In garage-sale season, it’s easy to load up the folding tables with household items you no longer need, dreaming of the cash flowing in.
But what are the most lucrative ways to sell in the cooler months? There are other great sales options, including consignment stores, and Internet powerhouses eBay and Craigslist. But how do you know where to sell which items to get the best return?
If you are planning a big move, garage sales are an efficient way to quickly clear out your extras. The key to a successful garage sale isn’t just putting up good signs, but advertising it on TagSellIt.com, says Aaron LaPedis, author of “The Garage Sale Millionaire.”
“Thousands of people download this app, so on Friday night, garage-sale junkies see where the sales are in your neighborhood. It will ‘GPS’ them right to that garage sale,” says LaPedis, who says your free listing includes what you sell and the hours.
If you sell on eBay, make sure it’s described accurately, LaPedis says. “You are handcuffed to the eBay rating system,” he says. “If people say you’re selling bad stuff, your rating goes down, and people won’t do business with you.”
So where are the best places to sell some common household items, and what are the pros and cons of each?
Is your grandfather’s roll-top desk taking up too much space? Items such as this, old dressers, armoires and arm chairs with value can be sold in a variety of places. But if you want the best bang for your buck, skip the garage sales.
EBay: EBay can bring in the best prices, since it’s easy to search for something specific. The problem can be shipping. “People would be willing to pay to ship that,” says LaPedis, though the buyer should hire the shipper, so you’re not responsible for damage. Or you can specify it’s pickup only.
Craigslist: “I’ve gotten pretty good prices on Craigslist for antiques,” says Skip McGrath, co-author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to eBay,” who sold many items from his Hudson Valley, New York, family antique store before moving across the country. He says people drive from other states for pickup. You may get better prices on eBay, but you may have to deal with shipping.
Antique store or flea market: Don’t know if it’s worth anything? Look inside the doors and drawers for markings and start researching. Leah Ingram, author of “Toss, Keep, Sell!: The Suddenly Frugal Guide to Cleaning Out the Clutter and Cashing In,” discovered that her mother-in-law’s dresser and nightstand weren’t valuable, but the drawer pulls were worth $250. She recommends selling an item like this to a local antique store or renting a space at a high-end flea market where you may find like-minded buyers.
Small electronics and televisions
Upgrading your phone or TV? You might still be able to make a buck off the old ones. You may think your used television set is special, but unless that TV is a flat screen, you’ll be lucky to get $10 or $20 for it at a yard sale, says Ingram.
EBay: Put current small electronics on eBay. “If it’s a year or two old, it’s holding its value very well,” says LaPedis. “That’s what eBay is for. You won’t get anywhere close to that on Craigslist.” While flat screens sell well on eBay, says LaPedis, avoiding damage in shipping becomes more difficult at that weight. If you’re going to sell it there, “someone else has to do the packing and pickup. Let the buyer know that it’s pickup only, or have the person who bought it take charge of shipping.”
Craigslist: LaPedis’ rule of thumb is that anything more than 25 pounds should be sold on Craigslist because of the shipping costs. Plus, eBay and PayPal fees eat roughly 12 percent of the payment. “You could lower your price a little and get it moved on Craigslist,” he says.
Other: Check the online used-electronics buyer Gazelle.com to see what it will pay for your old, small electronics, says Ingram. Just plug in the make and model of your device and its condition for an estimate. If you agree, send it in and wait for the check.
Whether it’s a first-edition classic book, a complete hardback set of “Harry Potter” or an out-of-print tome gathering dust in your father’s attic, you need to know the book’s value before deciding where to sell it.
EBay: Sell older books on eBay, says LaPedis. “You have 50 million viewers looking at stuff. You don’t want to risk leaving money on the table selling books at a garage sale or Craigslist,” he says.
Amazon: “A lot of people sell books on Amazon.com (for) a living,” says LaPedis. “They buy them at garage sales and use a bar code scanner app, which will tell you what it’s going for on Amazon.com. If the lowest price is $20, someone will buy that book and flip it. Amazon is powerful.”
Garage sales: If you have a lot of books and you’re just looking to offload them, a garage sale is probably your best bet. “You don’t get a lot of money for books unless you have a first-edition signed John Steinbeck,” says Ingram. You could also donate them. If you don’t mind keeping the clutter, you can use book-swapping sites such as PaperBackSwap.com or BookMooch.com, which isn’t cash in your pocket, but gives you free books after you swap some of your own, says Ingram. “That might be the best way to get the most value.”
It can seem like kids outgrow their clothes as soon as you buy them. The good news is that there’s a market for them. And if the clothing has labels from popular stores, that’s even better.
Garage sales: “Kids’ clothing is a car stopper at garage sales,” says LaPedis. “If you have kids’ clothing, that should be on the garage-sale sign. You could sell it all day long at your garage sale. Kids’ and teen clothing is worth money.”
EBay: Batch the children’s clothing for the best results, says McGrath, whose daughter-in-law flips kids’ clothing from garage sales into eBay sales.
Consignment/resale shop: “I’ve become a huge fan of consignment stores,” says Ingram. “If you have clothing that’s in good condition from a label that people recognize, definitely bring it to a resale or consignment shop.” You’ll often get cash upfront from resale shops, and 40 percent to 60 percent of the sales price from consignment stores, she says.
Facebook: Hyperlocal Facebook groups of mothers can be a great way to sell children’s clothing, says Ingram. “All of these women with children who have grown out of stuff are selling it there,” she says.
Vintage or designer clothing
Whether you inherited your great aunt’s frocks or you’ve outgrown your designer duds, vintage and designer clothing sells well in certain markets. Skip the garage sale and Craigslist because “you won’t get the type of people who will pay up and appreciate it,” says LaPedis.
Consignment: “There (are) a lot of great secondhand stores that specialize in vintage clothing,” says LaPedis.
EBay: For designer clothing and accessories worth several hundred dollars, such as Gucci or Chanel bags and shoes, LaPedis recommends eBay. Consider only selling used designer items on eBay, though, says McGrath, since some brands police the sales through the Verified Rights Owner, or VeRO, Program, which protects trademark and copyright owners from infringement. “If it’s clearly used, they’ll usually leave you alone,” he says. “If you’re a new seller, they’ll assume you’re committing fraud and listing fakes.”
Etsy: “Etsy is a great place to sell vintage clothing,” McGrath says. “A lot of people go there first nowadays.”
No reason for those Hummels to take up space if they don’t bring you pleasure. Or maybe you’re hoping your Beanie Babies collection will fund the kids’ college. A little planning can bring the maximum return for your collectibles.
EBay: “Definitely collectibles are an eBay thing to sell,” says LaPedis. But do your research first. Some of those things may seem like collectibles, but they’re not because they’re made in the millions, says Ingram. “If you are trying to figure out if your Precious Moments cherub is worth anything, do an advanced search on eBay only for sold items to see if they’re even selling and for what. You may be pleasantly surprised at how many have sold and for what amount. It’s a great way to see what the market will bear.”
Garage sales: Nice collectibles should not be at garage sales, says LaPedis. “That’s why people like me become garage-sale millionaires. There are people who are impatient and don’t take the time to find out the value of the item. That is the No. 1 mistake everybody makes when putting on a garage sale,” he says. LaPedis recently snatched up a collectible at a yard sale with a low price tag and sold it for $1,000 more on eBay.
Toys are expensive to buy new, and they may be in good shape when you’re ready to part with them. You may not make a killing, but every dollar helps, since the next toy craze is around the corner. Avoid selling toys on Craigslist, says LaPedis, even new ones. They won’t sell.
Garage sales: “Yard sales are very, very good for selling toys,” says Ingram.
EBay: “EBay is great for toys,” says McGrath. “Stress ‘like new,’ ‘really good condition.'” And hold toys to sell in the summer and before Christmas, when you’ll get the most for them. “It’s amazing the used toys that sell. They get such higher prices then,” says McGrath.
Another tip is to sell toys in lots, says Ingram. “Group like things together,” she says. “People are more likely to spend money if they think they’re getting a good deal on a group of toys versus individual ones.”
Facebook: Ingram recommends selling toys on those hyperlocal Facebook groups as well.
Dishes and china
Your everyday dishes won’t fetch much on the open market, especially at a garage sale, says McGrath. “People think, ‘We got it for our wedding, and every plate was $20.’ There’s so much of that stuff out there, people sell it for a buck a plate.” That’s fine if you just want to get rid of it for some new replacements, but the stuff you break out only on holidays might be worth the effort of taking it beyond your front yard if you’re looking to make some money.
EBay: “If it’s antique, eBay,” says McGrath. “It’s a huge category on eBay with a very high sell-through rate.” A friend of his makes 30 to 40 sales a day, selling individual pieces, flatware and complete buyers’ sets. “Even if she goes to a garage sale and buys a set, she breaks it up for people who need to supplement or expand place settings for a particular pattern.”
Other: Replacements Ltd. in North Carolina buys china, though selling china to the company “is like the stock market,” says Ingram. “Sometimes the prices are good because their stock is low.” Other times, it’s best to hold on to it and wait.