The start of a new year is a great time to clean out your home and organize your living spaces. But what should you do with the gently used clothing, furniture, home items or electronics that you aren’t using anymore?
Fortunately, online marketplaces, such as Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, eBay and Poshmark, make it easy to sell without even leaving your home. That said, there are a few perils to selling used items online. To avoid the dangers and to successfully make sales, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends the following tips.
How to stay safe when making online sales
- Choose an appropriate platform. Nerdwallet recommends that “before you sell stuff online to make extra money, determine the ideal venue for your goods.” There are dozens of online marketplaces to choose from, but many of them focus on a specific kind of used goods, such as electronics or designer clothing. Before you create an account with a marketplace, make sure it is a good fit for the kind of goods you want to sell.
- Know the worth of your items and price appropriately. To determine the value of an item you want to sell, Consumer Reports suggests, search for similar items on the site where you plan to list. On auction sites, look at completed sales and pay attention to the selling price rather than the minimum bid price. If you are selling an item that was never used and is still in its original packaging, remember that technically it is still coming to the buyer secondhand, so you’ll need to charge a little less than the original retail value if you want to make a sale.
- Get appraisals for high value items. If you are selling jewelry made with precious metals or stones, get an official appraisal before you list or sell the items. Keep in mind that jewelers might give you a lower price quote as they intend to make profit on a resale. If you are in possession of an antique or artwork that is worth over a thousand dollars, consider getting a written opinion on the item’s worth from a professional appraiser. This will give you a better idea of the price you should set and how much insurance you need to cover the sale.
- Make a quality listing. Without a good listing, you may not sell your item. NBC News advises putting care into the photos you take of an item. Make sure the images are clear and accurately show the item’s color, form and other key details. You’ll also want to include specific measurements and detailed written descriptions that inform buyers of any flaws the item might have, no matter how small. Make it clear that the price you set takes the flaws into account. Finally, use search engine words in your item description that accurately describe the item, its aesthetic and its use to attract buyers who are actively looking for what you are selling.
- Prepare items for sale. Before you pack your item for shipping, clean it thoroughly. If you are planning on selling multiple items online and want to keep buyers coming back, put some love into your packaging as well. Wrapping the item in tissue paper and including a thank you note can go a long way towards creating a returning customer.
- Understand the fees. Each online marketplace has its own set of fees, which can vary quite a bit from platform to platform. Before you sign up, take some time to read the fine print and understand whether you’ll pay a percentage of your sale, a flat rate or both and how the fees are collected. In addition, find out how many sales each platform allows you to make each month.
- Consider swapping or donating used items. If you decide not to sell an item, consider donating it or giving it awayto someone who needs it. Several online sites allow you to give things away to someone who needs them for free, to lend and borrow items from others in your community and to even trade items instead of selling them for cash. Check out this list of ways to swap used items from nonprofit Green America: https://www.greenamerica.org/green-living/finding-used-items-online
- Watch out for shady buyers. Con artists often pose as buyers in scams. Sometimes they offer to overpay for an item, but that’s not their only tactic. Beware of buyers who ask you to make transactions outside of the selling platform or those who ask for personal information, such as your banking information.
- Be extra cautious when making local sales. Some platforms allow you to meet up with people in your local area to exchange your item for cash in person. While this can be an effective way to sell big items and avoid marketplace fees, use caution when meeting up with strangers. Don’t be quick to give them your home address; instead ask buyers to meet you in a safe place, such as outside your local police department. Never meet up alone with a buyer you don’t know. Always bring your partner or a friend to make the transaction.
- Always protect your personal information. As you sell items online, keep your sensitive personal informationunder lock and key. Avoid communicating with buyers outside of the online platform you are using to make the sale and don’t give out your home address, phone number or email address.
For more information see BBB’s New Year’s guide: https://www.bbb.org/all/new-year-s-guide