Saturday, August 6, 2011

Gotta Sell What You Buy

I find it pretty easy to buy storage units but have a few challenges on the selling side. Sometimes, you've got to do a bit of work on the furniture, like repairing chair seats, before it's in shape to sell. In other cases, the stuff isn't worth a whole lot of money and there isn't much return for all the time you spend creating auctions on eBay. Even if the item is worth a lot, it still takes a lot of time to sell it on eBay.

I have a ton of stuff to sell. Honestly, we have a few things left to sell from every unit we've ever purchased. Sometimes it becomes completely overwhelming and it's hard to set priorities for what is most important to focus on. I have been more successful of late in setting priorities and working them in order, primarily through list-making.

Through trial and error, we've got the following outlets in play to sell various categories of goods we've found in storage units:
  • Furniture: we started, and still use to some extent, with a consignment shop near us that has over 8000 square foot of floor space. We had an issue with them where they wouldn't increase the price on a dining room set we felt was worth quite a bit more and that prompted us to try Craigslist. Craigslist carries with it its own issues, like scammers. It's also more work than the consignment shop, but we get to keep the entire sale amount, rather than the 50/50 split with the shop.
  • Collectibles and goods worth over $25: we use eBay auctions and "buy it now" for selling these items. eBay takes frickin' forever to upload pictures and create auctions and they take 9% (or more) of the sale price. But, it's still the best way to reach a big pool of buyers. I use "buy it now" if I'm reasonably sure of an item's value and an auction model if I'm unsure. For instance, some of the pre-Prohibition beer bottles from Unit 14 are so rare I can't find current or prior auctions on eBay or any of the beer collector websites to determine their value. In those cases, I use an auction and hope to get at least 2 parties interested so they'll drive up the price by bidding against each other. I also plan to try Etsy for auctions of some antique, handmade linens from Unit 14 as Etsy specializes in handmade goods and only charges 3% of the sale price rather than eBay's outrageous price.
  • Low cost items: these items were the hardest to figure out how to sell. I chatted up a woman at an auction who sells her stuff at flea markets. She showed some interest when I pitched the idea of selling to her in bulk the things that would work well at a flea market. However, she didn't bite when I contacted her after the auction. We considered a flea market table of our own, but that would have been too expensive for me as someone would need to stay home with Skip (my wife, who has MS and is disabled). We were able to find a group shop near a flea market in central Mass where you rent a booth and the flea market has staff on hand to handle the actual purchases. We've been there for a few months and found it a good way to sell the low value stuff. However, we found that a number of handbags (from the hoarder's unit ... we got 60+ brand new bags from that unit) had been stolen during the first month, so I have to figure out a new way to unload those.
  • Collectible items that appeal to men and can be bundled into lots: the latest thing we're trying is a live auction in Worcester called Olde Tyme Stuffe. Yesterday, I dropped off 2 train sets, a 1930s baseball glove, 2 lots of beer bottles, a miniature printing press and some antique hair curling irons for their next auction. In particular, their auctioneer told me that things men collect are doing well. In the current economy, women are being more cautious so items like depression glass and other housewares are not doing very well (he also attributed the downturn in these items to the lousy housing market). I plan to use these folks as a good way to unload smaller items that can be grouped together, avoiding the time-consuming eBay write-ups.
I'm sure we'll take advantage of other options as we think of them. In the meantime, I think we've found a good mix of outlets to get this stuff out of my garage. I dream that someday I will park my car in the garage again.


  1. Interesting! I keep watching for your appearance on "Storage Wars", LOL.

  2. Actually, we were on an episode of Auction Hunters. It's called Beantown Bidders. I'm in it about 4 times, bidding once. I was very curious to see what they found in the units they bought but am heartily suspicious of the whale gun they found. Just not believable. We know "the fly" who was featured in their other Massachusetts (Worcester) episode. We've run into him and his wife in auctions since that episode aired and none of us believe that they found a tank barrel in a unit there. Oh, well, the shows are still fun for me to watch.

    - Cranky