers are looking to make a profit, so you'll likely pay dearly for the domain name you want. But shop around; if your desired domain name is esoteric and obscure, you might be able to find a bargain.
If you do find a willing seller for a domain name, make sure you write up a domain name purchase agreement. Consult an attorney for the correct wording, or purchase a form agreement from the AllBusiness.com Legal Forms product page.
Timing Is Everything
A third option is to wait for the domain name to expire in hopes that the current owner won't renew it. There are several companies that offer wait list services where you can pay a fee, normally $60 or more plus commission, to be the first in line to register the domain as soon as it becomes available.
However, this fee is not refundable if the domain is renewed by the current owner, so you will need to weigh the costs and benefits of this approach. You may be better off just waiting for the 30-day redemption period and 5-day waiting period to elapse if the domain is due to expire soon. This is riskier -- in the event that the current owner does let the domain name renewal lapse, someone else may get there first -- but there's no financial risk involved.
Just because a domain name is registered, it doesn't necessarily mean it's out of reach. If you're willing to pay a little extra, you just might end up with the perfect domain name after all.