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5 Tips For Selling Used Goods Online

We buy and sell a lot of goods online, and we were asked recently about how we handle the transactions. Today, we’re breaking down tips for selling second-hand items on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.

Catfish lounges on the living room sofa near Lucy's balance bike, which we found on FB Marketplace
sofa | pouf | table | art | pink strider (new)

If you’ve been around for awhile, you likely know that we love to save money. We’ve written about our strategies a few times (including Lucy’s Strider, above), but we’ve recently been getting quite a few questions from readers about how we sell goods on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist – safely (and during a pandemic).

“We just started using FB Marketplace for selling. Any tips or tricks for listing household items?”

1| Create a Great Ad + Know Your Audience

When listing an item for sale, the ad is obviously the first thing people will see to determine if they want to take the time to view your item in person or purchase it. These are our best tips to creating an ad that will grab attention:

  • Use clear, well lit, accurate photos. See: Kim’s tips for better phone photos.
  • Write an accurate description including any flaws or special features. Yes, even the flaws!
  • List dimensions and/or sizes of items when applicable. This will avoid a lot of initial back and forth while giving the potential buyer all the information they need up front.
  • Give a rough idea of your location or the location where you hope to meet up with a potential buyer (more on that later).
  • If possible, include a direct link to the new item from the manufacturers website.
The two second-hand beach cruisers that live at our Michigan Tree House.
Our Tree House beach cruisers – both scored second-hand!

We’ve all seen ads with blurry, crooked photos, no description and/or no indication of where the item is actually located. Do you find yourself more or less likely to contact the seller of these items or do you scroll right past them? Getting all of the relevant info out there up front can save a lot of time answering the same questions over and over. We recommend creating an ad that you would be drawn to, since potential buyers of your item are likely to have similar style, interests, or needs to your own. For example, a person who doesn’t have a toddler at home is less likely to be searching for a balance bike than someone who does, so appeal to fellow parents of young children. Make sense?

2| Price Accordingly

We have a general rule of thumb when selling gently used items – cut the original retail price by 50%, then adjust accordingly from there. If an item is really nice or barely used, add 10% – 15%. If it’s sealed or NIB (new in box), maybe add 15% – 25%. If your item shows some wear, maybe cut the price down by 10%. If you’re like us, the space created by selling items is sometimes as valuable as the money, so price for a fast sale, and be open to offers.

Our Chicago backyard featuring our vintage Preway fireplace, which was scored on Craigslist in Madison, WI.
Our vintage Preway fireplace was scored on Craigslist

“The market is tough here on the East coast! I have brand new items listed with only views. We are so motivated… and we keep cutting prices!”

We also usually add OBO (or best offer) to all of our prices to let people know that we’re open to a bit of negotiation. If we’re listing multiple items, it’s also a nice idea to propose a package deal. We recently sold some outdoor chairs and an umbrella and offered a $50 discount if the same person purchased everything. It cut down on interactions and scheduling hassles, so it was worth it to us!

3| Watch for Scammers

We recently listed an item for sale and almost immediately received a message from someone who said they were interested. I messaged them back, and they asked for my phone number. Something felt ‘off’ – the strange spacing of the letters was a red flag – so I clicked over to their public profile, and there it was right in front of me:

GASP! A SCAMMER! How could I tell?

A composite photo displaying how to spot a scammer on Facebook Marketplace.
Sorry, Chloe or whatever your real name is. You’re a sad faced scammer.
  • The profile had one photo, added only an hour prior
  • The person had zero Facebook friends
  • The messages they sent referenced ‘the item’ and not specifically what we were selling

Why did this person (or bot) want my phone number? Who knows? But I’m willing to bet they weren’t simply planning to send me occasional life-affirming text messages to brighten my day! Scammers are everywhere on the internet, and a little common sense goes a long way to avoid being taken advantage of.

4| Be Safe + Trust Your Gut

While avoiding scammers is certainly a concern, personal safety is likely more important, right?

I’m new to selling on FB Marketplace and Craigslist. How do you handle it from a safety standpoint? Do you give people your home address for furniture pickups? It makes me very nervous and any advice would be so helpful!

Scott hangs up his Craigslist bike next to our second-hand tandem, child carrier backpack, Lucy's bike and push car.

Almost everything with wheels in this photo was purchased second-hand! I bought the green bike in the parking lot of a Walgreen’s.

So how do we stay safe when selling items online? Here are just a few ways we manage transactions:

  • Handle all transactions during daylight hours
  • Don’t agree to any meetups alone. If possible, have a spouse/partner/roommate come outside with you or watch from a window
  • Don’t allow anyone into your home – transactions should be handled in the driveway or at the sidewalk
  • Have the buyer message you when they’re on their way with an ETA. This will keep you from being stood up
  • Tell or text the buyer “Please text me when you’re out front, and don’t knock or ring the doorbell. My dogs will go nuts!” Yes, even if you don’t have a dog! You just want the buyer to think you have dogs.
  • For smaller items, meet at a neutral space, like the parking lot of a grocery store or post office and let someone know where you’re headed and when to expect you back

The key here is to trust your gut. If you’re completely uncomfortable with at-home sales or you live alone, many local police and fire stations allow transactions to take place in their lobbies. Some municipalities even have a dedicated space or staff member that can oversee transactions.

5| Set Realistic Expectations

Keeping expectations in check is also important to avoid disappointment. Selling a limited-edition niche item with a very small buyer pool? It might take longer to sell than something like a TV or laptop with much wider market appeal. We’ve been collectively shocked when unique items have sold instantly. We’ve also had the opposite experience. Some items sell in a matter of a few hours. Some take weeks to move. Just be prepared to lower your price until you find the sweet spot of the value proposition. We’ve found that a 10% price decrease every 5-7 days helps.​​​​​​​

The sofa, chairs and coffee table in our former condo were all purchased, then subsequently sold on Craigslist!

Also, try to keep in mind that just because something is special or sentimental to you, that does ​​​​​​​not mean it holds as special of a place in the heart of a potential buyer. Stay optimistic, and focus on tips 1 through 4!

A Closing Caveat

We hope these tips are helpful! As always, these are simply tips that have worked for us in the past. Please use your own judgement when interacting with strangers online. So, what did we miss? Let us know your favorite tips in the comments!

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  • RC8.25.21 - 7:07 AM

    Great tips. One to add: I always photograph small items with a quarter or a ruler in the picture for scale…ReplyCancel

  • Lindsey8.25.21 - 9:08 AM

    These are all great tips! I love buying/selling stuff on facebook marketplace. When I’m selling, I like to also give the reason why I’m selling. Ie. Because I have a duplicate, or I’m updating a space, etc. Just so people realize that the item still works/has value. ReplyCancel

  • Claire8.25.21 - 9:43 AM

    Thank you for these tips!! Awesome post and so helpful! Can’t wait to start  making a little extra cash and knowing our items are going to be continued to be loved/used and not land in a trash dump somewhere. Love this! ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Laura8.25.21 - 10:07 AM

    So many scammy online sellers, but I’ve had mostly great luck with facebook marketplace (and before that craigslist). Don’t let anyone have you send them a code to verify that you are a real person- this is a common scam that I’ve seen many times. ReplyCancel

  • Southern Gal8.25.21 - 10:47 AM

    moving to a new old house i need so much more than in my previous apartments.  have been dipping into FB Marketplace and craigslist.  found some incredible deals on Woodard outdoor furniture (one required a six hour round trip to collect but was worth it for a one of a kind piece).   the thing that KILLS me is NO MEASUREMENTS in listings.  I just dont understand how people expect you to be interested in your item if there are no measurements!  it is just mind boggling.   (i find this equally on CList as FBM).   ReplyCancel

    • Kim8.25.21 - 11:45 AM

      Agreed! It’s best to get that out on the table, so to speak, to eliminate a lot of initial back and forth.ReplyCancel

  • Sophia Tran8.25.21 - 10:47 AM

    These tips are helpful!! I’d also add if the item comes from a smoke free home, and pet free/friendly too. ReplyCancel

    • Kim8.25.21 - 11:43 AM

      Good point! We recently had a sale go bad when the buyer noticed a dog hair, and they were severely allergic. It’s worth noting when listing!ReplyCancel

  • Alison8.25.21 - 10:58 AM

    I have felt frustrated before when people ask me to hold an item for days (weeks) and then ghost me.  I now say “first come/first served” or no holds to avoid missing out on potential buyers.ReplyCancel

    • Kim8.25.21 - 11:42 AM

      I’d suggest to never hold for more than 24 hours, and a hold requires a 10% deposit (via Venmo, Zelle, QuickPay, etc).ReplyCancel

      • Elle8.26.21 - 9:45 AM

        Agree, if there are multiple responses, I go back to the first person and tell them I need a deposit (depends on the total value, might be more like 20% or even half) if they can’t come within a few hours, to hold it.ReplyCancel

  • Bridget Morton8.25.21 - 11:16 AM

    On the scammer front: I DID give someone my phone number (their other messages semeed legit, and it made sense for our area), and they then tried to hack into my email account to bypass my dual factor authentication by asking for the “code Google just sent so I know you’re legit.”  Don’t forget that your email is linked to your Facebook, so this was a pretty savvy way for someone to try to seriously hack me.  Your friendly cybersecurity reminder to set up dual factor authentication and not share your codes with anyone!ReplyCancel

    • Kim8.25.21 - 11:44 AM

      Yikes! Thank you for sharing, Bridget.ReplyCancel

  • Emme8.25.21 - 1:49 PM

    Is Facebook Marketplace the new go-to for buying and selling? I don’t have FB and I’ve been wondering if that’s why it’s been harder to sell on CL. I’ll see people list on both, but I’m not sure where most of the buyers are anymore.ReplyCancel

    • Kim8.25.21 - 2:00 PM

      Great question! I’ve found Craigslist to be lackluster as of late. Not a lot of options and the same poor search functionality. FB Marketplace has gained in popularity and is easier to use – aside from their messenger (which has always been finicky for me).ReplyCancel

  • Sara8.25.21 - 2:50 PM

    These are all excellent tips. Other ways I have been approached by a scammer: ship it to me and I’ll send you the money once you send me the shipment verification. They will often try to sweeten the deal with adding $50/75 to the price as well as requesting you click through a link to verify the shipment. I try to avoid shipping for this reason. But if I do I always require the money up front. ReplyCancel

  • Allyson8.27.21 - 8:39 AM

    Love your tips for pricing! I have been looking for baby items and it’s been discouraging to see lots of beat up stuff listed for close to retail. I get that people want to make their money back, but if I’m only going to save $20-30 on a stroller that retails for hundreds, I’ll just get a brand new one that’s under warranty…ReplyCancel

  • Michelle8.31.21 - 7:59 AM

    I wouldn’t necessarily assume that someone with only a couple of FB friends is a scammer.  I only use FB for Marketplace and therefore only have 5 friends.  But the other things mentioned about not mentioning the item, requesting your phone number etc. are red flags for a scammer for sure!ReplyCancel

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We’re Kim + Scott, Chicago based content creators behind the Home + Lifestyle brand Yellow Brick Home.

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