Selling web sites is a hot business right now. In fact, in the startup world, selling your site at auction on sites like eBay or the SitePoint Marketplace has become viable exit strategy. So many startups have gone that route that blogs have even come up with pet names for startup auctions: TechCrunch calls it the “eBay Exit” and Mashable calls it the “eBayquisition.” Very often, startup sites that exit this way sell at auction because the founders are having a hard time turning a profit or building a user base. That doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily bad sites, but that they perhaps need a little love. And that’s precisely the idea behind “web site flipping,” in which developers purchase undervalued web sites, fix them up and then sell them for a profit months, weeks, or even hours later.
The New York Times published an article today about web site flipping, which is a full time job for many people. Web site flippers “use little more than home computers and free software to buy Web sites that appeal to a small and specific niche,” wrote Abha Bhattarai. “Then they fix up the sites with hopes of reselling them for far more than they paid.”
The best place for buying and selling web sites is right here on SitePoint where over a million dollars worth of web sites are bought and sold each month in the Marketplace. “It used to be that if you had a site worth a million dollars, you’d hire an investment bank or a broker to sell it,” SitePoint co-founder Matt Mickiewicz is quoted as saying in the Times article. “But if you had one that generated less than that, you’d just have to sit on it. Now you can sell anything for any sort of profit, whether it’s $20 or $220,000.”
Sites like eBay and the SitePoint Marketplace have clearly filled a niche for web site buyers and sellers in the sub-$1 million range. At eBay, web site sales have doubled over the past month, and they’ve quadrupled over the past year here at SitePoint.
For anyone seriously looking to sell a web site, though, the SitePoint Marketplace is hard to beat. The average selling price at SitePoint is about $2000 vs. $78 for eBay (according to the NYT), and the sell-thru rate is 35-40% for web sites at SitePoint compared to just 12% or so on eBay. There are more than 1700 sites for sale at SitePoint each month, and many of them sell for considerably high bids — this year the highest priced sales were $220,000 (v7n network) and $145,000 (pictiger). The highest price paid for a blog was $65,000 for wpdesigner.com, also earlier this year. Not quite $1.65 billion for YouTube, but certainly not pocket change either.
The Times article warns that when buying a web site from any online marketplace, you should always do your due diligence and make sure you’re buying what’s being advertised. SitePoint has some unique methods in place to protect buyers from fraud, including seller phone number verification and site access verification. We recommend that buyers and sellers at least get on the phone with one another before closing any large deal, and to consider using an escrow service for large transactions.
Anyone interested in buying and selling a web site should check out Clinton Lee’s excellent web site valuation guide.
Josh Catone joined Mashable in May 2009 and is Executive Director of Editorial Projects. Before joining Mashable, Josh was the Lead Writer at ReadWriteWeb, the Lead Blogger at SitePoint, and the Community Evangelist at DandyID.