If you’re like us you have a lot of junk sitting around in your basement, garage or even a storage shed. It could be things like that painting you inherited from your Aunt Frances, toys from when your children were young, an old computer or books you read once and then packed away. You think it’s all worthless but hold on. You might be able to sell some of it and for more money than you might imagine. And even if you can’t sell it for much you’ll at least have freed up some space for more, well, stuff.
Where to sell your junk
Just as there are good and bad places to buy stuff, there are good and bad places to sell it. For example, the best places to sell valuable old furniture are auction houses followed by consignment stores. Auction houses and consignment stores are also often the best places to sell valuable artwork while sports and exercise gear generally get the best prices online and or in a yard sale.
Here are some other categories of stuff and the two best places to sell them. B: This assumes the stuff is all ”valuable” and in excellent condition.
Item Best place Second best place to sell
Clothing Auction house Consignment store
Musical instruments Auction house Consignment store
Collectibles Online Consignment store
Jewelry Auction house Consignment store
Electronics and appliances Consignment store Online
Housewares Auction house Consignment store
Get an appraisal
If you think you have something worth, say, $1,000 or more, you may want to get a professional appraisal in writing. This will tell you how much the item is worth and how much insurance you will need to cover it. However, a professional appraisal can be expensive. Most experts charge from $100 to $300 an hour to look over your items, do some research and then write a detailed valuation. Alternately, you could ask an appraiser to do a “ballpark estimate” or give you a rough idea of what your items are worth, which he or she could likely do in an hour.
When using an auction house
If you have items valuable enough to warrant taking to an auction house, make sure you document them with detailed descriptions that you can share with possible auctioneers. For example, if you have an antique table include the maker’s name and the date and the amount you paid for it. You might also attend a few sales in advance to see how auctions work and what different houses specialize in. When you go to one of those sales ask the auctioneer how he or she promotes them –in newspapers, online or via email is best – and if they simulcast online. Generally speaking you‘ll pay a sales commission equal to 20% to 50% of the sales price. Again as a general rule, you will pay smaller commissions on more expensive items. Make sure your items are insured and find out when you will get paid, as some auction houses will wait until the buyers’ payments clear before they pay you.
When it comes to furniture, consignment shop owners usually want only top quality stuff and some will take only antiques. Clothing, household goods, and jewelry must be in great shape. To maximize your return, visit a few shops to make sure they sell items similar to yours. Many owners of consignment shops will see sellers by appointment only. Call first. Show them your items or photos of them. Most will suggest a selling price. However, be aware that the store’s cut is usually 50%. Ask if the price of your item will be reduced if it doesn’t sell within some specified amount of time. If it doesn’t sell within 90 days it will probably be returned or donated to a charity.
When you put items on Amazon or eBay you will get the eyeballs of literally millions of potential buyers. However, it takes some marketing smarts to make sure that your items stand out. You will want to sell what’s in demand, which are usually one-of-a-kind items that are gently used such as clothing, electronics, sporting goods and popular collectibles. If the items are easy to ship, put them on a like Amazon or eBay. If the item is heavy or bulky, try putting it on Craigslist or some other free listing service. Most experts say it’s best to keep your description short. What you mostly need to provide is condition information such as pristine, stained or chipped.
If you’ve never posted on Amazon, Craigslist or eBay, all three have helpful tutorials that explain how to sell successfully on their sites. Reviewing these tutorials would be a good investment of your time.
See what other comparable items have sold for on whichever site you choose. If you use eBay, check the prices that similar items actually sold for under “completed listings.”
Finally, check to see what fees you will be charged. As a general rule you can put up to 50 items per month for auction on eBay free. But you will then pay a fee depending on the item and what it sold for, plus a shipping charge. Amazon charges $.99 to list an, plus a fee based on what you sold the item for, as well as shipping and a referral fee.
It can take a lot of time and effort to do a yard sale but the good news is that it doesn’t require you to pay anybody a commission on whatever money you earn. However, it’s a good idea to call your city’s office as might need to get a permit to hold a sale. In the event that you do, it will probably only cost a few dollars.
Another good thing about a yard sale is that almost anything that’s not valuable enough to put into a consignment shop, an auction house or online is fair game. Even broken items can be sold at yard sales. Malfunctioning electronics can be particularly good because people often buy them for parts.
Believe it or not, the best strategy is to not price anything. The most stressful and time-consuming part of a yard sale is determining how to charge for things. A better solution is to ask buyers for their best offers. In many cases they‘ll name a price that’s better than what you would have suggested. If you run into people who seem to shy to negotiate then you will have to name a price. You can get a fairly good valuation of the stuff you will be selling on the website Statricks.com. It compiles pricing data from online auction sites such as eBay and from classified ads on Craigslist and offers aggregate pricing on literally hundreds of thousands of used products such as bicycles, computers, small appliances, photo and video equipment and musical instruments.
To get the word out regarding your yard sale, you might put a free ad on eBay classifieds, Craigslist, YardSaleSearch and GarageSaleHunter. You should also put information about your sale on social media sites such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Be sure to make enough directional signs to get people to your house from major streets. One expert says you should use signs no larger than 15 x 15″ and that simply says “Sale” and includes an arrow pointing the way to your house.
The best time to start a garage sale is Thursday or Friday and start early – like 6 AM or 7 AM. That way you’ll get people driving the kids to school or going to work. If you have items left, you can always continue the sale during the week.
Be friendly. If you’re reading a book or talking on the phone people are less likely to buy from you. However, if you greet them warmly and are available to answer their questions and to negotiate, you’ll do much better.
Finally, keep your house locked during your yard sale and keep your money and your phone with you all the time. Also, turn down payments in big bills, as they could be counterfeit.