Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ebay Selling Tips & Answers to "Maybe I can sell it on Ebay?"

As a Professional Organizer and owner of Smiling Spaces, LLC, I'm constantly transferring skills and knowledge to my clients. I work right along side people in their homes, not only helping to guide the process of organizing from start to finish but also helping them figure out what to do with their stuff. I customize solutions and leave a maintenance plan in place once we've made their spaces "smile." I'm continually learning new things, and love to share my findings here on my blog, or in a monthly email newsletter I send out.

This month, I'm sharing my investigation into the place many go to sell their stuff: Ebay. Heard of it? The first thing I am going to share is that I'm convinced it's not a noun. Ebay is a verb. It requires action, time, a plan, skills and follow through. Read on and you'll see.

With six years of experience in my profession, I can answer most questions that come up in a hands-on organizing session with confidence. But it's tough when I come across a question that stumps me. For instance, a question I get a lot is "Is this worth something?" It can be a difficult question to answer without more information. Another way it might be phrased is "I don't want to get rid of this because it might be worth something." I know there is a question within this comment, and it's not so simple to answer. This might be followed by my client saying, "Maybe I can sell it on Ebay." Not having a simple answer or solution can prevent someone from letting go of an item they no longer want. If they could get money for it, donation may not be the best option. My answer is usually to have us put questionable items aside from the obvious, "keep, "donate," or "toss" items. We might create a "consider" or "sell" area in their home.

A side note:
I come from a family that values antiques, well made furniture, and heirlooms passed down from the previous generation. I understand and can appreciate keeping things of value. But I also like to remind people that what is valuable to one person may or may not be of value to another. Value of most items can change over time and increase or decrease just like anything else. I've come to learn that storing items has a cost involved that many people overlook. What is frustrating is storing items we don't love, but keep because we think they might be valuable, to later find out they are not. There has got to be a better way.

Questions Answered

I recently attended a talk arranged by my Minnesota Chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers where I got a lot of answers to a list of questions I had about Ebay. Below are the answers I'm happy to share.

Q: How does one get into selling on Ebay?

A: For most, it probably starts out as a hobby and may turn into a modest living. Most love the hunt of finding something really unique and rare, and then turning it around for a profit.

Q: How can I figure out what something is worth on Ebay?

A: Check the "sold" price of similar items on Ebaynot the asking prices out there. You want to go by what the items actually sold for, not what they were originally listed for. Also look at how many sold based on how many were listed. Another resource to check out: Requires a $20/month subscription.

Q: What sells well on Ebay?
  • High-End Collectibles and Furniture (if best examples in their category and are rare)
  • Electronics (if they work well)
  • Pocket Knives and Watches (easy to photograph and have less parts to match)
  • Designer Clothes
  • Books (if well cared for)
Q: What are some tips to selling on Ebay?
  • Need to have really good photos and descriptions
  • Items need to be clean (some collectibles are better left with their patina, so only a light wipe is best)
  • Be honest about item's details and any defects
  • Choose items worth $100 or more to make it worth your time
Q: What is trickiest or risky to sell on Ebay?
  • Electronics (do they work?) 
  • Dolls (many from 1970s or later were mass marketed)
  • Jewelry (needs to be identifiable and know gold content)
  • Purses
  • Beanie Babies
  • Baseball Cards
  • Stamps (really hard)
  • Coins (a little easier)
  • Toys or Anything with lots of parts (everything needs to match and be complete in many cases)

Q: If I don't want to sell my stuff myself, who can sell on Ebay for me?
A: An Ebay trading assistant can help sell your stuff on Ebay. Sometimes you can even send photographs of items you may want to sell to be appraised by someone for free. Others are willing to come out to your house for a fee to look at your stuff and tell you if anything is worth trying to sell. If you decide to have someone sell for you though, they have to be in possession of your item like a consignment agreement. If they come to your house to appraise, they may be able to take one or two items that day from you to sell. Unlike a thrift shop, most people who sell on ebay will not keep items 1-2 years. They want to turn a profit as quickly as possible too. If they can't sell something for you, ask for a recommendation for another independent appraiser.

Tip: Focus on selling your larger items first. Bigger items take up more space to store. Smaller items are easier to store and should be left last if you have a lot of items you want to sell.

Q: How much does it cost to have someone sell for me on Ebay?
A: A trading assistant will gather your expectations and goals for selling your stuff as well as discuss a time frame. Some have a set commission or will negotiate a commission. Keep in mind that they have templates ready to use and plug in, which saves them time, but they have to pay Ebay and Pay Pal as well. In any case, you will also have to invest time cleaning your items. Most people that sell for you will not do the detail cleaning and polishing required for a successful sale.

Q: What if my stuff isn't worth what I thought it was worth?

A: I learned that it's sort of an "un-freezing process" for many people when they hear whether their stuff is worth something or not. The attitude people have about their things may change. They will think more about the "holding costs" items have in their homes and may reconsider what is worth keeping.

Tip: Save time. Don't clean items before you have them appraised. Evaluating dirty items is expected. If it is worth something, you can detail clean it then.

Q: What are the challenges to selling on Ebay?
  • Answering the question "what has value" to begin with can be tricky
  • Items usually need to be in high demand to sell well
  • There are counterfeits out there (Rolex watches for instance)
  • Keeping inventory organized can be a challenge
  • Things are seasonal (items will sell better at different times of the year)

Q: What are the steps it takes to sell on Ebay?
  • Research Price
  • Detail Clean items
  • Write Descriptions (defects, details)
  • Photograph
  • List
  • Inventory
  • Store
  • Receive Bids
  • Answer Questions about item
  • Complete Order Details
  • Ship

Still want to Ebay? Give it a try!

Think you'll leave it up to the pros? Leave a comment below, and let me know what you think, found helpful, or still want to know. Thanks!

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  1. Lots of great information in this article and just in time for spring cleaning!