Don’t buy a website if you don’t have the time or money to develop it

Recently I’ve seen a lot of websites I sold years ago being listed for sale on Flippa. The strange thing is, most of the buyers never did anything with the sites. It’s no skin off my nose though it’s seems silly to purchase a site if you don’t have a long term plan for it.

Cards on the table, I’ve did this twice myself (more on this later), though the most I’ve spent on a site I didn’t want was $200. The rest of the time I made my money back or made a profit. The times I didn’t update was purely down to me not having the time to do with them what I wanted i.e. they weren’t priority. Though you’d think that if you were spending decent money on a site you’d make a point of investing some of your time on it.

The first old site of mine I saw listed was WebSiteTrading.net. I created the site as a forum in early 2004 and sold it a few months later. Buying and selling websites and domains was really taking off back then which is why I was trying to capitalise on it. The weird thing is, the new owner changed it from a forum into a Ning network site. It looks like a Made-For-Adsense mini site rather than a community though it’s good to see the logo I got designed is still being used :)

WebsiteTrading Screenshot

The site has little to no traffic, a small monthly income from adsense that hasn’t been proved, and pretty much no content. The minimum offer is $500, which I guess isn’t too bad if you value the domain only as it’s a PR 4 and is pretty brandable. Though the owner is seriously delusional if he thinks someone is crazy enough to pay his $8,500 buy it now asking price.

Poker Discussion Forums

Next up is some poker forums I sold around 5 years ago. The same guy purchased FreeRollForums from me for $6,000 and PokerPlayerForums for $600. However, he hasn’t done anything with them

What I found very strange was the investment this guy made with these sites. He purchased FreeRollForums for $6,000 (which wasn’t a bad price at the time). The forum had a unique design and flash logo at the time which I had paid $1,500 for. The design was less than a year old when he bought it however he decided to get a new design for it and paid another $1,500 out. This really confuses me. Why would you spend another $1,500 on a design for a site if (a) you don’t have time to develop the site and (b) it already has a good design.

Now, this is where it gets really confusing for me. He had already purchased FreerollForums from me for $6,000 and then spent another $1,500 on a new design (which it clearly didn’t need), plus the $600 on PokerPlayerForums. You would think that he would spend all his time trying to develop these sites (at the very least FreerollForums since he had invested $7,500 for it).

But he didn’t. Instead he created a new poker forum in 2007 called BetCamp. He claims to have spent over $3,000 developing the site (design/promotion etc). With less than 3,000 posts it’s safe to say that it wasn’t money well spent. Now all 3 sites are as dead as Dillinger.

He recently listed all 3 sites on Flippa. No one was really bidding so I put in a bid of $1,000. I was the highest bidder for a day or so until yesterday, which was the last day of the auction. My last bid was $1,500. There were few higher bids but nothing much higher so he dropped the Buy It Now to $4,500. With the highest bid at $3,200, someone paid the buy it now to avoid losing the sites to another bidder. He managed to get $4,500 back, however this pales in comparison to his $11,000+ investment.

I have cut my losses with several websites in the past. Just like any business, you learn a lot by the mistakes you make when working online. On one level, I have a little sympathy for him for the loss he made and a little admiration for deciding to cut his losses and move on. Though I cannot comprehend why he kept throwing good money after bad and why he started a new forum from scratch instead of developing the first one he bought. At the very least he could have sold the older one before moving on.

A lesson Learned

It’s important to learn from this kind of mistake when working online. I now research any website I’m interested in vigorously to avoid being ripped off. The two sites I made a mistake in buying before was a blog called ZuneZag and a discussion forum called RetroWheels.

ZuneZag could have been a success if I spent some time on it, but I didn’t, which is why I sold it about half a year later for around a $75 loss (not much I know). I still own RetroWheels. I got ripped off with that a little as the owner said it was an original design (which was one of the main reasons I was buying it). I had checked elsewhere and hadn’t come across it so didn’t think the owner was lying. It wasn’t until after the sale that I came across the design in a theme store for about $30. I had only paid about $150 for the site (if I remember right) but I still felt really ripped off. What can I say: Every penny’s a prisoner :)

RetroWheels does actually get a little traffic and some genuine retro car fantastics have signed up to post. However, I have not taken advantage of this since I know very little about the subject. Hopefully the small targeted traffic and the age of the domain will get me most of my money back.

Another lesson why I’m sure both of these sellers have now learned is to never create or buy a site in a niche that you (a) know nothing about or (b) have no interest in. One of the reasons I did so well with gambling and poker sites is because I loved playing poker and played the game 4 or 5 times a week. Therefore updating the sites never felt like work. Clearly the guy who bought the site from me didn’t feel the same as he rarely posted and tried to get moderators to do a lot of the work.

It’s easy to get up in the thrill of the auction. Though on many occasions it makes more sense to create a site of your own from scratch, particularly if you have more time than money. When you do find a site you really want (need), make you do your homework and research everything so you don’t get ripped off.

Good luck,
Kevin

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