Sunday, April 13, 2014

How I Sell on eBay

I am back with my series on the resources we used to sell things when we downsized. Today I will cover eBay.

 eBay was one of the first resources I ever used to sell things.  I started back in 2003, and for a few years even had a small eBay business where I sold for other people.  I feel I am fairly well versed in eBay.  I have made good money selling clothing we no longer wear, but also home school books, text books, and even yarn! I am only going to talk about things I have experience selling; so for those of you who would like more information on how to sell things other than what I talk about here, I would suggest you check out eBay's selling pages.  There is a wealth of information on their website that walks you through each step.

It all started back in 2003 when I was really into buying name brand clothes for my children as well as myself.  When my children outgrew their clothes or I decided I no longer wanted mine, I would sell them on eBay.  Name brand children’s items sell very, very well on eBay; provided that they are free of holes and stains.  I would almost always buy name brand clothing new, but on sale.  Many times when I would go to sell the items I would end up making a profit because I would sell them for more than I paid for them new.  This only applied to the name brand clothes that you get at high end department stores - Gap, Gymboree, and so on.  I would strategically put these items on eBay at the optimal time.  For instance, I would list my kids' previous years Christmas outfits the first week in November.  I would list their Easter outfits 4-8 weeks before Easter.  Summer clothes would be listed in mid-April and fall/winter clothes in late-August or September.  I would put these on auctions with a low starting price but also with a buy-it-now for a pretty high price. Sometimes the auctions would have a bidding frenzy the last hour where the items would sell for more than I bought them new!  If not, at least I would re-sell for a good amount making the total paid out of pocket for high end items relatively low.  I also sold lower end brands on eBay in lots; 5-10 items.  These also sold very well.

I also have used eBay over the years to sell my name brand used clothes.  Adult clothes do not sell as well as children’s, and for most items you are better off taking them to a consignment store, but there are a few adult items that sell well on eBay where you end up getting far more per item than if you sold it on consignment.  The adult items that sell well on eBay are:

  • Name Brand Handbags – These would be brands such as Coach, Dooney & Burke, Prada, Brighton, etc. These are ones usually found at higher end department stores.  These need to be gently used without stains or markings.

  • Women’s Name Brand Jeans - These would be jeans you would buy at higher-end department stores or The Buckle, etc. Brands would be Miss Me, Rock Revival, Joe Jeans, Paige Denim, to name a few.  They would also be a current style no more than a year or two old and in excellent condition.

  • Name Brand Shoes - Again, higher end and little wear is the best. Men’s work boots or cowboy boots also sell well with minimal wear. (But unlike women most men wear their shoes until they wear out.) J

Now I know many of my readers do not buy name brand clothing for themselves or their children. There are still many, many things you can sell!  Here are a few other things I have sold over the years

  • Books – These are not huge money makers, but if you can make a dollar or two on each book it really adds up.  Books are easy to list and ship too. I suggest listing most books at a fixed price buy-it-now.  If you home school, those books sell extremely well.  Especially if you list them in July or August. I have sold used home schooling textbooks for up to $20 per book before! During July I list these home school books on auctions and often get bidding frenzies that send the selling price way up.  Any other month I sell these at a fixed price listing.

  • Yarn/Craft/Scrap-booking Supplies– I once sold for a lady who had many boxes of yarn left over from years of knitting projects.  She thought she could get a few dollars on the old yarn. I was hesitant to sell these because I didn't think they would be worth the effort to list.  Now if you think about it, many people out there are working on projects and run out of yarn, only to find out the yard is retired and cannot be found in stores.  So they have a half finished baby blanket for their granddaughter and no yarn to be found! eBay is great for looking for or selling items that have been retired.  This is true for many craft items! I listed the yarn on eBay thinking I would maybe make $2-$3 on each skein of yarn.  I was wrong!  Some skeins sold for over $20 a piece!  By the time the lady had cleaned out her boxes of old yarn she had made several hundred dollars!  Like I said, craft items sell very well. These items are best listed on auction, but if you have a price in mind you want for it, use fixed listings and set buy-it-now price.

  • Lower End Children’s Clothing - Brands such as Old Navy, Target’s brand, and items bought at other department stores - sold in lots of 5-10 items. Make sure these are in excellent condition, free of stains or holes.  Make sure they are the same size.  Having a few coordinating outfits in the lot helps the sale, too. Again, list these items right before the season or holiday they are appropriate for, optimum sales!

  • Smaller Household Items – These may be items you thought you would use but never did.  Kitchen items from Pampered Chef or smaller items from other home-party places sell great!  I only sell lighter items on eBay and save heavier items for craigslist.

  • Smaller Antiques – If you feel comfortable in the value of your smaller antique eBay may be the place to sell it.

  • Smaller Electronics – Gaming systems in working order, games, and ipods; even phones sometimes can fetch a fairly good price.  Not everyone can afford to buy new, so your old item might be just in their price range!

Before I list anything on eBay I research my items I am going to sell.  I do a search on eBay seeing what the exact items are going for from other sellers.  I also try to find out what the item sold for new and price my items accordingly.

After the research I take pictures.  Use a good camera and take picture at many different angles.  This does not apply to books.  Usually I only take 1-2 pictures of books, but leave a detailed description.

Many people are confused on how to list, whether to use Buy-it-Now, auction, or both.  I used to list only on auction, but now I use a fixed price listing and have a Buy-it-Now price only.  Auctions are nice for those items that are in high demand as you are more likely to get a bidding frenzy. When you have things listed at a fixed price it may take a bit longer to sell, but when it does you know you will get the price you want for the item.

eBay allows 50 items to be listed per month without a listing fee. After the first 50 there is a small fee per item to list it.  This fee is charged whether the item sells or not.  (Certain categories are not eligible for free listing, but I have never ran into this being a problem. Check eBay for a detailed list, but I believe it is for cars and other high priced items.)  eBay charges a final value fee of 10% on your selling price, plus shipping.  So if you sell an item for $10 with $4 shipping your eBay fee would be $1.40.

Before you begin selling it is wise to have a PayPal account set up for accepting payments through eBay.  PayPal will also charge you a fee when people pay you, so be mindful of these fees when pricing your items.  But PayPal is worth having so people can pay you without having to mail a check.  PayPal takes care of processing debit and credit cards and e-checks.

So now you have done your homework, taken pictures, and set up your eBay and PayPal account.  It’s time to list your item!  Write a good title and detailed description. If you are unsure of how to do this, eBay has many good tips on writing good descriptions and titles on their selling page.  Try to get all the most important information in the title; like brand name, size, condition, etc. If you are selling clothes or handbags, measurements are nice to include in the description and also how you have cared for the item. (Example – This pair of jeans has a 30 inch waist, 8 inch rise, and 32 inch inseam.  These have been washed on cold and hung to dry.)  For books you can enter the ISBN number on eBay which will pull up the description of the book, the author, and copyright year.  Then you should only have to write about the condition of the book. Be honest about any flaws that the item may have.  Like I said last time, people still buy things with small flaws; you will just get a lower price.

Once your item sells, package them well and ship promptly. Invest in bubble wrap and craft paper for packing breakable items or to keep books from shifting around in a box.   Shipping through the USPS is what I have always used.  I ship media mail for books, textbooks, and learning materials; and use priority for everything else. If you have a heavier item, see if it will fit in a flat rate priority box to save you money.  The USPS also has free shipping boxes for priority mail, which saves you having to find a box or pay money to buy one.  I do buy shipping materials for mailing media mail which come out to about $0.35 per box.  I buy smaller boxes in packages of 25 and 10x15 bubble wrap mailers off of Amazon to ship my books in. If you plan to sell things regularly I also suggest buying a postal scale so you can weigh and print your own shipping label at home.  A scale can be picked up for $15 -$20 on eBay and when you weigh and print your own shipping labels at home it is cheaper than mailing from the post office.  It is a good idea to weigh your item before you list it so you know what the shipping cost will be. You can get a quote from  That way there are no surprises when you go to ship your items.  I have been burned a few times when I did not weigh my items before and they cost me a lot more to ship than expected!

Another thing I have done, especially with my fixed listings is provide free shipping.  I list my item at a higher buy-it-now but the cost of shipping is included in the selling price.  I also give people the option with my fixed price listings of sending me an offer. I will list my item at the highest price I can see getting for the item based on my research beforehand.  Sometimes people will buy it for that price, but sometimes people will shoot me a lower price, and then I can decide if I want to accept, decline, or counter.

So those are basically the tips I have.  It really isn't complicated, especially once you have done it a few times.  Start small, listing just 1 or 2 items to get the hang of it.  And if you have any questions feel free to shoot me an email.


  1. Good review of eBay. I have always been afraid of it, not sure why. We usually just list our stuff on Craigslist or wait for the annual community garage sale. I might have to try eBay now.

    1. I love craigslist too! I use it for larger, heavier items. When we moved to Virginia I used craigslist for selling our entire living room furniture.

  2. I've been waiting for this post :) Thank you for all the helpful tips. A friend told me about Poshmark for selling purses and other clothing items. Have you ever used them? Have a great Easter weekend :)

    1. Glad you stopped by! I have not heard of Poshmark. I may have to check that out! Have a great Easter as well!