How To

Empty Your Closets, Fill Your Bank Account

Chances are, you own lots of items that are worth something to someone—you just need to know where and how to sell them for the best potential profit. Here are the ways you can prosper (mentally and financially) by getting organized, and turning “trash into treasure.”

Ebay

James Massey is the founder of What Sells Best, a site that provides a real time peek into what’s hot on eBay. He advises that potential eBay sellers keep note of what’s on the list to “become familiar with the styles, names, and types of rare items that generally fetch the highest prices.” Massey says that items in the “top-bracket” typically have a 95 percent sell-through rate. If you have inherited china or antiques that you have no use for, his site also offers a page with links to research antique values at various venues, including eBay, Christie’s and PBS Antiques Roadshow.

Keep in mind that while eBay can expose you to a wide audience, you will have to contend with shipping, and possibly, insurance riders, when selling precious goods like furniture, jewelry, antiques and wedding gowns.

Craigslist

Elaine Crain, founder of Austin Sugarworks, has been reselling items for years, but recommends always starting with Craigslist, except in the case of clothing and books.

She says that Craigslist is a great venue to maximize profit, because it’s free and localized, so that you can avoid shipping costs and hassles. Nevertheless, it has its own set of nuances that sellers should understand to be successful.  “If you want to sell your item for your full price, take several good photos of the item, write a detailed and honest description, and make sure your pricing is either higher than you would ideally get, or if it’s the lowest you are willing to take, let people know that,” says Crain.

Craigslist produces results by the most recent post date and keywords; maximize your exposure by crafting ad copy and headlines with appropriate search terms.  If items don’t generate interest within two weeks, Crain recommends moving on to eBay, consignment, or a yard sale.

Online Niche Sites

Designer Clothes

If you’ve got a closet full of designer items, check out TheRealReal, a site targeted specifically to the resale of high-end brands, like Tory Burch, Rag & Bone, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton.  Consignors based in Dallas, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles can arrange for item pick up by TheRealReal team; other sellers can get reimbursed for shipping costs once the first item sells.  CEO Julie Wainwright says that consignors can earn up to 70% back based on their sales level, compared to a brick and mortar consignor, which generally offers a 50/50 split.

Electronics

If you have cast aside old laptops, smartphones, video games, monitors, and televisions for a newer model, Gazelle can be a good resale venue.  The site allows you to request a bid on the item you’re selling, so you know exactly the profit you’ll make.  Because Gazelle buys the item direct from you, you won’t command the price you might by going about the sale alone, but you will get quickly, and shipping is free.  If you’ve got older, or even broken, electronics collecting dust, check out NextWorth. Though payout only comes in the form of Target gift cards, it may be a place to get something for electronics that are deemed “value-less,” elsewhere.

Books

For books in good quality, Amazon is the place to be, particularly for recent college textbooks. The process is simple: list your items on Amazon, and price them based on other like items. Once you set your price, Amazon will provide the final breakdown of what you’ll actually make, less site fees and commissions, if the items sell. Amazon also issues a partial shipping credit to help absorb shipping costs (although you will likely have to a portion of the balance).

Consignment

Chrissy Freeman, co-founder of Consignment Mommies says that for brand name or boutique children’s clothing, large toys, playhouses, DVDs and books, consignment is the way to go. When consigning, presentation and timing are key. “Sellers must make sure all clothing is laundered and pressed, and toys should be cleaned and include all parts. Consign clothes a few months before the ‘next’ season– fall consignment season begins in June in many parts of the country,” she says. While dropping items off at a consignment store and getting paid on the spot is the easiest way to go, “patience is a virtue” in consignment, to make the most profit. Freeman says that “seasonal children’s consignment sales offer families the biggest and quickest bang for their buck.  These week- or weekend-long sales offer 50 to 80 percent profit to sellers, quick payouts, and a ton of traffic in a short period of time.”

Donation

Though you won’t make cash outright by donating gently used items, there are still financial benefits in the form of tax deductions. (You must file any non-cash charitable contributions worth more than $500). When packing up items for donation, The Salvation Army suggests making an itemized list to expedite the process of obtaining an accurate receipt, and offers a helpful link for determining the potential value of all donated goods.

Yard Sales

Old fashioned yard sales have not lost their audience, and any big, bulky item that is not unique, and will cost a significant portion of your time and money to ship elsewhere, might be worth unloading from the comfort of your own home. Lawn mowers, snow blowers, grills, baby strollers, furniture, and bikes make candidates, both for their ability to draw traffic, and potentially maximize the sale of other items. (Plus, you’ll get cash, on the spot). Try to join a community garage sale event for the largest audience, and least amount of marketing work required of you.

Stephanie Taylor Christensen is a former financial services marketer based in Columbus, OH. The founder of Wellness On Less, she also writes on small business, consumer interest, wellness, career and personal finance topics.