There are 2 very profitable websites that our company has been able to successfully be apart of because an owner would not sell and we were lucky enough to be partners (50/50 on both). Sometimes, when a domain is sooo good, you just have to suck it up and partner.
Of course, this can only be done with domains that you are seeking to build immediately. If you are just looking to sit and wait for a bigger fish with the owner, chances are you will not be able to implement this strategy.
Do not try and actually own 50% of the domain. That takes too much work and will scare the owner. Make the owner feel comfortable by telling him or her that you will build the site, and they do not even have to change where the website is currently registered. The domain can sit in their account and all that has to be changed are the DNS(Domain Name System) settings when the website is finished. Structure your deal so you both will split 50/50 on all earnings, and in the event of a sale, you both split as well.
Of course, you want to have something in writing before you put too much energy into this. I recommend a domain license agreement that guarantees the owner payment every month. Chances are he or she is receiving a minimal check from their ads every month and anything over $100 will be music to their ears.
The 50% ownership you get is FREE! I offered to pay $10,000 for a website earlier this year and the webmaster told me “no”. So, I offered a partnership on a 50/50 basis and to build a 300 page site (which is what I was going to do anyway if we bought the domain) and he agreed! What does this mean? If the person was smart, he would have said, “Give me $5,000 and you can build the site and I want 50%”. Both cases I have been involved in, our company became 50/50 partners with 2 different domain owners without putting up any money. It seems as though they just wanted to be a cheerleader as I constructed the site. Chances are they have been waiting since the late 90’s for their “Facebook” moment, so they’re not going to throw it down the drain for a few thousand dollars.
Even though we live in this internet age, most people still do not know the first thing about not only making websites, but how to architect and build one that receives organic visitors. So any owners left with a good domain today are usually worn out and looking for anybody to make something happen.
Conclusion: Even though it can feel like babysitting, and I love to own my stuff 100%, sometimes you gotta do what ya gotta do.