By Amanda Sims, AD Clever
New year, new apartment? Maybe not entirely, but it might very well be time to finally get rid of a piece that bogged you down emotionally last year.
If for you it's a "vintage" IKEA bookshelf that only continues to stay standing by the grace of God, look to the curb. But if it's a nicer piece that you're just sick of looking at, or a hand-me-down you've been wanting to upgrade, or even a thing you bought new that just doesn't work the way you want it to, there's always the resale market.
Sure, you could take the item to your neighbourhood consignment shop (and we fully support that move, if they're into your stuff!), but it's even easier to post it on one of the many digital resale sites that are continually cropping up to service this exact scenario. There are some tricks to making that go very smoothly, however, so here are six steps to successfully selling your furniture online.
Find the right site (or, okay, app).
There's certainly no shortage of options out there, so how to know which is best for you? By simply poking around these sites you'll be able to get a feel for the kinds of products that shoppers go to them for, which should help you narrow down to one or two you'd like to try. Start by listing a few items on a single site and see how you like the process before committing whole-hog to it, and try a new one if it ever lets you down. Here's what we like to sell on a bunch of sites:
eBay: vintage lamps and mirrors; antique and vintage rugs
Craigslist: near giveaways that you want to off-load ASAP (price them to sell!)
Etsy: artwork and medium-size vintage furnishings, such as chairs
Chairish: trend-forward items (this is the place to off-load anything pink, rattan, or velvet, for example)
AptDeco: larger or unwieldy pieces, as they have a service that will pick up and deliver if you sell
EBTH: a whole home's worth of stuff, as they'll help handle photographing, cataloguing, listing, and delivering
Previously Owned By a Gay Man: the stuff you wish you could keep
OfferUp: items you really want to sell, as shoppers can "make an offer"
Viyet: higher-end furnishings (the site caters to a fancier shopper)
Decaso: fine decorative pieces from art to table top to seating
* In South Africa:
Clean up your piece
Put yourself in the shopper's shoes: Would you buy that pillow (chair, rug, etc.) in its current condition? Now's the time to do light mending, if and where necessary. Seams coming loose on a pillow you'd like to sell? Ask your tailor to stitch it up. Stain on the rug? Treat it. Old lamp that doesn't work? Have it re-wired so you can say, "It works!" Refinish a wood table so it looks like new. Give that rickety chair a fresh coat of high-gloss paint. You get the idea.
Price it to sell (or to sit)
"Everyone wants a deal, so we always encourage people to price as low as they are comfortable with," says Michele Hofherr, CEO of Previously Owned by a Gay Man. Yes, even if the sofa is pretty much like new, you'll want to list it for less than retail. "We are always reminding people it is still a second-hand purchase for the buyer. Trying to list things at 20-percent-off original retail price just doesn’t work; a buyer needs to be incentivized!" A lower price will speed up the sale if you're looking to move inventory quickly.
On the flip side, if you don't need to sell a piece immediately and really only want to if you can get a great price, stick to your guns (as long as your guns aren't crazy overpriced). For finer furnishings, an appraiser can help you come up with an accurate number—but for most stuff, just do as dealers do and cross-check it with similar items on the sites above. Right in the middle is typically a sweet spot. Now, patience: The right buyer will come.
Take good (and honest) photos
"Accurate and detailed photos are a must," says Michele. "You have to remember the buyer is not going to touch or see the piece in person, so your photos have to do that job." Designer Justin DiPiero recommends using "flattering light" when you take the photographs, which is to say daylight if at all possible, and to shoot every item you're selling from multiple angles. This is one of those times when you should be both thorough—the more photos, and details, the better—not to mention honest.
"Photographs can be tricky, but they must be accurate both in depicting any flaws and in conveying colour…no one wants a surprise!" says Michele. Think you're done? Zoom in and get a close-up shot of the fabric or surface, and don't forget to snap a picture of the tag! If you've got a lot of items to photograph, consider purchasing a white muslin backdrop (which you can get for as little as $20 online and taping it up on the wall beside the window to make your pictures look as professional as possible. Otherwise, just be sure to clear any clutter out of the frame before snapping a shot.
Be as descriptive as possible
Justin—who used OfferUp to off-load unwanted pillows and mason jars when decorating his most recent apartment, and stocked up with items from sites like Chairish and AptDeco afterward—says to be as thorough as possible, including "any helpful information like brand names, interesting history of the piece, size and dimensions, condition, colour, etc." with your listing. How long did you have it, where did you get it, and are there scuffs and nicks you can't see in the photographs? If there's still a link to the product live online, by all means add it along with the product photo. This will clarify any discrepancies in colour and style that your (not professional) photos don't convey.
The best way to get the word out that you've got an item for sell? Use your networks—whether that means putting up a little flyer on the corkboard in the lobby of your building or a Facebook post that reaches family, friends, and strangers you may have met in college. Somewhere, somebody wants your gently used, well-priced sofa that just doesn't fit in your new place (and probably more people than you think!).