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Because of the poor economy of the last year (I'm guessing) I have been able to hand register some .com domains that I either own in .ca, or would like to own in .ca. These are .com domains that were registered before and recently dropped, and made it back to open availability. The .ca and .com extensions are both well used and well known in Canada.
For example, a couple months ago I registered a 'Cityname RealEstate'.com domain where I already owned the .ca version. Someone had recently dropped the .com domain and it just showed as available one day. The city is only about 10,000 population, but has a few active real estate agencies, a major industrial plant, and a vibrant community. The domain started getting traffic on day one, and gets a little traffic every day.
Last night, I was checking 'Cityname Homes'.com's for cities in my area, and another one came up as available (so I regged it). This city is smaller but is a vacation destination for downhill skiing, mountain biking, and all sorts of outdoor activities in a mountainous setting. The .ca version of this domain is taken by a realtor.
Both of these cities have homes that sell in the $200,000 to $400,000 range, and higher.
I am surprised domains like this are being dropped, and making it through drop catchers lists without being grabbed. I can only determine that the poor economy is making people shed their less profitable names, and people are sticking to very high quality grabs in the drops. If the previous owners were only parking these names and used that to determine value, then that could be why they dropped. A 'Cityname Homes' domain, especially in .com and for decent size cities, should easily pay for it's renewal and more if developed into an information webpage or site.
If names like this are becoming available in .com, I can only imagine that similar drops are happening in .net, .org and other extensions. I would only touch other extensions if they were very high quality (e.g.: google searches over 100,000 in a marketable subject, or 'cityname homes' type domains with 100,000 plus population, for example). While I look at the potential for building a site on a domain and it's potential for getting visitors, I also consider the resale value and .com's always seem to be best in that department.
It's a great feeling to hand register a .com domain these days that is the exact term you are interested in. Especially if it was unavailable before and you would have thought it would cost $x,xxx to buy.
If you have certain areas that you focus on for domaining, like real estate, loans, flowers, games, etc - I would check on available terms you are interested in every now and then, because you never know when a domain that was once registered will become available again. I don't have an exact system or method I use to check, I just do it every once in a while and see what I come up with.
Have you noticed an increase in the quality of drops and available hand regs?
Have you been able to hand register some nice domains lately?