Selling at Online Auctions

An online auction may be an avenue to explore when trying to clear some space in your garage, fundraise for your organization, or even just make extra cash. Selling at an online auction may seem overwhelming, but follow these basic steps, and you will be more prepared to succeed—and sell!

Where to sell: pick the platform for you

Before you get to selling, you will need to choose a platform that best fits your needs. We have a list of online auctions to look through for your convenience here.

Keep in mind that each auction caters to different buyers. To get a feel for how successful you may be on a given site, look at what types of items are being sold, if what your selling fits in a given ”category” listen on the site, and if similar items sell at all there. If you’re new to selling at an online auction, choose a site that offers more help creating professional looking pages.

Important security/payment factors:

Be sure to check how you will be paid and the overall security of the site. Requiring credit cards offers some protection, but it’s best to use escrow accounts that require the buyer to pay the site, who then notified the seller the payment was made and will transfer the funds into the seller’s account once the item is shipped to the buyer. Paypal offers a similar service by scrambling private information and ensuring the payment was made by the buyer.

Listing: when selling, think like your buying

When you list your item on the auction site, be sure to include an accurate, and searchable title and quality photos of the exact item you’re selling. When creating your item’s title include important keywords you would search for if looking for this item. Include the brand, material, color, or relevant unique qualities. Example: “Fine China Tea Cup Set” is less specific and helpful when compared to ”6 pcs, Blue & White, LaRoche Paris Tea Cups & Saucers.” For even more information on the best titles to bring the right buyers to your page, click here.

While the title navigates users to your listing, the pictures will motivate users to click on it. The quality of your photos greatly enhances the chances of a bid. Featuring an item in a nondistracting but pleasant backdrop is very important. You want to look professional, but also focus on displaying the best features of your item. Always try to take multiple photos from different angles as well. The users aren’t able to examine the object in person, so it’s your job to give them that experience without a physical presence.

However, be sure that the cover photo for your post looks inviting. Take a look at these two photos below. The table on the left looks like a table you want in your home, one you can picture your family sitting down for dinner at. The background is pleasant and the table feels naturally placed there. The photo on the right is a lonely table outside. Although you can see more of the table it looks less inviting.

On a final note for this section, be sure to end the auction when people are home. If your bidders are working or sleeping they will not be able to bid in the last moments of your auction. The best times are mid to late afternoon on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays.

Pricing: picking your poison

Choosing a starting price is difficult to do since you want to make the most profit off your item but also want to encourage people to bid. When looking to sell, you need to examine what starting price and the reserve price is best to earn the most bidders–and hopefully, start a bidding war—while also accurately highlighting the quality and worth of your item.

One of the best ways to do this is to search the platform for similar item’s completed sales. On eBay you can see which prices resulted in sales and which didn’t by searching for your item, then filtering it by selecting ”Completed listings” under the ”Show only” category. These filer options are on the left side of your screen after you search for a particular item. The listings in green have sold, while black listings did not.

Price Competitively

Choose a starting price slightly lower than what other vendors are selling at. You don’t want to scare away buyers who see high starting prices. At the same time, setting the price too low can make you seem unprofessional and new to online auctions, resulting in profits less than what your item is worth. Try to tread the line between making users feel like they have a chance to participate and win, but also a price that reflects the actual value of your item.

If your item is unique and rare you may not be able to get many search results similar to yours. Another option, for unique and big-ticket items, is to have your item appraised by an expert. Some auction houses will do this for free, but it may take weeks and the offer may be biased if they wish to sell your item for you. There are also excellent online appraisal options such as that will take a small free and give you a price for your unique item.

If your item is hard to find and valuable to only one kind of buyer, consider setting a reserve price. A reserve price ensures that the item sells at a minimum price, ensuring that the item won’t sell below the point that a buyer who wants the item would pay for it. However, there is a fee when you set a reserve price, but you only have to pay it if the item doesn’t sell. If the item sells you only have to pay the final value fee.

Buy It Now

The Buy it Now option is helpful if your item is only valuable to a certain buyer. Consider adding it to avoid selling low to buyers who don’t value your item. Listing an item with a But it Now features has a fee and once a bid is made for the item this option disappears. Therefore, this option typically doesn’t last long. In addition, the Buy it Now price must be at least 30% more than the starting price.

If you are less certain about the price listed to the Buy it Now, you may choose to allow a ‘Best Offer.’ This indicates that the Buy it Now price is negotiable. The seller has the option to accept or deny the new price suggested by the buyer.

Best of luck selling!



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