Selling Your Stuff Part I -> 4 Basic Selling Tips
Whoever thought I’d be writing so much about stuff???
It’s been just 2 weeks since we started our storage downsizing project and I’m super excited to say we’re seeing the light (whoo whee!). As of today we are mere days away from completion which means moving out of our 10 ft x 15 ft and into a new 5 ft x 5 ft (that I managed to nab at a special 50% discount deal). It’s been a tough slog and my blogging/photography has definitely been taking a back-burner, but that’s (hopefully) all about to change.
In the meantime I’ve still got “stuff” on the mind and being the kind of blogger I am I have to write it as I feel it. Much of our past 2 weeks have been spent selling all the bigger pieces out of our storage unit, so having already covered the emotional & storage side, today I felt it was time to touch on that.
Now, I should say up-front that we are by no means experts on this subject. We’ve downsized and moved many times in our lives, but we usually end up giving away more stuff to friends, family & charity than we do actually selling. Many of our moves have been on short notice and we simply haven’t have the time or inclination to sell everything. So our personal approach is to be very selective. We typically chose to sell larger & more valuable items, while giving away most of the smaller stuff. I am sure there are folks out there who do much better than we do ($$ wise), but we get the job done and we’ve always been A-OK with the results.
Also this is such a huge topic that in order to keep you from passing out (through sheer boredom of reading), I’m going to have to break it up into 2 parts -> today’s post will cover some basic selling tips, while my next post will go through the various avenues of selling (Craigslist, eBay etc.) including pros, cons and tips for each. Phew!!!
So with that disclaimer, I’ll summarize our top selling tips from our point of view.
Your Stuff Is Likely Worth Way Less Than You Think (But That’s OK)
Remember those TV shows where people find stuff hidden in their attic which they thought was worthless and they end up making thousands in it? Or all those websites that tell you how much money you can make selling all the junk from your house? When you first start downsizing, this might seem like your perfect future. I’m going to sell everything and I’m going to make a ton of cash!
Well, I’m sorry to say it probably won’t go down like that. First of all not that many people have hidden valuables in their attics that they don’t know about and secondly, just like winning the lottery there’s a very, very low chance you’ll strike it rich even if you do. In practice most of your precious stuff is probably pretty mundane and it’ll likely end up being worth waaaay less than you think it is. Sorry 🙁
The main reason for this comes down to basic supply and demand -> You’re selling second hand stuff and there’s lot of it out there. The folks who buy second hand stuff have tons of choice & tend to be bargain hunters, so they’re not going to buy anything unless it’s a really, really good deal. That lovely armoire that you bought for over $500? Unless it’s some kind of design collectible or special antique it’ll probably sell for around 1/5-1/10 of that price, if you want it to move. This can be hard to stomach especially if you’re selling stuff that is worth something to you (emotionally), but honestly the faster you accept this, the easier your selling process will become.
The way I look at it is this. Whatever $$ we spent on the stuff originally is not all that important. We used it & enjoyed it for many years (lots of depreciation in that time) and now we’re passing it onto others who will use & enjoy it further. Also, although the physical stuff is a reminder of the many places we’ve lived, our value is mostly in the emotional attachment we have to the experiences we’ve had in those places, not necessarily the stuff itself. Once we fully accepted this, our actual selling price became less painful.
Selling Takes More Time Than You Might Think (So, Be Selective)
In the vast majority of cases selling stuff takes time and energy, and dedication that you might think.
If you’re selling stuff on Craigslist you’ve got to take pictures, post your stuff, wait for hits, manage replies, meet people (who don’t always show up) and finalize the sale. That can easily end up taking 1-3 days for every single piece you sell! If you’re doing a garage sale you’ve got to plan, advertise ahead of time, prepare your stuff, price it and then spend the day on your feet getting rid of it. That’s (usually) several weeks of work. Even Estate Sales (where an agent takes care of everything for you) takes time and planning to execute. Everything is do-able, of course but be prepared to dedicate more time than you might originally think.
This is one of the reasons we like to be selective in what we sell. For us it’s a case of balancing the time we’re willing to put into sales versus the amount of time & freedom that our downsized life is going to be worth to us. I could list and sell everything we own, but I’d probably die from stress (or old age) in the process. Sometimes freedom from stuff is worth the loss of a few $$ of sales IMHO.
Research Price (But Don’t Waste Too Much Time Chasing Max $$)
One of the key things everybody recommends when you start selling is to research price and this makes absolute sense. Take some time to look through local listing for similar items, watch eBay sales prices and get a feel for price ranges. Doing this is good practice whether you’re selling stuff yourself or you’re getting an agent in to do it for you. Once you’re ready to sell you can make sure you’re getting reasonable value for your items and your stuff is priced in-line with what’s out there.
What you don’t want to do, however, is fall into the $$ trap of not being happy unless you get the absolute max money for everything you have. First of all there isn’t necessarily a “top” price (price is a fluid thing that varies with market, time & place) and secondly you may not have enough years in your lifetime to wait for the mythical buyer who’ll buy your stuff at that mythical “top” price.
If you have time to spare you can obviously list stuff at higher prices and see if anyone “bites”, but if no-one responds in a timely manner (set a deadline for yourself) you’ve got to be ready to move that price right ASAP. Plus if you’re trying to move lots of stuff in a short(ish) time-frame you may need to price even more aggressively than you’d like.
Having been in semiconductor sales for many years before we went on the road, I’m pretty ruthless in this area. I’ll sometimes list stuff for higher than I think it might be worth (just to test the market), but if I don’t get any interest within a few days I will take it off and re-list it at a lower price. For me, moving stuff is key and I don’t take it personally if it sells for less than I originally hoped. As long as I’m making some $$ I’m a happy camper.
There is No ONE Right Avenue For Selling
There are soooo many ways to sell stuff, and there is really no one right way. A lot depends on your local market (where you live), what kind of stuff you’re selling and how much time/effort you’re willing to put into the whole process.
For example here in San Diego Craigslst is really, really active. It’s free to list, super easy to manage and generally gets you a ton of fast hits, if you price stuff right. It’s also hyper-localized so it’s great for bigger house items that need to be physically picked-up to move. Over the last 2 weeks we’ve sold ALL of our remaining furniture Craigslist within 1-2 days (each item). When we originally downsized (6 years ago) we sold most of our stuff the same way.
On the other hand, outside of big cities Craigslist tends to be pretty crappy. There are simply not enough people using the system to make it efficient. So, in more rural areas garage sales or estate sales may make much more sense. Also certain items (say, antiques or collectibles) need a specialized audience to get a good sale, and in my experience this kind of audience doesn’t really hang out much on Craigslist. In these cases eBay, Consignment Agents or Auction Houses will probably give you much, much better results.
Lastly if you’ve got a year to sell stuff (versus a month, say) you’ll be more apt to take your time and perhaps try a few different avenues then just listing everything in one place. Time plays a factor here too.
So, which avenue you chose just depends. Before you start selling, check local listings and see what is most active in your area. Also, sort your stuff into things you want to sell locally (at a bargain) and things you might want to consign/auction or sell through eBay at a more “collectors” price. If you have time to do so “test” the market with a few select items, but if not just get selling!!
That wraps up my basic tips section. Coming next I’ll review some specific selling avenues and give a few key tips on each one. Stay tuned…..SPONSORED LINK:
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