A Step-by-Step Guide for Selling Used Goods Online

For years, I've lived in smaller spaces.  While my space isn't entirely small now, it's smaller when compared to someone residing in a detached house.  Because of this, a consistent purge of excess 'stuff' is crucial.


In our home, when something comes in (we buy something new), something (or things) need to go out. 


My options for disposal generally include; garbage/recycling, donation, consignment or online selling.  As throwing away, donating and consigning is relatively self-explanatory, I thought providing a guide for online selling could be useful as it's not too commonly leveraged.


I absolutely thrive on selling my used stuff online, AND I've made a good chunk of change doing it.  I've had years where I've earned a few thousand dollars - with little to no effort required.


A great example of online selling was my need for a temporary dresser.  I found a dresser that would serve it's intended purpose for a short time.  Once I was finished with it though, I had no method of disposing of it.  I didn't have a vehicle that could accommodate it, and on my own, I had no way of moving it from my home into said vehicle anyway.


So, I posted it online, receiving numerous inquiries in minutes, and ultimately had someone pay me to buy it AND they removed a dresser I had no other way to get rid of.  What a deal!!


Below I'll walk you through how to sell your used stuff online while including a case example of something I recently sold:


In order to do a trial run yourself, here's what you're going to need:


  1. A thing to sell.
  2. A camera (smartphone is easiest)
  3. Potentially a tape measure
  4. Internet
  5. A website to sell your selected item.


Below is a Step-by-Step Guide for Selling any Used Item Online


Step One:  Finding Something to Sell


Walking through your home, do you see items that are either duplicates, or things that are just not being used anymore?  Do you think someone else could benefit from their use? 


Ideas include:


  • Furniture
  • Jewelry
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Household appliances
  • Books
  • Décor (throw cushions, bedding)
  • Yard care items
  • Gaming Consoles
  • Bags / Purses
  • Sunglasses
  • Electronics of any Type (Cell phones, laptops, Printers, Scanners)
  • Athletic Equipment


Case Example:

In our household, we recently wanted to upgrade our barbecue.  We chose to sell the existing barbecue to offset the cost of the new barbecue.


Step Two: Decide Where to Sell It


In each community, there tends to be a 'go-to' site for online selling.  In Victoria, UsedVictoria.com is really popular.  In other communities, there are local Facebook groups dedicated to online selling, in addition to websites like: Craigslist.org, Kijiji.ca, varagesale.com, etc.


Case Example:

In the case of our barbecue, I decided to list it on both UsedVictoria.com and a local Facebook Buy and Sell Group.  Cross selling (posting on multiple sites) is a good way to get started.  This method allows you to find out where most interest comes from, so you can decide where to focus your efforts in the future.


Step Three: Take Photos


Prior to taking photos of whatever you've chosen to sell, ensure the item itself is tidy.  If it has cords, coil them neatly.  If it has a screen or surface, ensure it's dust/grime free.  Polish the item so it looks as close to new as possible.  Ensure that only the item itself is depicted in the photos.  Ensure there is no mess from your house in the background of the photos when possible.


A prospective buyer is more likely to feel good/safe about the item you sell, when the photos appear tidy and clean.  Dodgy photos result in wary buyers. 


Take your photos from multiple angles.  If you item opens and closes, take photos in both cases.  If you intend to include accessories, take a photo of the included accessories as well.  In general 4 or 5 photos should suffice.


Case Example:

Below are the photos I included for our BBQ ad.  Note that I didn't include a photo of the grill, as the grill wasn't entirely clean, and our bbq tools were packed away to make it clean.  Of course, many of the inquiries I received questioned the state of the grill surface.  I was able to get around this by explaining why I hadn't taken the picture.


Step Four:  If Applicable, Measure Your Item


When selling larger items like: furniture, televisions, and large appliances; the measurements can be really helpful to a prospective buyer.  Rather than wasting both your time and theirs, measure your item in advance of placing your ad. 


Take note of the height, width, and depth, as these will be included in your online description.


Step Five: Research and Price your Item


This step really includes two sub-steps.  In researching your item, you'll want to get a sense of how much others are asking for similar used items.  In addition, you'll want to find out the cost of your used-item in it's brand new state.  In other words, you can't ask the same price, or more, than that which the same item would cost new.  Also, your chosen price will have to be competitive with the other 'for sale' used items.  So, less than the new price, and similar to, or less than, other used-but-similar items.


Your objective is creating a reason for someone to buy used over new, and to buy your used item over someone else's used item.  More often than not, this motivation is created by a low-price offering, but can also be created if your item is in better condition, or if it has additional features, when compared to other existing used offering.


To get started, visit the site/sites you've decided to sell on.  Search for items similar to yours.


Here's a snapshot of what I see when trying to decide on a price for my bbq:

 UsedVictoria.com's BBQ Search Results

UsedVictoria.com's BBQ Search Results


Then, I went on Home Depot's website to see what something similar would cost new.

Pricing your item isn't a perfect science.  In my case, I now know that the brand new price is $530 and I can see that others are asking between $90 and $250 for used options.  As I feel my barbecue is a superior brand to those that are listed as used, and because I'm including a cover and the propane tank, I decide to price it at $250.


I could likely push the price to $300, but since I want it gone fast, I stick with $250.


Note:  In the event you're totally stuck on what to choose for price, you can advertise as 'Best Offer' so the 'market' in a sense can dictate what the price should be.


Step Six: Draft a Description.


Now you want to write a description to be read by any prospective buyer.  I believe that less is more for most ads.  You should include: the item name, the brand, the model number (if known), the general condition of the item, the dimensions, the accessories to be included, and anything else you feel is relevant. 


If, in the course of your research, you find a retailer selling the new version of the item, it can be beneficial to include that link in your description as well - this not only provides loads of additional feature details, it also demonstrates the gap in pricing between your 'good deal' and the much higher price of the new version.


Also, if your used item can be found new online, you can also hand pick some of the verbiage on other retailers sites as a cue for what you might like to write.


Here is the brief description of BBQ Ad:


Title: $250 · Weber Q220 BBQ with Igniter


Selling as we upgraded to bigger Weber. 



Weber Q220 with Two Folding Work Tables

Weber BBQ Cover

Propane Tank



30 inches deep, 55.5 inches high, 50.2 inches wide.


Please call/text if interested 123-456-7899.


Step Seven: Post Your Ad


Follow the guidelines of whichever platform you leverage to advertise your item.  Each one will have it's own set of rules, but in most cases, you're essentially guided through the posting process.  I usually include my phone number rather than email, as it's much quicker to answer questions and tee up meeting times over text/phone.  Email communication tends to lag and risks being caught in spam filters too.


Here is my Final Ad at it Shows on UsedVictoria.com:



Step Eight: Closing a Sale


You may receive multiple inquiries for your item.  I usually try and honor the first person who expresses interest (so long as their willing to pay me full price and can come get the item ASAP).  In the event they can't connect with me that same day, I would entertain selling the item to a subsequent buyer.  After I secure a time to meet a buyer, I tell all subsequent interested parties, that I expect to sell the item to someone else but in the event the sale falls through, I will let them know and they'll have the next option to buy.


Tip:  Never communicate your item as 'sold' until you have the money in your hands.


Note:  Some sites have very specific rules for which order inquiries should be dealt with and how long a prospective buyer has to come forward and complete the purchase.  Ensure you read the rules on any site you utilize.


In the event your item receives no attention and you're left with no interest from buyers, you'll need to readjust your price.  In most cases it's worth evaluating your pricing at the end of each week or every two weeks.  Interest should increase as you move the price down.  Deciding how much to decrease is at your own discretion.


Case Example:

In the case of the barbecue, I had multiple inquiries quickly.  When this happens, I get more rigid in my price (I will not negotiate), as I know I have plenty of buyers to choose from.  In this case, I didn't sell to the first person who inquired, rather the first person who was able to meet me, pay me, and take the barbecue away.


Step Nine:  Meeting a Buyer and Safety Concerns


Four keys points come to mind when it comes to safety: finding a good place to meet a buyer, avoiding scams, advertising the truth of your item, and in the case of some electronics, deleting your personal data.



Where to Meet a Buyer


For those who live in detached homes, it can be best to meet a prospective buyer during daylight hours near a busy public space.  Somewhere like the parking lot of a shopping mall or the like.  Be sure to bring a friend along.  For those who live in condos, the same type of meeting place is adequate, or depending on the size of building you reside in, the lobby of your building may be sufficient.  The objective, when possible, is to meet somewhere other than your home and where you're not alone.


In the event you plan to meet a buyer alone, ensure you let a friend know: who you're meeting; when you're meeting them; and how long your meeting should last. 


Larger items can prove to be challenging for meeting a buyer elsewhere.  In the case of a larger item, like a sofa, the buyer likely has to come to your home.  In this case, leave your front door ajar during the meeting and ensure that you are not alone.  Do not allow a buyer into your home unless you have someone else with you.


Avoiding Scams

Craigslist is riddled with scams.  To be honest, I'm not sure how they operate or what they aim to do, but they will email or text questions about your item.  The tip-off can be an unusual area code and/or questions about your item that are easily discernable when looking at the ad. 


For example, if I'm selling a bag, the scammer might ask what color it is or the price I'm asking.  If they were actually considering my ad, they would be looking at the color (through the photos) and the price in the headline.  This should tell you something isn't quite right with the buyer. 


The dialogue usually continues whereby the scammer will ask if they can email the money and if you can ship the item.  NEVER accept a request for emailing money.  Ensure you accept cash only and in-person purchases only.


If you begin feeling trepidatious about an inquiry, do not respond or engage...simply wait for the next inquiry.


Advertising the Truth of your Item

Honesty is always the best policy.  If you're disposing of an item because it's flawed in some way, or it frustrates you for whatever reason, it is always best to convey this to a buyer.  It doesn't necessarily have to be listed in the ad description, but it should be conveyed before you meet the buyer.


An example of this was a washer/dryer I sold a few years ago.  The truth was that the washer and dryer worked perfectly, but the wash cycle alone ran for 2.5 hours.  It took days to get a set of bedding washed then dried.  The buyer asked why I wanted to sell, so I told him.  While it operated perfectly, the wash cycle was too long for our needs.  Since his intention for purchasing the set wasn't for his home, but his cottage, he proceeded with the purchase anyway. 


I felt good about being transparent and he knew exactly what he purchased - a win-win for both.


Deleting Personal Data

When selling used cellphone, laptops, and computers, it is imperative to delete all your personal data.  Keep in mind photos, messages, bank info, and passwords may have been stored on these kinds of devices at some point.  Some would argue that even when deleted, your personal data is potentially recoverable by a savvy techy person so you do take a risk when selling these items. 


To find out how to erase you personal information, google your item and the best way to purge data.  Simply erasing files one by one is usually not the best method for a sincere data wipe.


Research your options, but ensure you don't sell something used while providing your private personal information to a buyer.


I hope this guide helps you in some spring cleaning and puts more cash in your wallet.


If questions arise, will you ask me? 


Happy Selling!


Do you have favorite sites for online selling?  If so, what are they and why do you like them?