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A person packing boxes.

How to sell your stuff online

From clothes that don’t fit to a couch you no longer need, selling items you don’t use or want can be a win-win. You get to reap the rewards of decluttering your home and make some money in the process. A couple of decades ago, most of us would hold a garage sale to get rid of our stuff. These days, resale websites and online marketplace apps make it easy and convenient to sell practically anything 24/7.

These tips and best practices can help you cash in on your clutter — from preparing items for resale online, to determining the best places to sell them, to avoiding unscrupulous buyers.

Determine where to sell your gently used items

The best place to sell usually depends on the type of item you’re selling, and how much time and effort you’re willing to commit. For instance, does your item appeal to a wide audience or only select buyers interested in something very specific? Does the selling platform have features that are worth paying extra for, like dealing directly with the buyer so you don’t have to? Before you commit, be sure to review the selling process and fee structure for each site.

  • Broad marketplaces like Amazon.com and eBay® get higher traffic, so your item will be seen by a larger audience. They’re ideal for items that are in high demand, like video game systems and fitness products. With sites like eBay, you can open items for auction or set a specific price. On a broad marketplace, you’ll likely have to pay a percentage of the sale price to the site.
  • Specialty marketplaces like Etsy® or Poshmark™ are good for items that appeal to a specific audience looking for certain items, such as vintage items, clothing and crafts.
  • Local marketplaces — like Facebook® Marketplace, Nextdoor™ and Craigslist® — are good for selling larger items that would be difficult to ship, like furniture. You won’t reach as wide an audience as you would with a broad marketplace, but you’ll likely pay lower fees and can avoid shipping. Expect to do more of the work yourself, like meeting with the buyer in person to exchange the item and take payment.
  • Reseller marketplaces like ThredUp® and Gazelle® let you ship your items directly to them in exchange for immediate payment. You’ll likely get a lower price than if you sold the item yourself, but the convenience may be worth the price.

Prepare items for sale

Next, it’s time to prepare your items for sale in a way that will net you the highest profit. Follow these tips to get the most interest (and most money) for your items:

  • Clean your items and take several high-quality photos of each from multiple angles. Items tend to look better when photographed against a solid-colored background with natural light.
  • Write accurate, detailed descriptions, including relevant details like dimensions, color, material, age, etc. Be honest about the condition of the item.
  • Price items by researching recent sales of items similar to yours on the platform you plan to sell on.
  • Research terms that may be common in other listings that might also be relevant for your listing, such as local pickup only, smoke free or pet free item, etc.
  • Respond promptly to messages or questions from prospective buyers.

Factors to consider before you sell your unwanted items

Are you looking for a fast sale? Or are you willing to take your time in exchange for a higher sale price? Are you willing to negotiate with the buyer? How will you ship the item? Considering these factors and making decisions about them in advance can save you time and money (and stress). For instance, if you’re paying for shipping, consider increasing the price of your item to cover those expenses.

You may also want to consider potential tax implications. Starting next year, some sellers may receive a 1099-K from the IRS for online sales over a certain amount.

Tips for selling items safely and avoiding scams

Most people buy and sell items safely online and in person, but it’s a good idea to take precautions to avoid getting scammed. Consider these tips and best practices.

  • Never share your personal information (especially financial information) with the buyer.
  • Use the communication channel and payment method recommended by the platform you’re selling on. If the buyer wants to transact in another way, it could be a scam.
  • Don’t accept personal checks, wire transfers or money orders as payment. Use cash or payment apps like PayPal®.
  • If you’re exchanging an item in person, bring a friend or family member with you. Meet the buyer in a public place like a coffee shop or restaurant parking lot, or your financial institution for big ticket items like a car or boat. Many police stations are designated as SafeTradeSpots to make transactions safe for both parties. Confirm the place and time with the buyer shortly before the exchange to potentially avoid a no-show.
  • If you’re shipping an item, verify the shipping address, use tracking, request a signature upon delivery and consider purchasing shipping insurance.
  • Be aware of current scams and get additional tips and resources from the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer website and the Better Business Bureau.     

The best part about selling your unwanted items is that you’ll increase space and funds for the things you really want. Whether that’s an upcoming purchase you’ve had your eye on, long-term savings or paying off a debt, you’re now one step closer to your financial goals.


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