You're looking at a shed, closet or storage space that's packed with things you no longer use. What if freeing up some extra space meant an extra night's hotel stay on your next vacation, tickets to an upcoming event, or a little extra money in your savings account?
Now that you've got the motivation, how can you turn junk into profit? Try one of these methods:
1. Garage sales:
It takes some work to advertise, organize, set up and price items, but garage sales can be an efficient way to sell a lot of items. If you decide to give it a try, don't go it alone -- organize or participate in a street or community garage sale, or team up with your neighbours. Not only will you greatly reduce your advertising costs, but having multiple sales close together is a great way to attract more buyers.
2. Classified ads
Many people rely on the classified ads in local newspapers to sell items, but a more targeted approach might also be worth your while. Try a community newsletter or professional organization magazine to reach a specific audience of people who might want to buy certain items, like a musical instrument or collector's piece. When searching for a place to advertise, consider prices and features, such as number of words allowed and whether you can include a picture. Many services also post online as well as in print.
3. Online ads
If you want to cut costs altogether, there are numerous places online to post an ad for free. You can reach a larger audience, update the content, include links and post pictures. If you're just starting out, look for a site like Craigslist or Kijiji. If you want to reach a certain group, such as university students or musicians, look for specific bulletin boards or forums where you can post information. Keep in mind that many online shoppers expect pictures.
To protect yourself from fraud, you'll want to stay local and meet buyers in person to handle transactions.
4. Consignment stores
You can often get more money for quality, high-end items like furniture and clothing by selling them through a consignment store rather than a garage sale. The store does all the work for you, and takes a commission for its trouble.
It may take some calling around to find the right place. Ask about terms and conditions before you sell. Find out how much the item is worth (re-sale value) and what rate of commission will be taken -- it could be as high as 60 per cent. You'll also want to know how long an item will be kept before it is put on sale or clearance. Many stores require appointments to inspect the goods, and there may be a limit on the age and condition.
Read our tips for selling consignment for more information.
You've probably heard a story where a priceless antique or expensive piece of artwork was found at a garage sale. It's great if you're the buyer, but you don't want to be on the other side of that story. Consider having your high-value items appraised and auctioned professionally. Many auction houses now have online services or advertising to reach more people.
6. Online auctions
There are many reasons online auction sites such as eBay and Bazaario have become so popular. They're an efficient way to connect sellers with buyers around the world, and they offer an infrastructure to handle bidding and payment. These sites can get your rare, collectable and hard-to-find items in front of a larger audience.
But are they right for you? If you have a lot to sell and plan to sell on an ongoing basis, it's worth your time to set up an account and learn the system. (eBay has a set of tutorials for beginners through theireBay University Learning Center).
7. eBay consignment stores or Trading Assistants
If you only have one or two items it may not be worth the time and effort to set up your own account with an online auction site. However, you can get someone to sell the item for you instead. These stores offer the price-fetching benefits of online auctions with the hands-off approach of consignment stores. You take your item in to the shop and someone manages the online auction part for you. They earn their money by taking a commission. Some services even pick up items or have drop-off locations.
You can find a store in your local directory or through eBay's Trading Assistant Directory.
8. Used stores
If you'd prefer to have the cash up front, look for stores that will buy the goods directly from you rather than selling them on consignment. You won't lose out if an item is stolen, and it's any easy way to sell used books or CDs. If you've given up a sport or want to upgrade your equipment, Play it Again Sports is worth a visit.
Check the phone book or local community directory for a list of consignment and second-hand stores in your area.
9. Online stores
If you have an extensive collection of books, movies or music to sell, you can become an independent seller through a larger service such as Alibris or Amazon. Regular access to the Internet, a credit card and computer savvy are a must. Make sure to inquire about fees -- they vary among services. Some may charge
an annual fee, monthly fee or transaction fee in addition to a 15 per cent commission.
10. Local networks
Chances are you've seen plenty of "for sale" flyers posted in your community with the numbers at the bottom that can be torn off. If this method is a little too public for you, look for a bulletin board with a limited audience, such as at your workplace, community centre or place of worship.
Also, let your friends, family or coworkers know you're looking to sell an item. Perhaps someone they know is looking for a deal.
You've decided to sell... What else do you need to know?
Trade in or trade up
Cars aren't the only thing you can trade in: many stores will negotiate a trade in value or give you store credit for used items like cameras, books or CDs. Look for stores where used items are for sale and ask about their policies.
As a vendor, it's your responsibility to make sure that items you sell are safe. Children's furniture, toys and accessories are subject to strict safety standards -- standards which have changed over the years. Anything that is cracked, broken or has sharp edges could lead to injury. For more information and resources, see How safe is second-hand stuff?
Protect your privacy
Many people prefer to use email as the initial mode of communication to protect their privacy and screen potential buyers. Try setting up an account with a free online service such as Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo that you use specifically for this purpose. The emails will be easier to manage, and your regular email address won't be subject to spam.
If you want to post pictures and details online, take out a free online ad rather than sending people to a personal website, blog or social networking page where your personal information can be accessed.
To sell, or not to sell it yourself
What's the best way to sell your stuff? It depends on how quickly you want to get rid of the item, how much money you want to earn and how much time and effort you are willing to put into it. Usually, you'll earn more money if you handle the sale yourself and cut out the "middle man" (the auction or the used store, for example).
However, don't underestimate how much your time is worth. Are you prepared to handle phone calls and emails from prospective buyers, or have visitors in your home to see items? Is it convenient for you to monitor an online auction and prepare items for shipping? Is it worth it to pay a commission if an expert can get a higher price?
Overall, the trick is to find a method that best suits the item you want to sell and, more importantly, your lifestyle.
Got a tip for other sellers? Post it in the comments below.
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