which is better, craigslist or a yard sale?
June 10, 2007 10:00 PM   Subscribe

which is better craigslist or a yard sale?

I live in the Dallas area and am moving soon. I have a lot of stuff I want to sell and i'm wondering whether selling on craigslist or hosting a yard sale is better. i don't really have an emotional attachment to the stuff i'm selling but most of it is pretty nice and is only about a year old. i'm talking about dupioni silk curtains ($80 original price for set of two), nice wooden curtain rods, a faux duvet comforter, a stereo, a dryer, possibly a TV (the electronics are about 5 years old), random cool decorative items, some clothes, etc. I need the money so i'm reluctant to price the stuff at giveaway garage sale prices, but i haven't had luck in the past selling on craigslist. i've been trying to sell a nice digital camera that way for a few weeks now and have had no responses. seriously, is anyone going to buy my curtains on craigslist?

Basically, I'd appreciate any tips for selling household items on craigslist along with advice about which selling method is best for my situation.
posted by djuna to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like eBay might be a better fit for you, for the stuff which can be easily shipped such as the curtains, comforter, the smaller electronics, and possibly the decorative stuff. The clothing will only sell on eBay if they are vintage or mid- to high-end brand name and in pristine condition. The heavier things, such as the dryer and the TV, are craigslist items as it will cost more to ship them then they are worth, thus they are strictly local pickup.

For all methods on online sale: the best way to sell is to describe the items fully, e.g. measurements, color, materials, brand names, age, condition, etc., and in language that is commonly used to describe said item (example: wtf is a "faux duvet"?). Spell check--because successful searches depend upon correct spellings--and include a lot of pictures in the post.

On craigslist, if your asking price is too high, you're not going to get many responses. Same for too-high reserves on eBay.
posted by jamaro at 10:17 PM on June 10, 2007

thanks for the tips. is it difficult for a first-time seller to be successful with ebay?
btw: faux means fake or imitation and a duvet is usually a down-filled comforter with a removable cover. in this case, "faux duvet" means that it's filled with a cotton blend instead of down.
posted by djuna at 10:27 PM on June 10, 2007

Regarding first time ebay sellers: everyone's gotta start somewhere. Do read up on the eBay/PayPal fee structures and figure out your shipping costs before you post to make sure you don't lose money on the auction. If you totally don't want to deal with it and your stuff is of sufficient value that it can absorb the cost of paying a commission, take it to one of those storefront operations where they will post it and manage the auction and shipping for you.

(I know what faux and duvet mean. My point is no one uses that particular combination of words to describe what you have. Go ahead and google "faux duvet" and you'll see what I mean...many results describing faux *x* duvet, where x = the kind of fabric.
posted by jamaro at 10:50 PM on June 10, 2007

is it difficult for a first-time seller to be successful with ebay?

Yes and no. People mess up on eBay in two ways. First they either have lousy descriptions and/or poor or no photos. Second they set the reserve, opening bid, or shipping too high.

I never use a reserve because I only sell things on eBay that I truly want gone at any price, but I insure that I always get a good price with a detailed description and good photos.

Positive feedback is important, so if you lack feedback points you'll need to address that in the ad. Offer to forward potential buyers your phone number via email if they would like to talk with you before bidding. In other words, take the time to make people feel good about doing business with you.

Keep in mind that setting up a good auction on eBay takes time. You have to take pictures, measurements, type up a good description, figure out how you want to get paid, wait on payment once the auction ends, pack and ship the item... don't forget the money you'll spend on pack materials, boxes, tape, etc.

Personally I rely a lot more on Craig's List presently than on eBay. Mainly this is because I live in Chicago and our CL is crazy busy with both buyers and sellers. The market is so large here that I can get "eBay prices" locally so I save the hassle of shipping, etc. That doesn't work for everything though.

Mostly though CL is just a dumping ground for stuff I don't want to throw away. Old monitors, computer parts, or other stuff that is worthless to me maybe worth $10 or $20 to someone else. Its nice to have someone show up to cart off your old junk and give you cash.

Make sure you know the value of your stuff. Google your items to get a ballpark of what they sell for new or used. Then discount it by whatever percentage you feel comfortable with and see what happens. No one is going to buy your stereo if they can get the same model online cheaper or new for not much more.

I've seen many people post stuff on CL specifically because they are moving. Generally they advertise one thing (your drapes for example) and then within the text of the ad explain that they are moving and have other things listed for sale too. And you can do this repeatedly across areas of CL as long as you're listing different items each time.
posted by wfrgms at 10:52 PM on June 10, 2007

Its nice to have someone show up to cart off your old junk and give you cash.

That's a nice thing about Craigslist. Someone threw out a monitor on the sidewalk that was slightly nicer than the monitor I had. So with Craigslist, I basically put up "old cheap CRT monitor, $20, you pick up" and some dude shows up and more or less takes out my garbage and gives me twenty bucks for it.

I don't know how Dallas Craigslist is but I furnished quite a bit of my apartment by getting peoples' trash and peoples old stuff from Craigslist. I'm sitting in a $150+ chair that I picked up for like $50 and typing on a desk that someone abandoned in my apartment lobby. (Waited 24 hours and it was still there, and even after that if someone had put up a "WTF where's my desk I left here while I was moving" sign I would have given it back.)
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:10 PM on June 10, 2007

Based on your description, I'd start with Craigslist. List the 'best' stuff first. As you start to run out of good items, you will get tired of doing the listings, and that's how you'll know it is time for the garage sale..

Ebay is best if there is a very specific market, and it is very easy to search for that particular item. People don't browse Ebay in quite the way they do a garage sale or Craigslist. The best way to know if an item is suited to Ebay is to check completed listings.

Your feedback will effect the price you get, but it doesn't often stop a sale entirely. There is virtually no good reason for a reserve price on Ebay. If you don't want an item to go under a certain price, make that the start price. Bidders can't tell what the reserve price is, so they assume it is too high, and most of the time they stay away.
Truly hot items, that get lots of bids and high prices, can survive a reserve. If the thing is that hot, you really don't need a reserve :P

Craigslist prices are definitely higher than garage sale prices. However, you have to list the item well to get a response, and you have to have extended dealings with buyers, so it takes a long time. Some things that could sell, won't sell on Craigslist, because the buyer sees the 'extended dealings' as too much bother.

Garage sale prices are bottom of the barrel. However, it is supper easy to set one up, and priced right lots of things have chance of selling that nobody would ever buy online. Buyer attempts at negotiation can be very frustrating, if you are the type to take that stuff personally.
posted by Chuckles at 11:24 PM on June 10, 2007

I furnished quite a bit of my apartment by getting peoples' trash and peoples old stuff from Craigslist.

I do love me some garbage pick'n!

It is funny watching my street on garbage nights. Anything of value disappears very quickly. Sometimes you see items walk down the street, as one person after another picks it up, and then throws it out again the next week.
Okay, maybe just "one and then another", and maybe I only noticed it once, but it was still pretty awesome.
posted by Chuckles at 11:30 PM on June 10, 2007

Put up links to photos or photos on your craigslist ad. This improves things a lot. I sold a bed, dresser, couch, PS2 and other stuff and everyone was interested because they could see it.

And don't kid yourself about how much your stuff is worth.
posted by sien at 3:48 AM on June 11, 2007

i did great selling a lot of stuff on craigslist in new york, but even in nashville, where i live now, it seems to be hopping. i'm sure dallas isn't too different.

i would do craigslist first, then plan a yard sale the week before you move for whatever you don't sell. post lots of good pictures (not just links to pictures) in your ad. be open to negotiation, and don't take the listing down until the item is in the buyer's hands--for some reason a lot of people are flaky and never show up to get their stuff. you have to be ruthless--the first person to arrive to pick up the item gets it. if someone responds on a tuesday and wants to come by on sunday, say "okay, but i am going to leave the ad up. please call before you come over to make sure it's still available."
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:24 AM on June 11, 2007

I'm going to go against the grain here and say Yard Sale is the way to go.

Ebay and craigslist are good, but they are a real pain in the ass, especially if you have a lot of items. Waiting around for people to pick up, or dealing with sellers, packaging and shipping are a real drain.

Post your yard sale to craislist, and to your local newspaper. Have it on a day with nice weather and you will move a lot of your stuff.
posted by quibx at 6:31 AM on June 11, 2007

I wouldn't bother with a yard sale for any of that stuff, you'll get hardly any money for it. Craigslist - or, does your local paper have free classified ads online? You could try that, or one of those "free listing if priced under $50" print ads in the paper. Also check if there's any online for-sale groups/lists for your area (Google Groups, Yahoo Groups, etc.).
posted by Melinika at 6:31 AM on June 11, 2007

I'm not a big fan of selling on ebay--I think it's too much work, and ebay takes too big a bite.

Craigslist is also a certain amount of work, of course: you've got to respond to questions (a thorough listing writeup and pix will help) and of course, be around to handle each transaction. A yard sale gets it all (or most) over with in one shot.

On the other hand, you can generally get what you're asking on Craigslist (or close to it), but with a yard sale, shoppers are much more price-sensitive and inclined to haggle, no matter what you're asking. On Craigslist, $20 seems to be a magic number: if something is priced there or below, it'll sell quickly, for the asking price. With yard sales, the magic number seems to be more like $1. To be clear, though, I sold several items of furniture priced at >$500 on Craigslist, and they all sold pretty quickly and for asking price. But at $20, stuff will move within an hour.

If you want to clear your stuff away quickly for minimum hassle, take it to Goodwill and take the tax writeoff. If you want to get the most for it, sell it on Craigslist. The yard sale is somewhere in between. If you go the Craigslist route, list it all at once and try to schedule pickups to fall all around the same time.

When my wife and I consolidated households, and again when we moved, we sold most of our stuff worth $20+ on Craigslist. We had exactly one yard sale where stuff in the $1-$20 range did OK, but anything above that (including a couple nice rugs) went begging. Everything that was left we donated to a resale shop.
posted by adamrice at 7:06 AM on June 11, 2007

I wholeheartedly support going with Craigslist. First it is free to post so where's the loss. It doesn't take that long to take a bunch of pictures of curtains, a TV, and a duvet cover. Then you just describe them as you did here and voila wait for someone to email you. If they don't sell after a certain period of time then just have your garage sale. Ebay is too involved for selling moving items. I buy and sell things on craigslist all the time. Just remember to say cash only and local pick up only. Never take the ad down or tell someone its sold until it actually is b/c people sometimes flake out on craigslist. Finally, the tips above about pricing reasonably are right on - just because you paid $80 dollars for something new doesn't mean its going to be worth $60 to someone used. Also, tvs are another thing that people tend to think don't depreciate as much as they do. I have see people sell everything on craigslist. Just remember to make your listing with the idea in mind that someone is going to put some words in a search tool to find your item so create your ad accordingly.

Good luck!
posted by Carialle at 7:08 AM on June 11, 2007

I had a great time using both CL and a yard sale in conjunction, sold all of my stuff and made more $ than I expected to.

Here's what I did: use a digital camera, take photos of everything, post to CL with descriptions and a link to an external site where the photos are hosted. Pick a weekend and advertise a yardsale on both days, linking to this site. CL will feed a lot of folks to your door, the photos are great bait and motivators. As far as setting prices go, I let everyone know what I paid for things, and then went the best offer scheme. Knowing that X cost $80 a year ago, folks were less likely to bid $20.

To up the ante a bit, I turned it into an open house/party sort of thing for all of my friends as well, making mint juleps. Anyone (that wasn't a friend and permitted to hang out in my kitchen and fix their own) who spent $20 got a free drink, and folks were really excited about that.
posted by cior at 9:35 AM on June 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

The "right choice" depends on how much time and effort you want to put into it, how much money you want to make, and where you live.

For specific electronics, cameras, etc. eBay is probably your best bet.

For appliances, craigslist should work. But you really need pics on craigslist, and you need to be prepared to wait it out, talk to people, have people flake, and then sell.

If you just want to get things done with, have a yard sale. If you live in a nice area, having a yard sale can be crazy productive. I didn't feel like I was giving anything away, I was surprised at how well everything sold, and the earlybirds paid asking price on everything. It was one day, and then it was done. Anything that didn't sell [mostly clothes] I took to goodwill. For me, consolidating the effort was worth whatever marginal hit I may have taken on $$. And since I sold a lot of stuff I would never have considered selling on CL or eBay, it was better for me. I had 4-5 items where I wouldn't budge on price, and I knew I would sell them on CL if I didn't get what I was looking for.
posted by Mozzie at 9:54 AM on June 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

I am going to suggest another option that you didn't mention. Have you considered donating these items to your local Salvation Army or Goodwill? You will get a tax write-off and they will come pick all of it up at once. After my last few times dealing with Craigslist and Ebay I decided that it wasn't worth my time to try and sell stuff that I was only going to get a little bit of money for. Plus, donating stuff is a nice thing to do.
posted by bove at 11:47 AM on June 11, 2007

In case you've never had a yard sale, here's a lesson I learned the hard way: If someone picks something up, make sure they don't put it down again. Don't haggle too hard because "I paid $80 for those curtains!" Do you want someone to take the curtains away and have a little cash in your wallet, or do you want to be stuck carting them off to Goodwill, extra time spent and your wallet still empty?
posted by vignettist at 1:04 PM on June 11, 2007

these suggestions were very helpful. i'm going to try CL first, listing my items at reasonable prices and including lots of pictures and detailed explanations. thanks so much!
posted by djuna at 3:42 PM on June 12, 2007

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