Turn your family’s castoffs into cash—fast. No backyard needed. After the holidays, most homes are overflowing with piles of presents. But as you go to stow them, you run into gifts from holidays past—clothes that haven’t left their hangers in years, the clunky camera replaced by a credit-card-thin digital, and the stroller that your kindergartner now shuns. Time to make room for the new by cashing in on the old.
A yard sale can’t happen until spring, but it also might not be worth the hassle, says Peter Walsh, organizational consultant for The Learning Channel’s Clean Sweep. “People turn up at yard sales with pockets of change, expecting to pay pennies on the dollar.” Plus, who has time to organize and advertise it? Instead, the twenty-first-century way to unclutter your closets is a click away—on eBay. We’re talking about an online garage sale, which not only takes less time (about three hours) but also delivers more money. In an experiment Walsh conducted, two Chicago families sold possessions of roughly equal value—one at a traditional garage sale, the other at an online sale. When the tallies came in, the family selling their possessions online netted nearly seven times what the garage-sale family did.
All you need to do is gather your saleable goods and hire a trading assistant (TA) who will take photos of the items, write the ad and schlep everything to the post office—all for a cut of the profits. “It’s a way to get fair market value with really no work,” says Brad Porteus, eBay’s director of marketplace programs, who notes that most TAs charge a third of the total for their commission. Selling with the help of a TA is now a common practice, and eBay provides a means for sellers both to find and evaluate TAs: Click here  and then type in your ZIP code to get locations and eBay ratings for TAs in your area. The 16,000 U.S. TAs listed on the site operate independently of the company, so be sure to look at the profile and feedback score for any TA you’re considering.
In addition to doing the grunt work, TAs offer expertise on everything from creating a title that will make your item pop up in the right searches to taking a photo that will attract attention. They can also advise you on which items will garner the biggest payday—usually electronics, sporting equipment, musical instruments, and designer clothes. Of course, good ol’ garage sales will always have a place, especially as a way to unload less valuable clutter like toys, paperback books, and CDs. Plus, they’re fun. “Yard sales are becoming more of a social event than a way to make money,” says Walsh. “And that’s fine—anything to get that stuff out of the house.”
By Sara Eckel
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