You Started Your Home Clean Out, Now What?

A guide to selling possessions

in the second-hand market

You’ve finally decided to take a step towards simplifying your life and your living environment by downsizing.  Now you are staring at a blank to-do list wondering how to get started and move forward.

The best place to start is by sorting and organizing the things in your home to determine what you want to keep and what you can live without.  After you have started the sorting process, there are many ways to disperse items that you don’t want to keep. In this post, I will lay out the options to consider if you want to sell some of your possessions.

The appeal of selling your unused possessions is twofold.  First, it puts a little cash in your pocket, which is always a positive.  Second, you can feel good about the fact that the things that mattered to you are going to people who truly want them.  It is satisfying to know that the furniture and collectibles you cherished won’t sit in a box in someone’s attic but will be displayed and enjoyed.

On the flip side, there is effort involved in determining fair prices, negotiating sales and coordinating delivery.  This article will help you to figure out what your options are and, if selling on the secondhand market is right for you, how to start the process.

Define the second-hand market

The second-hand market includes any item that is not being sold for the first time. We will look at options available for people to sell things they own directly to other people as well as options for partnering with an established business to handle the sales.

Familiarize yourself with  the status of the second-hand market

In our society, most Baby Boomers were happy to inherit items from their parents. They filled their homes with items that they loved as children, plus the newer ones they began collecting themselves.

The younger generation however does not hold the same value in “stuff”, so the traditional way of passing down mementos is going away. In fact, Baby Boomers are often holding on to not only their parent’s passed down items and their own items, but their adult children’s items as well!

Additionally, many young people can’t afford a house now due to increased prices and interest rates. Others simply don’t want to tie themselves to a house and all the responsibility that home ownership brings.  They prefer to spend their money on experiences instead of things.

As the older generations begin to come to grips with this new way of thinking and start downsizing their possessions (and their parents’ possessions), the second- hand household goods market is completely saturated. This is affecting the demand and prices in the second-hand market.

Understand what will make you successful selling second-hand market items on your own

  • Communicate Honestly: It is important to describe the condition of your item accurately. Be honest about any defects, repairs or wear and tear. The worse thing you can do is oversell or exaggerate the value or condition of the items you are selling.  Many of the on-line markets include a review and rating system and you want to make sure that you receive high marks from the people who buy from you.
  • Price competitively: Pricing in the second-hand market can vary widely. Factors like brand, condition, age and rarity can affect the value. Geographic location can also influence what a buyer is willing to pay. Research prices on comparable items that have sold to set a fair price and increase your chances of selling. Remember, just because it is antique or collectible doesn’t mean it is valuable. Don’t be surprised if you find you won’t be able to sell an item for as much as you thought.
  • Decide on payment options: Cash transactions are common for local deals. Online transactions often involve digital payment methods. Research and create accounts to handle secure payment options. Be vigilant and do your due-diligence to make sure you are dealing with reputable on-line vendors.
  • Research legal/tax rules: Familiarize yourself with laws and regulations related to selling on the second-hand market. Certain items may be subject to regulation and in some cases, taxes may be owed on sales.
  • Prepare to negotiate: Be prepared to negotiate, especially when selling locally. Setting a reasonable price is a good start, and having some flexibility will ensure that your items will sell.
  • Keep documentation: Keep receipts, copies of agreements made and messages regarding the transaction in case of a legal or tax question.
  • Make safety a priority: When meeting in person for transactions, prioritize safety. Meet in a public area for smaller items, move larger items outside your home for pick up by buyers that you don’t know, and have a friend with you.
  • Never be afraid to ask for help: You probably know people who have sold items on their own.  Ask them what they recommend and what tips they have for you.   When researching on-line options someone from the younger generation may be able to provide helpful safety and security tips.

Research the best marketplace to sell your goods

The type of marketplace that will work best for your objects depends on what you are selling and the time you have to complete the sale. Each marketplace will have its own rules, fees, and clientele, so gather the necessary information to help you choose one that best suits your needs.

First, decide if you want to sell locally or online. Selling locally is preferable for large items that are hard to ship. Selling online can broaden your reach to include a global audience. Remember, different items may require using different options – it is helpful to understand where you can get the biggest payback.

Choose the second-hand marketplace that fits your needs

  • Estate sale/auction

Estate sale vendors are experienced professionals who specialize in organizing and conducting sales. They have a following of regular buyers and utilize other various marketing channels to reach a broad audience. They are skilled in presenting items to appeal to buyers and know how to enhance the items perceived value. They understand the current market, have knowledge about a wide variety of items, know how to research values, and how to attract buyers. Using an estate sale vendor can save you a lot of time and effort especially if you have a large estate to liquidate. They aim to maximize the returns for your items. Since estate sales can be emotionally challenging, especially during difficult times, hiring a vendor can alleviate stress associated with the process, allowing you to focus on more important things.

Estate sale vendors typically charge a percentage of the total sales as their fee. This can range from 30% to 50% or more depending on the services they provide. If the estate doesn’t have high-value items, this should be factored into your decision. When you hire a vendor to conduct a sale or auction you relinquish some control over the process in exchange for efficiency.  If vendors are not specialists in a certain category of items, the vendor will need to do some research or the item may be undervalued. It is important to communicate openly about the value of items or find a specialist to help you sell specific items of high value. Coordinating schedules with estate sale vendors and auctioneers can sometimes be challenging especially during peak times. Plan well in advance to secure the services of a reputable vendor.

  • Yard/Garage sales

Having a yard or garage sale is a low-cost way to declutter and collect some extra cash. You might even consider organizing a neighborhood sale to appeal to more buyers in the local community. Selling items at a garage sale allows for buyers to inspect items in person which leads to quicker transactions than other methods.

Organizing a yard sale requires significant time and physical effort, from sorting and pricing items, to setting up and managing the sale. And don’t forget to put up lots of signs so that you can attract the most people.   Word of mouth is not enough, especially if you have a lot of items to sell or you are not holding the sale on a heavily traveled street.  Yard sales have a limited local reach and bad weather can negatively impact attendance and sales. Buyers at yard sales expect low prices, so be prepared to haggle.

Make sure to prioritize safety at your sale. Set up in a secure location, bring all items outside (don’t let strangers into your home when you are alone) and have someone else present with you at all times during the sale. If you have a sentimental attachment to anything you are selling, letting go at a yard sale can be emotionally challenging; especially if buyers are aggressive negotiators. Finally, you will have to decide what to do with items that didn’t sell which may require boxing the items for donation delivery/pick up or hiring someone to haul it away.

  • Consignment stores

Consignment stores can help you clear out space in your home without the need to manage the selling process. You drop off your items and the consignment vendor takes care of pricing, displaying and selling them at a brick-and-mortar store. Since the consignment store handles most aspects of the sale, there is less time and effort on your part. Consignment store staff is typically knowledgeable about the categories of items they accept. They can expertly determine market value and pricing strategies based on current market trends. Most stores don’t charge upfront fees. You pay a commission (usually 30-60%) when your item sells.

Consignment stores are selective about the items they accept. If your items don’t meet their criteria, they may not take them. Once you deliver your items, you give up control over the selling process including pricing, presentation, negotiation, and timing of sales and payments to you. Some stores will provide pick up of large items for a fee, but typically you are responsible for delivering accepted items to the store.

  • Online platforms

Online platforms like Craigslist, Ebay, Facebook Marketplace and national auction sites provide access to a vast, global audience. This may increase your chances of selling your items especially if they are niche market pieces. Buyers can shop anytime of the day or night and most platforms are user-friendly which provides flexibility for buyer and sellers. The competitive nature of online marketplaces attracts buyers looking for deals and unique items. Reputable platforms usually offer secure payment options that protect all parties.

Most online platforms charge fees or commissions for each sale. Some are due at the time of listing and some are due after the sale. All parties are subject to the policies and terms of service of the platform, so make sure you understand those. Be prepared for intense competition. Online marketplaces are known for having a large volume of sellers, so standing out in the crowd may require additional effort. You will need to have a plan for shipping items including packaging, labeling, pick up and the payment of shipping costs.

  • Word of mouth

Downsizing your belongings by selling to people you already know and “friends of friends” is appealing because of the low cost and simplicity. Most people are more than willing to help connect friends and acquaintances when there is a benefit to each party. Word of mouth can help you easily gauge your pricing and adjust as needed. Selling to a “friend of a friend” can potentially make it easier to let go of treasured items.

Word of mouth selling has a limited reach because of the reliance on personal connections. It may take more time to find a buyer and you may need to repeatedly remind friends and family that you are looking to sell your items. This method tends to have success with practical items of higher value such as cars, recreational vehicles and furniture.

Start slowly and branch out as you get more comfortable and experienced

Overall, selling personal possessions in the second-hand market can have practical, financial and lifestyle related benefits if you have the time and energy to navigate the process.  Remember you don’t have to sell everything at once. Start slow and test the waters.  You will most likely find that there are certain platforms and options that suit you better.  Don’t get pulled into doing what someone else has done. Look at what your goals are for selling in the second-hand market and use the options that work best for you!

If you need help organizing, sorting or packing for a move, give Silver Pathways a call today.