The digital garage sale: How to buy and sell online

Whether you are looking to find a new home for your unwanted items or pick up something for yourself, check out our guide to the world of online garage sales. 

In the past, buying or selling unwanted items usually meant grabbing glue and glitter and creating garage sale signs, which would then be placed in local shops or on telegraph poles.

Another alternative was placing an ad in the trading post or local paper, but this usually had a limited run and also cost a lot.

But thanks to the internet and high-speed broadband connections, connecting to more buyers and sellers is easier than ever.

How to buy and sell online

The world of the online garage sale has exploded and there is a number of sites that can help you snag a bargain or sell your unwanted goods.

eBay is the largest and probably the most famous of these type of sites. Started in 1995, eBay styles itself as the place people go to discover great value and unique selection.

You can buy and sell new, almost new and used goods. The site usually works as an auction, but buyers can choose to buy an item immediately if the seller so desires.

Gumtree launched in 2007 and was originally created to help people who had just moved into a new neighbourhood. 

It is now a thriving noticeboard, similar to the classifieds of your local paper. It offers people a chance to buy and sell almost anything, from a musical instrument, mattress or even a used car.

If you have specialty items, you might be able to find more niche sites that can help you sell. Etsy is a good example – it specialises in crafts, handmade and vintage items.

If you’re looking for something a little closer to home, you can check out the Australian sites Quicksales and Buyandsell.

Even social networks have started to delve into the online sales market. Facebook is filled with local swap groups and is looking to start its own section of the site for used-goods shopping.

Tips to get started

1. Valuing your goods

A great place to start is to find out how much your items are worth. Look up your item’s retail value when new and compare it to other similar used items. This will help you get a rough idea of a good selling price.

2. Details, details, details

Once you have a price point, it’s important to remember that the little details will help sell your items.

When selling your goods, try to include information like:

  • Item name
  • Make
  • Model
  • Colour
  • Size and measurements
  • Any additional items that come with the goods
  • The condition of the item

Whether you're selling your crockery or your car, be sure your online listing features well-lit, high-resolution photos of the actual product.

3. Pretty as a picture

After you have a thorough description of the items and a rough idea of the price, the best thing to do next is take some images of the items. Just like a storefront, it is important to display your goods where everyone can see and inspect them.

Many people choose stock images for their listing. Where possible you should include actual images of your items as it adds authenticity.

Use well-lit photos that showcase your items and where possible, take photos of the front and back of your items, including any labels or stickers.

The more information you can give your buyers the better.

4. Stay safe

As with all online activity, your safety should be a priority when deciding to buy or sell goods online. Luckily most of these sites have safeguards in place that allow you to perform your transactions safely.

eBay and Gumtree both have safety sections which can be a great resource for new users, as they are filled with useful information on how to stay safe while trading.

Using these tips should help ensure you get the best possible price for your old goods, while also being safe.