I have had pretty decent luck lately on my eBay sales. In part, I’ve been lucky to have items in great condition — in many cases, like new. But there are other factors that come into play.
Finding a price
As a site, eBay can be a great way to determine a price — if you know how to search properly.
The problem is that the site has been overrun with Buy-It-Now auctions. In fact, I read recently that something like 2/3 of all eBay auctions are BINs. That’s not to say that all BIN prices are bad. But there are a lot of folks who overprice terribly in the hopes of snaring one or two people who don’t know the proper cost/value of an item. (And it works enough to keep them going.)
For this reason, I get really annoyed when I see someone saying, “Well this sells on eBay for $100.” No, someone is trying to sell it on eBay for $100. They won’t necessarily get it.
Instead of looking at current auctions, do a search for completed listings. Once you do a basic search and narrow it down to items similar to yours, you can scroll down the left side of the screen and find “Completed Listings.”
Once again, it’s important to remember that not every price you see is one that actually sold. In fact, because of so many BIN-hopefuls (aka greedy folks), you’ll probably see quite a few prices in red. That indicates it didn’t sell. Usually because the person was asking for too much, either as a starting bid or as a BIN price.
It’s also easy to get excited when you see a really high number on a sold item. But, again, there are people who buy without really doing any research. So if you see most of these items are selling for $50 and one sold for $75… Assume that was someone falling prey to eBay ignorance.
Ignoring the one or two aberrations, you should be able to quickly determine a basic range of prices. That is a good way to figure out a basic range you can expect in a regular auction style. Or if you want to do a Buy It Now, you’ll find a realistic price to ask.
What makes a good auction?
Completed listings are also great for getting a sense of what sells. People can sell an item in perfectly good condition and get significantly less just because they missed some details.
1. Pictures. Make sure they’re good quality. This means more than one picture (unless it’s brand new and you can use a stock picture), and ones that are properly lit. Be sure you also check to see what the successful listings are showing for quality. Every category is going to have a different aspect to highlight. Make sure you show what matters to the serious buyers.
2. Be honest about flaws. Most items you sell will have seen some use. That’s fine. Just document this carefully. Don’t be overly critical, but don’t skimp on details either. You want to be sure the buyer gets what he or she expects. Make a note of the imperfections and try to show this in pictures when possible.
3. Use keywords in the title (maybe). In the categories I tend to sell in, keywords in the title like “GORGEOUS” or “AMAZING” seem to work. It’s goofy but true. I threw a couple of those in to the first batch of items and I saw some great returns. I don’t know how much that affected prices, but I know the prices were damn good. So, if the items that went for the most money have keywords in all caps… Consider wincing your way through some in your titles.
4. Start low. It can be scary to do a regular auction. You’re taking the risk that you won’t get the price you want. But when you start at your minimum price, you’re less likely to get much more than that. Again, looking at completed prices, you see that you only get a couple of bids when you start high. Sometimes, you won’t even get one. But if you start low, you might get even more than you would have asked for in a Buy It Now. This happened to me with most of the items I sold this last time.
The reason for this is simple: psychology. At this point, eBay is more like Amazon than its original form. It’s a place to get just about anything, but there’s less chance to swoop in and get a crazy deal in an auction. People miss the chance to try and score big. They know it probably won’t happen, but it’s fun to try.
They’ll still usually bid up to a reasonable price because they become invested in the auction. And even if one buyer isn’t willing to go as high as you hope, the price has been bid up. Which means other people who see the amount and consider it reasonable will obviously have to bid higher. This adds up faster than you might think.
Remember the fees. When looking at completed listings, remember that those aren’t the end prices. Those are the amounts the seller will pay you. Once your item sells, you’ll have to pay fees.
A $50 item with $2 shipping will get you $43.69. That’s 9% of the selling price to eBay and 2.9% (plus 30 cents) of the total price to PayPal. And there’s the cost of an auction. Depending on how many pictures you use, you could be spending up to $1-2 to list.
Since my items usually ship for $3 or more, I just estimate 15% off of whatever selling price I expect. It’s a good way to not be shocked by the end price.
Make sure it’s worth your time/item. Depending on what the listings show, you may decide it’s not worth selling the item. It may be more trouble than it’s worth. Listings aren’t too bad, but you need to take good pictures, upload them to your computer and then complete the listing. Then you need to be sure you mail items in a timely fashion.
You also have to consider whether it’s worth giving up the item for the amount you’ll get. If you’re at all attached to the item, it may not be something you want to give up for a few dollars. So be sure you’re willing to give up the item no matter what the price ends up being.
Check your other options
Based on what you find in completed listings, eBay may not be the venue for you. Check out other options: Craigslist, flea markets and consignment.
Craigslist. Craigslist is the easiest of the three. You don’t have to go anywhere, and it costs nothing to post to the classifieds. If it doesn’t sell, it’s not a big deal. The hardest thing with this venue is that there’s no real way to know what prices people are willing to pay. I’ve seen people vastly overprice and vastly underprice items.
You can use eBay as a guide… to a point. You want to remember that you won’t be paying fees. So you should discount the asking price by that.
But you also have to be prepared for people to try and bargain. People will write you with offers that are way too low. Try not to be insulted. People are always trying to get a good deal. Just politely tell them that’s a little low and, if you like, make a counter offer.
Flea Markets. Depending on how much you have (and what it’s worth) you can look into a flea market. The tables are generally about $50.
If you don’t have enough, poll friends to see if they have anything collectible or just sell-worthy. My mom had a lot of toothpaste, deodorant, etc that she had gotten for free with rebates, coupons and sales. She sold a bunch off at a flea market when I decided to sell off a bunch of items.