Selling online? How to get the best price for your second hand stuff




By Imogen Murphy


You have decluttered and decided some of your stuff is worth selling or ready to giveaway? Maybe you have an eBay or Pre-loved account?  How do you make the most of your item? What fees are involved? Here are the common mistakes people make when using online platforms like eBay, Facebook Marketplace or gumtree.


If you want to know which sites you should use -I’ve a blog that tell you all you need to know ‘Where should I sell my stuff online?’  See link at the bottom of the page.

Think carefully about selling an item of yours online rather than giving to charity or someone who would appreciate it. Some second-hand items sell better online than others. Just because you think it was worth money or you paid a lot for it doesn’t mean it will sell or sell for much.

If you think an item is below a certain £ threshold for you don’t sell it but pass it on to charity. The effort of photographing it correctly, listing with specialist details, communicating with buyers throughout the sale, packaging and arranging the delivery, needs to be balanced by the reward. Rejoice in benefiting a charity or a new owner who is getting the items for free.

Similarly, if an item is very expensive don’t sell it online like diamond jewellery, take it to a specialist jeweller on the high street. They can advise if it has the potential value you think it does and where best to sell it.

1. What to sell?

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“Don’t assume because you think it is worth money or you paid a lot for the item that it will sell”

What to sell?

The top-selling category on eBay in 2019 was ‘electronic and accessories’.  And this has been my experience of what sells best on eBay. I would avoid selling items like used sofas or furniture, books, DVDs, toys or clothes unless they are for a niche market, a high-end brand or if they are still in packaging. 

Branded items with a good quality reputation do better. Be sure to mention this in your listing and add a Brand name to your keyword description, so it comes up in searches a buyer might use e.g. Black & Decker or Ted Baker.

If you want to sell your own crafts or handmade items Etsy or Not On The High Street might be a better choice. It attracts more of these products and usually commands a higher price.

If an item is broken check if there is a market for spares to sell. Although a local app like Next Door might be a better choice in case someone wanted to look at it first.

2. Research is key

home organiser sevenoaks
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“Doing research will help you learn more about how best to list and describe your items and how much technical specification to add, which is important for selling items like electronics or camera equipment”


Research is the key. Spending time looking up eBay listings for the same item as yours, will pay off. It will help you find out an expected sale price, which might be much lower than you expect. See how many bids and watchers the item has currently.  If there are lots of bids at an appealing price early in the sale time (usually 7 days) this is a good sign.

The research will also help you learn more about how best to list and describe your items like which category to use to help buyers find it or what technical specification detail to add, which is so important especially for electronics.

3. Best presentation wins

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“Consider the background. Choose something appealing and neutral e.g if you are selling a drill take it out of the garage and photo on a nice surface like a kitchen worktop or carpet”

So many times when I have bought second-hand items online at a bargain price it’s because they have been poorly photographed. I have seen this myself too when I’ve not taken the time to show the buyer how great my item is with good photos. Add as much detail as possible to your listing. Use as many photos as you can. Use a manufacturer’s website, or where you bought it from, to gather details about the specification of your item. Remember to include all dimensions of your item, this will save additional questions from buyers during the auction. I find it is helpful to add some personal detail about where you bought it and how much it has been used. Maybe when you bought it and why you are selling it e.g. we bought the spare bed for my mum to use years ago from John Lewis but it has only been used about 3 times since then. It adds authenticity which helps the seller to trust they will get what they want and see the value in your item over another. 


When taking photos remember:-

Make sure the item is clean and presentable.

Ensure good lighting by a window and daylight if possible.

Consider the background. Choose something appealing and neutral. For example, if you are selling a drill take it out of the garage and photo on a nice surface like a wooden kitchen worktop. Avoid mess in the background, which might suggest it has not been looked after.

Use simple but complementary accessories to show your item off e.g. take photos of a bed with nice bedding on and some off. If you are going to sell clothes make sure you use a mannequin if you can or even show on someone, people will want to see the shape and fit as much as possible and nothing look less appealing than an item of clothing hung loosely on a hanger on the back of a bedroom door.

Use the best photo for the main image seen. If appropriate you can use one photo from the manufacturer to add to your other photos. As long as you are very clear in your description and classification that your product is second hand. It will draw people to your listing and show them how good your second-hand version is. Remember to photograph any branded label, tags or back up to reinforce its value.

Make sure you give clear photos of any stains or damage.  Honesty is always the best policy. This will save any hassle with returns or poor reviews.

4. Keep communicating with buyer

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“I ensure an auction ends on a weekend, usually a Sunday night, when more people tend to be sitting down using their phones and you might get bidding competition”


Remember to select a reasonable bidding duration. I usually do a 7-day auction to build interest and allow more time for people to see it. I always ensure bids end on a weekend, usually a Sunday night, when more people tend to be sitting down using their phones, and you might get bidding competition.

If something is in demand you’ll get lots of communication from buyers, make sure you reply quickly and with as much information as possible. There may be questions about the product or even offers to buy it sooner than the end of the auction date.

I’ve given up on buying an item before, if the seller doesn’t respond to your questions, or doesn’t answer something you need like the dimensions of an object.

Try to hold out until the end of an auction, if people are keen to offer before, it is normally for a good deal for them, although you’ll have to take a risk that it might be the best offer you get, I’ve never had this happen though. Remember if you end an auction early for a cash offer eBay might ask for fees or give you a breach of selling contract warning as they don’t want to miss out on selling fees. If you do want to take an early offer you could agree on a price with the buyer and switch the listing to a buy it now auction price on the system and coordinate with your buyer to select that option, that way all fees go through eBay as normal.

Don’t forget to tell the buyer immediately when items are dispatched directly or on the platform’s app. It adds to the trust that their item is on its way and avoids any chase up emails asking you where it is. Don’t dispatch until they have paid. If it is ‘collection only’ and has been collected then update the app so all fees can be processed and funds transferred to you. 

5. Hidden costs

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“Expect to pay 10-14% of your sale price with fees on Ebay, but you will have a larger audience to sell to than local selling apps with no fees like Facebook. Choose the right selling platform for your item”


Don’t forget the fees. Expect to pay 10-14% total fees on your final sale price on eBay (including Paypal). eBay will take their commission depending on the selling options you choose e.g. adding a reserve price will add another 4% on top of their standard fees for listing. Note eBay selling invoices are taken from your account the following month so don’t get caught out thinking you’ve seen all the fees and can enjoy your cash.

Also if you are using Paypal for your eBay sale, which adds some security and ease to process the transaction, they will take their cut usually 3%. 

And there are the postage costs of course unless yours is a collection only for a bulkier item. Consider using a parcel service to collect from your door if you cannot face a post office queue. The cost won’t be much different. I use Parcel2go to compare delivery prices depending on what I’ve arranged with the buyer, next day, 1-3 days etc.

Facebook local selling groups, Gumtree, Pre-loved or Next Door apps have an advantage with lower or no fees and no postage costs but you won’t have as much of an audience for your item, especially for speciality items, so you might not get as high a final price. This is why research matters so you can choose your ideal selling platform. 

So where should you sell online?...




If you want to know the most popular sites for selling see my blog ‘Where is best to sell my stuff online?‘  

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