smart spending

Need cash? Sell stuff through online auctions

If you're looking to raise some extra cash you've probably already started thinking about selling grandma's silver candlesticks or your childhood stamp collection through an online auction.

Would anyone want to buy them? How much could you get?

You don't have to be a seasoned seller or even an eBay junkie to have success as an online auction seller. But the way you present or "sell" your item can make a big difference. The key to success in online auctions lies in crafting an effective ad or listing. Following are a dozen do's and don'ts from the three experts: Maureen Ellenberger, CEO of auctionPAL; Nancy Baughman, a certified appraiser for eBizAuctions; and Jeff Livingston, an assistant professor of economics at Bentley College in Massachusetts, who researches online auctions.  

"People are desperate for cash," says Maureen Ellenberger, CEO of auctionPAL.  While her site has only been around since the fall of 2007, Ellenberger says that by late winter she started noticing a big jump in people saying they were selling because they "need cash."

Nancy Baughman, a certified appraiser for eBizAuctions and author of "Buy It, Sell It, Make Money," started seeing a similar trend about nine months ago. Clients of eBizAuctions, which serves sellers in the North Carolina area, used to be more casual sellers. Baughman now estimates, "At least 70 to 80 percent of the people now just need the money." From the hobbyist collector who recently lost his job to the woman on a fixed disability income, circumstances differ but the motivation behind selling is the same.

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As an assistant professor of economics at Bentley College in Massachusetts who researches online auctions, Jeff Livingston is not surprised. In a slowing economy, he notes, people are going to consider selling possessions to help make ends meet.

1. Don't appear desperate for cash. "There are two fundamental principals of negotiations -- never be an overeager buyer and never be a desperate seller," says Baughman. "If you know somebody's desperate to sell, you're going to offer them less." Livingston agrees with the rule but has different reasoning. "In the auction context, the big problem with sounding desperate isn't so much that people will try to take advantage of you but that you sound less professional. People are going to have more faith that they're not going to get ripped off by someone who appears to be professional." Letting on that you're only unloading some stuff to raise cash quickly could well raise a red flag.

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