Guide to buying and selling second hand items online

9 minute read Published on Apr 8, 2021 by BrokerLink Communications

Guide to buying and selling second hand items online

In the words of Marie Kondo, do you have items in your home that no longer spark joy? Do you think they could spark joy for someone else?

With virtual classified markets appearing everywhere from Facebook to Etsy to Kijiji, buying and selling items online can be an easy way to declutter and make a little money on the side. Plus, shopping through these sites is an excellent opportunity to obtain something that is no longer available through direct manufacturers. Who doesn’t love a good vintage find? And best of all, buying and selling pre-loved items is great for the environment because it reduces items going to landfill.

Keep scrolling to learn all about this exciting way of shopping and how you can take part!

The new economy includes buying and selling online

Living in a pandemic has amplified how many of us are using online resources. Many people have turned to creative ways to make money – especially as some businesses and jobs have become precarious. Online selling through an-easy-to-use platform like Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace or Etsy is a great option to turn unused items into income support.

Here are some of the most popular used items bought and sold online:

  • Shoes
  • Vintage electronics
  • Video games and consoles
  • Collectible toys
  • Books
  • Brand name clothes
  • Vintage clothes such as band shirts
  • Pre-loved luxury handbags
  • Furniture

Take the time to declutter

There’s a saying: One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. In other words there’s no accounting for some people’s taste! So, if you have things laying around or in storage that you’re not using – even if you think they’re junk, go online and do a search to see if they have some kind of value and if so, put them up for sale!

Pottery, vases and other types of wares is an easy way to get rid of excess stuff and make money. While it may require some patience and practice, you can earn some extra cash by getting rid of things you no longer want.

Online selling tips

Take time to stage and photograph your items

Buyers tend to scroll right by listings with no photos or photos taken badly. Take time to set up or ‘stage’ your items to showcase them effectively. It’s important to factor in lighting, awkward angles and surroundings when you snap pictures. Etsy has a guide on product photography, so that’s a great place to start if you need extra help in this area.

Items should also be cleaned before you photograph them and definitely before you hand them over to the buyer.

Provide compelling descriptions

Describing things as “antique chair” in the listing isn’t enough. Potential buyers want to know the details. What’s it made of? How old is it? What are the dimensions? Are there any imperfections? What are the shipping costs? Answer any questions that you would want to know as a buyer up front. This transparency also increases the likelihood that someone will go through with the purchase. Plus it will save you time by reducing the number of questions you receive.

If you’re selling items to be picked up, specify: cash only or e-transfer. You can also add descriptors like ‘smoke-free’ or ‘pet-free’ home if you’re selling furniture or items where this could be an issue for people.

Be honest

Never lie about the condition of the item(s) you’re selling and be open in your communication with customers. If you’re selling a used device that no longer functions, be honest right away and include that information in the listing title. Many of these online marketplaces allow users to report or file claims against sellers who are falsely advertising, so it’s important to protect yourself from being involved in something like that.

Take safety precautions seriously

Selling used items online through Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist means that you may have to arrange an in-person meeting. Before you meet buyers, take safety precautions. Meet in public spaces or near your community police station. You may also want to do it with someone else around and during the day. If you’re selling larger items such as furniture that requires a pickup, move them outside of your garage so strangers do not have the opportunity to see your home.

Go small

When selling on sites like eBay, a good strategy for new sellers is to sell low-cost items for $50 or less. You’re less likely to experience scammers when the items being sold are cheaper and low-risk. Starting off by selling simple, inexpensive products will make it easier to learn the online platform too.

Encourage feedback

Customer feedback is crucial to the success on any marketplace platform. Buyers really count on comments and star ratings to determine if they will go forward with something or not. Cultivating a high rating is the best word-of-mouth advertising, but it will take time to build a positive reputation.

Expect hagglers

It’s recommended that you set prices slightly higher to account for haggling. You can also make it clear that you’re open to negotiation in your description. It may take time to learn how to set prices, but look around to see how other people set their prices and descriptions to give you an idea on what’s too high or too low. Prices set too high may cause people to keep scrolling, but prices set too low may imply it’s too good to be true.

Take shipping costs into consideration

The shipping process tends to be one of the tougher parts of online selling as it requires careful consideration so research shipping methods and costs before pricing items. Some sellers offer free shipping, but this must be factored in to your process accordingly. Do you plan on shipping internationally? If you do, customs forms may be required.

If shipping doesn’t appeal to you, stick to platforms that focus more on selling locally.

Categorize properly

Items that are categorized improperly are difficult for buyers to find. And on Facebook Marketplace, items placed in the wrong category can get you flagged or removed. If you’re selling something like a used bicycle, tagging it as a toy may mean that the right buyer never finds it.

Update your inventory

Keep an inventory of things you’d like to sell in an accessible place so you don’t have to search for them every time you need to fill an order. Taking extra time looking for things may delay shipping and result in frustrated buyers. Ultimately, you want a successful online business so being mindful of how you can make the process easier for yourself and the buyer will benefit you. You may also want to have some protocols in place for cyber security and items that may be damaged due to severe weather.

Advantages of buying and selling used products online: Disadvantages of buying and selling used products online:
  • No sales pressure
  • Can be operated from anywhere
  • No opening or closing time restrictions
  • More variety
  • Complicated return processes
  • Online scammers or fraud risk
  • Unfriendly user platforms
  • Shipping fees

Tips for buying second items online

Always ask the seller if the item is still up for grabs

This is a good habit as sometimes sellers forget to remove something that’s already been sold. You may find it happens more so on sites like Facebook because there are a variety of different pages people can be part of to sell. Before getting emotionally invested in something that’s no longer available, just send a quick email to the seller or comment on the post to ask.

Move fast

Once you have confirmed whether or not an item is still available, act fast. The online world of shopping can be tricky because there are hundreds of invisible shoppers seeing what you’re seeing. Even when details are being finalized, you could place an offer to secure your spot in the line. It may seem rude if you back out, but in online marketplaces, sellers are used to it and will just move on to the next person.

Inquire if the item’s price can be lowered

Sellers tend to set prices a bit higher because negotiation is expected. Meeting low-ball offers with counter offers is a common occurrence. This process tends to happen until both the seller and buyer are satisfied with the price. However, the current market decides how much an item is worth rather than how much the seller originally bought it for.

Sellers sometimes set a price based on the items retail cost. This gives wiggle room for negotiation as it’s expected that buyers will offer a lower price. If a seller has dropped their listing price, it’s a good hint that they are motivated to sell.

Consider shipping costs

When you’re eager to find something you want, you may forget about shipping or pickup. Before you finalize the sale, be sure you understand and settle on the more practical matters, such as:

  • How far away is the seller’s location?
  • Are they willing to deliver? If so, is there a fee?
  • Do you have a vehicle large enough to transport the item?
  • Is the item large and located in an apartment or condo on a higher floor?

Getting this information will help you deicide if it’s worth it and if the actual cost makes sense. Here are some things to factor in to the total price of an item:

  • Fuel to obtain it
  • Stress involved
  • Potential labour
  • Safety precautions

Research other platforms

Not all sites are the same for each location, and some apps may offer higher quality products more consistently. Read reviews from other users as this will help you watch for potential scams. Shop on several sites before deciding what makes the most sense for you. You’ll learn pretty quickly what your go-to online buying and selling platform will be, and if it will save you time or even money.

Turning your second hand sales into a business

If you want to create an online business for second hand items or crafts, your BrokerLink insurance experts are always here to help. Contact us if you need help insuring your business. We know it can be tricky trying to figure out where to start when it comes to business insurance, so we’ll walk you through your options and give you advice on what you’ll need and what you don’t. Get a free, no-obligation quote today!

Guide to buying and selling second hand items online FAQs

Can I post identical used stuff for sale at multiple online marketplaces?

Each site may have different rules and regulations, so it’s important you follow the guidelines set in place by whichever e-commerce sites you’re on. Be sure to read the rules carefully to avoid being removed as a seller. If you post the same items across different platforms and fail to remove what is sold, it may also result in a poor reputation. Be aware and stay on top of your online inventory to avoid any accidental mishaps!

Should I indicate if the second hand item I’m selling is damaged?

Yes, it’s important to be as transparent as possible as it may also affect the price. Being dishonest can also impact your reviews and rating, so always disclose as much as you can in the description.

How should I deal with refunds when selling second hand items online?

Every platform may have different protocols around refunds. Read the rules before you begin posting items for sale as refunds are a sensitive subject. If handled incorrectly or delayed, you may run the risk of buyers mistaking it as a scam. Some sites may also allow you to have a no-refunds policy in place. These sites often give buyers the ability to file a claim or report, so take the time to learn the ins and outs. It’s also important to maintain communication with the buyer throughout so they know what and when to expect a refund.