While remodeling our house, we ran into a bazillion things we no longer wanted or needed. Our kids got first dibs, but since we redid every single room, we ended up with a lot of furniture to get rid of. We typically donate things but during COVID, we’ve had to find alternatives. After a few months of this, I’ve got a list of tips on how to sell things quickly online without wasting time, losing money and jeopardizing your safely.
When it comes to selling things online, your safety is definitely your number one priority. You’re still dealing with strangers whose motivations are unknown, and while I haven’t run into anything sketchy, I know others have, so go with your gut, first and foremost. If someone’s contact or requests feel off, don’t do it. Your life is not worth any amount of money.
There are a lot of places you can sell things online, and it can really be a matter of preference. We use the OfferUP app sometimes, but lately, I’ve focused more on Facebook Marketplace. The potential buyers can ask me questions via Messenger and they get no personal information other than what I provide. It also doesn’t require an additional app to be downloaded to your phone.
How to Sell Things Online Safely and Quickly
- Prepare your item. Clean it up remove any personal items or identification labels/tags.
- If the item is showing signs of wear, decide if it’s worth doing any minor repairs. A new door handle or touching up paint may be worth the time, or you can price the item accordingly.
- Take clear photos in good lighting. Get shots of it from all different angles, and if it’s a piece of furniture with doors/drawers, open them and take photos of the inside as well as the outside. Get photos of any defects or anything that may be broken.
- Get measurements. Undoubtedly, someone will ask you the height of the storage cabinet or how far the shelves are apart.
- Decide how you’re willing to meet the buyer: you can do it in front of your house on the street, in a store parking lot or you can deliver it.
- Set your price. Decide what it is you want to get and then go a little higher to leave room for negotiation OR if you just want to get rid of it, pick the price you want and be willing to accept lower. Have a bottom price set in your head because I haven’t had a listing yet where someone didn’t try to really lowball it. (I sold a really good, high-end treadmill last month. I listed it for $150 so it could go quickly and while I sold it within an hour to a guy who paid full-price, the second person who inquired asked if I’d take $100. Just no.)
- Create your listing. This is where you need to be very specific. Those signs of wear or defects? Mention them. List the measurements to save yourself questions later. Share the best photos and if there are special things to note, now’s your time. (Armoire has a hole in the back for cords so you can plug in a TV or mini-fridge? Tell them!) I never select the ‘delivery available’ option, but I still add PICK-UP ONLY into the description, because people frequently ask.
- Don’t share personal information until you absolutely have to. When the person asks where you live, before you’ve confirmed sale, give cross streets or the name of your development so they can guesstimate how long it will take to drive to you. I don’t give my address until they’re heading out the door.
- Remember you’re selling an item, not making new friends. People often try to give you sad stories, which may or may not be true, to get you to deliver them the item or take next to nothing for it. How much you want to do is entirely up to you, but reselling is a big business, and if you really want $50 for that collectible book, stick to your price. If you know your price is fair, don’t feel guilty. If someone wants you to hold onto it for a few days, ask them to Venmo you the money in advance; otherwise, holding onto an item may mean you miss a real sale. (My first listing, a guy pestered me for hours about pricing. I dropped it $10 and set up a time. He messaged me every hour with a new question, and said he’d arrive at 5pm. I told him to hit me up for my address 30 minutes in advance; he never did, never showed, nothing. I’m so glad I didn’t blow off other buyers for him!)
- You do NOT have to let people inside. During COVID, nobody wants strangers in their homes so don’t feel you have to change that. We made each buyer aware that we’re not going to let anyone in to look at the item, but we will bring it to the end of the driveway and help load into their vehicle. Each item was priced accordingly, so no one worries they’ll be cheated by not being able to see it before they agree to it, and we don’t want to carry a heavy storage cabinet out front multiple times. (That treadmill? I sent the guy a video I’d taken of it so he could see it in action the hour before he arrived.) Not a single person has questioned this. We also wear masks.
- Decide on a preferred method of payment. Some people put this in the listing. I’ve accepted Venmo IF the person needs us to hold something instead of selling it first come, first serve, but I don’t routinely use these apps and cash is just easier. And that’s okay.
- Remember it’s always good to be nice, but you don’t have to allow yourself to be taken advantage of or to be inconvenienced. If someone sets up a time, be ready for them to be late but if they aren’t there by a certain time and they say they’ll be another hour, you aren’t required to accommodate them. It’s on YOU, not them. You can stop communication at any time until you’ve accepted money.
- If the item is heavy and/or huge, I tell them beforehand. I don’t want them to have any surprises. (One woman wanted to pick up a 6′ by 4′ by 3′ cabinet in her Honda Pilot. There was no way it would fit, and she then asked about delivery, which I could not do. Keep in mind, offering delivery is nice IF you can and want to, but that’s your time and money and vehicle; you also don’t know what’s on the other end.) I also want buyers to be aware that I have someone here to help them get it in the car but preferably, they are able. We’ve had no issues, but what happens if something falls over once they leave, damaging their vehicle?
- Back up to the whole thing about ending communication: you are not required to tolerate rudeness or questionable behavior. I had a guy come buy a dresser once, and he was so very kind during our communications. He inquired about delivery, I said no. He asked for a lower price, I said no. (All my stuff is priced to GO because this is convenience, not moneymaking.) He arrived, it went well and my husband said he was nice, that he’d said he was buying the dresser for his wife for a Christmas present and maybe he’d contact me about the matching chest later. Oh, he did, but he was like a different person. Offered me less than half of the listed price, a good 30% lower than the DISCOUNTED PRICE the husband had offered him since he bought the other piece. I said no, I was not taking $20 for a really good, solid wood chest. He became rude, I said ‘we’re done here,’ and ended it. When someone’s rude in writing, what’s to say he won’t be rude when he arrives? I’d rather put it on the curb with a ‘free’ sign than risk a confrontation or safety issue.
- And last but SO very important: SAFETY. Don’t handle transactions alone. My 31-year-old son has sold things on his own but I won’t do anything unless the husband or said son is around to handle it. Call it paranoia, I don’t care, but I’m not taking any unnecessary risks. The husband is a whiz with a furniture dolly, so he can get anything out there on his own as long as we plan ahead and it’s downstairs by the door and ready to go. He knows the person’s name ahead of time and the price we’ve agreed upon so no one tries to change things up.
Once COVID is more managed and we can donate again, I’ll go back to doing that with all that I can, but until then, we don’t have the unlimited storage for items we no longer use. This means I’ll still continue selling things. Right now, I have light fixtures listed. I just redid the listing last night, breaking it up into two to see if that helps. It may be that lights aren’t searched for often, or that the antique rustic look just isn’t popular, but I may need to lower the price again tomorrow. Other than a few Coca Cola collectibles, I’m mostly done with things to sell, and I will be SO GLAD when that time comes.
Before this, I had ZERO experience or clue on how to sell things online. I had garage sales, donated or put it on Facebook for my friends to see. Now I feel like a pro and while it will never make me rich, I like to think it’s a winning combo for everyone involved.
Stay safe. Make the money. Help others. It’s possible to do all three while you’re selling things online!