Selling Your Stuff Part II -> Where & How To Get The Most Out Of Your Sale
Congrats! You made it through Part I of my selling series, you’ve selected some items you want to sell and you’re motivated get going. So, now what?
Yet again I must make the disclaimer that I am not an expert and I’m definitely not going to cover every sales avenue out there. But I’ll do my best to lead you true with a few tips, starting with the 2 avenues we’ve used most over the past 15-20 years (Craigslist & eBay) and listing a few more that we have peripheral experience with, but that haven’t been our primary targets.
As I mentioned in the last post make sure you research your local market (e.g. check local listings, scan Craigslist etc.) to see what avenue is the most active in your area before start selling. Also target the kind of item you’re going to sell with the best avenue for that item before you list it (I’ll go through examples below). Then just prep & get going! Here we go:
I’ve used Craigslist (CL) for years and I’ve always had a great experience. It’s local, it’s free, it’s fast and if it’s active in your community your stuff will move. I get sales on 9 out of 10 items that I list within 1-2 days of listing, which I consider a pretty darn good hit rate IMHO! I use it primarily for larger items (e.g. furniture) that need local pick-up, although I’ll use it for medium-sized household stuff (luggage, grills, bikes, kitchen equipment etc.) too. The key to a good sale here is great pics, good descriptions and correct pricing. If I get one of these wrong, my stuff doesn’t move.
- Pros: You can post absolutely anything, anytime for free. Your stuff lists by community/city so it’s hyper-localized and great for bigger items (e.g. furniture) that need to be physically picked-up. In big cities it’s SUPER active so you’ll usually get a “bite” within max. 1-2 days of posting anything, as long as you price it right.
- Cons: It’s a bargain-hunters paradise and my experience is that prices need to be pretty aggressive to generate interest. It’s also fast-moving so if your stuff is on CL for more than a few days and doesn’t sell I would consider it a “dead” listing & you need to re-evaluate the price pronto. Lastly, once you have a “bite” on your item you need to arrange for that person to come see and pick-up their stuff. This can be frustrating if folks don’t show up or are flaky** on their commitments.
- Key Tips: The key to a good Craigslist sale is to take good pictures (essential), and do an engaging write-up of your stuff. Tell people what your stuff cost new and what you’re selling it for now. People like to know they’re getting a bargain, and often just telling them is enough to get that bite. If your stuff has a brand-name, make sure to include that. If your stuff has damage, be honest about it. Also include why you’re selling (e.g. we’re moving, we’re downsizing) and perhaps a little story about the item since that personalizes the listing and promotes an atmosphere of authenticity & trust. Do your research, price your stuff in-line with the marketplace and if your stuff doesn’t get any interest in 2 days, take it off and re-list it at a lower price.
**Extra Note/ Flaky buyers (folks who don’t turn up) are probably one of the most frustrating things with CL, but if you price stuff right you should get multiple responses which means you can also be picky about who you sell to. I prioritize folks who reply back with their phone numbers (always a key indicator of real interest) as well as folks who add info on why they’re buying (e.g. we just moved to the area, we’re a young family etc.). In my experience these folks are more motivated than folks who just send a 1-liner with no other contact method and will be much more apt to show up & commit. Once I have a phone number I’ll text them directly and set-up a firm meet (time/date/place) that matches my schedule. Lastly I never remove my listing (or tell folks it’s sold) until the item is physically gone from my possession.
More tips on Craigslist selling in these external articles How to Sell Stuff on Craigslist Successfully and A Craigslist Pro Shares His Buying and Selling Secrets.
I’ve bought and sold quite a bit of stuff on eBay over the years, but I’m very selective in what I use it for. When downsizing I only use it for smaller stuff (remember, you have to ship whatever is bought) that has some decent $$ value to it. I find it’s great for higher-end electronics (e.g. iPhones, Pads), smaller specialty items and smaller collectors items (lots of collectors hang out on eBay), but it’s simply not worth it for basic clothes, cheaper household stuff or furniture.
- Pros: It’s a professional website that provides both buyer & seller guarantees. You can set your stuff to be visible (on bid) for days or weeks, and you can specify sales details (e.g. minimum price, how you’ll ship) almost any way you want. Lots of collectors hang out here, so it’s a great place to sell unique items that might not have a large audience in your local market.
- Cons: Once your reserve (min price, if you specify one) is met and a winning bid is in you are committed to shipping your stuff even if you’re disappointed in the final price. Also fees can add up here. Most stuff is free to list (you get 50 free listings/month except for certain items like cars, boats, real estate etc.), but once you sell you will get charged a final value fee, plus you do have to ship the stuff too**.
- Key Tips: Research, research, research. Before I sell anything on EBay I watch auctions on similar stuff to see starting price, how many bids they get and winning price. This not only gives me a solid idea on price, but also tells me which types of items are moving (and in turn, whether it’s even worth posting my stuff on eBay at all!). Then once I’ve got a solid idea on price & interest, I will take GREAT pictures (essential) and list as much detail as I can on the piece. I’ll point out everything unique as well as any and all defects (very important, since folks can return or reject stuff that isn’t properly described). If there are brand markings or model ID numbers I will include a pic of them as well as any and all specs (size, tech specs etc.). Just like CL, including a personal story on the item often helps too. Lastly I always let my stuff “sit” on eBay for multiple days (up to a week) and try to end my auctions between ~6:30-9:00pm. The evening time, when folks have come home from work and (possibly) had a glass of wine or two is known as the most active time for eBay bidding.
**If you’re interested in detailed costs and profit, check out the Google spreadsheet linked by reader Sean Janson in my previous blog post (comments section)
We’ve actually never done a garage/yard sale ourselves, but we’ve had lots of friends who have and we’ve helped quite a few of them along the way. Garage sales are a great way to move tons of stuff in a single day. You can sell all your big stuff and you can also move smaller items such as old clothes, knick-knack, rummage stuff etc. that would simply not be worth posting ($$/time-wise) on CL or eBay. But, prep work is key here. There’s no point having a Garage Sale if no-one knows about it, so getting the word out and being ready on the day will make all the difference to your eventual success.
- Pros: The nice thing about a garage sale is that you can present everything you have in one go and you can usually move a good amount of stuff. People come to you (you don’t have to go anywhere with your stuff), you have the opportunity to do a little “sales pitch” face to face and you can typically sell smaller items (like old clothes and such) which would be really, really hard to sell by any other means.
- Cons: Some places do not allow it (local HOA rules or land rules) and you do need to do quite a bit of up-front work to make it successful. This is not a “last-minute” kind of thing IMHO.
- Key Tips: The keys to success in garage sales are to advertise your garage sale well ahead of time anywhere that might get the word out (in your local paper, on bulletin boards, in community centers, at your local grocery store etc.). Also sort your stuff into “bargain bins” and more expensive items and write prices clearly on everything (I really feel this is key & saves you a ton of headache on the day). Have a firm agreement with your partner (if you’re doing this together) on what you’re willing to move on (price-wise) and what you’re not. Lastly remember to pick up tons of change from your bank and be up bright and early the day you’re ready to go (garage sales addicts are early birds).
Many, many more excellent tips on this web-page: Having A Successful Garage Sale
Estate Sales (With An Agent)
We’ve never done an estate sale since we’ve always preferred to sell stuff ourselves, but if you have a lot of stuff and simply don’t want to deal with the hassle of selling yourself this can be a fabulous, painless, & professional way to get it taken care of. You do have to pay for the service, but the huge bonus is that the Estate Sale Agent does pretty much everything for you! I know many RVers who’ve taken this step for selling off their stuff, and been very happy with it.
- Pros: You can move most of your stuff in one go, and you’ll never need to worry about advertising, listing individual items online or meeting-up with strangers to sell them. The Estate Sale Agent takes care of everything!! This can be an enormous relief for folks who just don’t want to deal with the details themselves.
- Cons: You only make a percentage on your stuff (you need to pay the agent), you may not be able to sell everything (usually there is a selection process) and you may have limited control over what price your stuff sells for. If these conditions don’t appeal to you this not a great avenue for your stuff.
- Key Tips: Chose your agent well. Research reputation, interview more than one agent and, if you can, go to a local sale to see how they handle everything on-site. Make sure you understand ALL costs in detail before engaging & signing a contract to finalize the agreement.
Read more on Estate Sales in this article: Tips on Choosing an Estate Sale Company
Personally we’ve never done any consignment sales, but I did consider it once (for a rather special piece of furniture) and I do think it can have a place in your sales strategy, depending on what you’re selling.
The basic principle of consignment sales is that you deliver your stuff to a shop who displays it (either online or in-store) and sells it for you. Once it’s sold the shop gets a cut, while you get the rest.
There are two main types of consignment stores -> “thrift store” type consignment stores, most of which are traditional stix & brix, that deal in low-value stuff (e.g. old clothes, used baby/maternity items etc.) and high-end consignment stores, many of which are online, that deal in specialty items (e.g. antiques, collectible art, luxury/designer items).
Personally I consider consignment sales to make the most sense for higher-end items, and the more specialized/high-end the item is, the better IMHO. For example I would definitely consider consignment for a gently used Channel bag (if I had one LOL), but I would never consider it on any of my used hiking gear (of which I have LOTS, HA!)
- Pros: You only deal with the shop and not with sellers. You stuff gets displayed (either in-store or online) and if the shop has a good reputation it will typically fetch a better price than through CL, estate or garage sales. Many consignment shops will also buy stuff from you (at a very discounted price, mind you), so you can often decide to sell directly if you don’t want to wait on consignment.
- Cons: Consignment takes time = you’ve got to wait for the sale to complete before you get your $$. Plus fees can be rather high. The shop gets a cut and are in the business to make a decent profit, so expect fees anywhere from 25-40%. Certain shops also charge a monthly consignment fee and/or will only consign items for a limited period after which they need to be returned or picked up (depends on the shop and the item).
- Key Tips: Obviously picking the right shop here is key. You want a shop with a good reputation and a very good flow of customers for the particular type of article you’re trying to sell (e.g. a specialty art store, for art pieces). Also, understand your consignment contract & costs in detail before you sign anything!
Facebook Groups & Phone/Pad Apps
I’ll mention these avenues since they are growing avenues in the sales marketplace, but I admit I don’t have much experience on them.
Facebook Groups: Bigger cities often have large Facebook groups (e.g. San Diego has a “San Diego Online Yard Sale” and a “San Diego Everything 4 Sale” each with ~ 10,000 members ) that seem to be very active, are free and are super easy to use (everyone has Facebook right?!). Despite trying however, I’ve never been successful moving stuff on there. In fact I cross-posted many items these past 2 weeks on both CL & Facebook -> I sold every item I posted on CL (within 1-2 days), but I didn’t get a single bite on Facebook despite using the exact same descriptions & pics. I’m not sure if I’m doing something wrong or it’s just an indication of the local market here in SD, but I just had zero luck here.
That said, several blog readers mentioned they’ve had success using Facebook groups in my last post so I definitely think this avenue is worth a serious look for anyone looking to sell stuff locally, and it’s so easy to use that I can’t see any reason not to try it. The nice thing about Facebook (as opposed to CL, say) is that you can see the profile of who you’re buying from, so there’s an added level of assurance when meeting-up with strangers. Just like CL however, posts tend to get quickly lost in the roll if they linger too long so if your stuff hasn’t sold in a few days it may be time to re-assess your price/approach.
Phone/Pad Sales Apps: Everytime I turn on the TV these days I seem to see a new ad for the latest/greatest local selling app where all you have to do is list your stuff on your phone and it gets sold. LetGo, Wallapop, Trove, Phynder, and OfferUp are some of the more popular ones I’ve seen, and that’s just a few of the seemingly hundreds out there! I’m sure some of these work, but I’m thinking there might need to be some consolidation in the industry before they become a viable way to sell (there are just too many IMHO). Either way I have zero experience with them. CL has simply been too easy to use, and I’ve never had to seriously check them out.
That wraps up the sales methods that I’m most familiar with. I haven’t talked about Pawn Shops (not an avenue I would ever pursue) or Auction Houses (we’ve never owned anything high-end enough to consider an auction), but perhaps you’ve got tips on these or other avenues that I’ve missed? Which ways have you had the most success with? What additional ideas do you have? Feel free to comment & share below!