Looking for some extra money? Instead of applying for a part-time job, scraping up a few (or a few hundred) bucks may be as simple as combing through all those storage boxes in the attic or finally organizing the garage.
“According to a 2011 study from research firm NPD, the average American family has about $7,000 worth of unused stuff that can be sold online,” writes Suzanne Wells in her ebook, Cash Hidden In Your Home.
Wells has personally over 50,000 items online, between ebay and Amazon, and she funneled all that wisdom into the launch of Unite Commerce, an online ecommerce training program. Here, we talked with her and four other online sales experts to get their best tips for trading your unwanted stuff for much-needed cash.
1. Look for unconventional items.
“An average person with no experience usually assumes he can only sell collectibles or valuables like designer handbags, autographed items or expensive home decor items,” says Wells. “My specialty is helping people understand the kinds of things that will sell online outside of the obvious. The money is really in items hiding in plain sight right in people’s homes.”
Some examples of items that do particularly well are partially used men’s and women’s fragrances (“These sell for a high percentage of their retail value on eBay,” says Wells); individual parts from broken small appliances, like coffee makers, vacuum cleaners and microwaves (“People buy a used part on eBay rather than paying full retail reordering from the manufacturer); and items that Wells calls “dead tech,” including older Polaroid film, VHS tapes and new cassette tapes in original packaging.
2. Start small.
Since there is definitely money to be made selling stuff online, there are naturally opportunists who seek to take advantage of unsuspecting newbies to generate even more cash.
Wells advises people to get their feet wet by selling on eBay first, as she says it’s easiest to get started on that platform. She also warns against selling expensive items like designer handbags or smart phones right off the bat. “Unscrupulous buyers – aka crooks – know to target new sellers, purchase expensive electronics, receive the product and remove parts, then return the item to the unsuspecting seller.”
3. Choose the right market.
It used to be that garage sales and local consignment stores were the only ways to unload unused items and make extra money, but now the internet has opened up numerous ways to reach buyers across town or across the country. The key then becomes deciding which platform is the best for your particular offering.
“Craigslist is best for larger items like furniture, exercise equipment and cars,” says Andrea Eldridge, CEO and co-founder of Nerds on Call, an on-site computer and laptop repair service. “Since it links you with a pool of local buyers, most people expect that the item will be picked up or delivered, saving you the hassle of figuring out how to ship that Nautilus machine to Kansas City. Amazon and eBay are great for collectibles, jewelry, small electronics and one-of-a-kind items that you don’t mind shipping and need to expose to a larger market to get the best price.”
4. Take great pictures.
To get the best price for your item, providing clear images is a must, says Anastasia Andrzejewski, a full-time eBay seller. She suggests shooting the item against a plain white or black background (towels and sheets work well) and avoid using the camera’s flash, as it tends to wash out the color. “Take photos of every angle and don’t hide flaws – rather, expose them,” adds Andrzejewski. “If there’s a scratch, take a close-up photo of that scratch.”
To further emphasize the importance of good photos, Paul Brocky, co-founder of TheRoadCode.com, a free online classified site, notes that items listed with photos receive 47% more clicks than others.
5. Know the value of your item.
The most important step to take to ensure that you get the most money possible for an item is to research its value before ever putting it up for sale.
I strongly urge people to research the sold price values of their items online first,” says James Massey, founder of WhatSellsBest.com, “because not only can it help them develop a realistic understanding of their items true market value, it can also help them discover hidden treasures and avoid wasting time and effort with items that just don’t sell well.”
Massey launched WhatSellsBest to make this process incredibly easy; the site sorts through millions of items to identify the Top 25 daily auctions (by highest prices paid or highest bid) in multiple categories on eBay. It also tracks the top auction news regarding rare items being sold by a variety of leading auction houses worldwide.