When a domain is registered it is done so for no less than a one year, as per the regulations set out by ICANN. Ownership of the actual domain name will depend on the business model and the agreement made at the time of purchase.
For instance, some companies (HostDime.com) register the domain and provide full ownership to their clients. Other companies, such as GoDaddy.com, will register the domain in their name and then lease the registration to a client. This is why their domain registrations are so low…they never actually turn the ownership over to the client until it is time to transfer that domain out, and then a fee applies.
In 99% of domain registrations the ownership of the domain is handed over to the client. Once the domain registration expires there is a 30 day window where only the client can renew the domain at the same cost that they initially paid.
Once that 30 day period is gone the domain enters what is called a “redemption” phase. The redemption phase last for 60 days, and although the client is still the only one that renew the domain during that period, the cost increases signifigantly. The actual increase depends on the registrar, but for our registrar (Enom.com) the cost is $150.00.
Something to note is that once the domain has been renewed it CANNOT be transferred to another domain registrar for a 60 day period.
Once a domain has been expired for 90 days (30 days at the normal renewal rate, 60 days at the higher renewal rate) the domain is relseased back on to the open market for sale.
However, there are companies (often called “Domain Squatters”) that wait for domains to be released back on to the market and they register them as soon as they are available with the intent of selling back to the old owner for astronomical prices.
Also, please note that if a domain expires and we renew it there will be a period of up to an hour before the domain will begin to resolve.