In order to maintain ownership of a domain, you must renew it yearly. If you don’t, it “expires”. An expired domain goes through several stages before being released again for general registration. The process differs slightly from one registrar to another but it’s more or less the same. GoDaddy explains what happens to domains that expire with them here.
The domain name industry is quite similar to the real estate industry in a lot of aspects. There are end users, brokers, consultants and domain flippers or “domainers”. Domain flipping works similarly to buying a house, renovating it (or even sometimes just sitting on it) and then selling it again at a higher price point. The gist of it is: you’re purchasing a domain name and betting it’s worth (or will be worth) more than you paid for it. If you’re right, you get a nice paycheck and move on. Those who make a living out of this just rinse, repeat, and scale.