3 Reasons Your Stuff Isn’t Selling

posted by Andrea | 06/3/2015
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3 reasons your stuff isn't selling

I know many people (including myself) are in a spring cleaning / purging mood right now. Maybe mine is a little bit of “nesting” too — but whatever it is, it sure feels great to get rid of some of the things we no longer need, use, want or love!

Dave and I recently cleaned out a few things from our garage and our extra garage, and I cleaned out a few kitchen items. We also purchased a new-to-us car for Dave — which meant we had to sell his other car.

So, about 3 weeks ago, I took a bunch of pictures and measurements and listed everything on Craigslist on a Friday evening. 

Within 2 hours, we sold an extra kitchen table ($150)

About 30 minutes after that, we helped a guy load up a HUGE pile of extra wood we had leftover from a recent project ($50)

Within 4 hours, our car was sold ($3300 — which was actually higher than the Kelly Blue Book price based on super low mileage and only 1 owner)

The next day, we sold our old front door ($150)

And the next day, we sold a small dump trailer that we didn’t need anymore ($60)

I sold a few unopened kitchen items I had gotten as gifts, and also a few things for my dad — all within 24 hours!

After the weekend was over, we promptly brought our $3700+ cash to the bank and deposited it into our savings account!! Not too bad for 24 hours!

craigslist sales

Now obviously, the car sale was a biggie for us, and we were thrilled to have it sell so quickly. But in general, whenever I try to sell anything, my goal is to sell it in less than 48 hours — usually less than 24 hours. If I don’t sell it in that time period, I immediately reduce the price and start over again.

If it’s not sold in a week, I’ll either reduce the price one more time, or donate it. I guess I just figure that if I don’t use the item anyway, I’d rather get some cash for it and have it gone ASAP then let it clutter up my home for weeks and months.

If you’ve been struggling to sell your unneeded items, my guess (after lots of selling experience) is that it’s because of one of the 3 reasons below…

1. Your prices are too high.

This is BY FAR the biggest problem when it comes to people trying to sell their stuff — no matter where they are trying to sell it.

I’m not trying to sound rude… but no one is going to buy your “excellent condition” stuff or “like new” stuff or “still in the box” stuff unless they feel they are getting a REALLY good deal. And they are definitely not going to buy your “well used” stuff or anything with any sort of issue or stain or problem unless it’s almost free.

Yes, you might find an exception to the rule every now and then, but for the most part, there are too many other people out there (like me) who just want to get rid of their things ASAP so they set their prices really low in order to sell quickly. So unless you set your prices very close to what others are selling similar items for, you probably aren’t going to sell your items very quickly (if at all).

You will most likely get the most money for your items on Ebay. Craigslist and Facebook garage sales will usually get you the second highest price. And traditional garage sales or yard sales will require rock bottom prices to sell.

Just the other day, I stopped by a garage sale and was amazed at how expensive the items were priced. $2 and $3 for used onesies, $5 for kids pants, $5-$7 for well-worn sleepers and shoes! Are you kidding me! I could literally buy brand new items from the store on clearance for those prices. I knew the seller personally and they told me after the sale that they were SO disappointed with how few items sold — especially considering all the work they put into the sale.

I wanted to say “yeah, you’re prices were ridiculously high” but I just kept my mouth shut 🙂

Bottom line, if your items aren’t selling, lower your prices significantly. After all, if the point of your sale is to clear out your house, wouldn’t you rather have a clutter-free house and a little extra spending money versus sitting and waiting while all your stuff sits piled up in your home?

2. Your stuff isn’t nicely organized, displayed, or described.

I can’t tell you how many garage sales I’ve been to with literally no rhyme or reason to how anything is displayed. Some sales don’t even have the clothing separated by size or gender so it’s nearly impossible to find what you’re looking for.

At the same time, I’ve seen HUNDREDS of horrible Craigslist ads with dark, blurry pictures and almost no description. No measurements of furniture, no brand names, no “this is where we purchased it from” information, or “here’s the Amazon.com link”. In those situations, even if it is something I’m remotely interested in, I usually don’t even bother sending an email because I figure if they can’t take 5 extra minutes to get a good quality photo and share a few more details, then it’s not worth my time to email you asking for all the information.

While I do try to set my Craigslist prices quite reasonably, I know for a fact that one of the main reasons my stuff sells so quickly (usually within 24 hours or less) is because I ALWAYS provide a very detailed description and multiple pictures of every item I sell.

Over and over again, I get emails from people saying “we’re buying from you because your ad was so informative”. I’ve honestly even had people email me saying “we’re not interested in your items, but just wanted to let you know that it was one of the most descriptive ads we’ve ever seen”

So yes, how your things are presented makes a HUGE difference in how quickly your items will sell. And to be perfectly honest, if you’re willing to take a few extra minutes to get high-quality photos and provide an excellent description, you will most likely be able to ask a higher price for your items.

3. Your stuff doesn’t have enough buyer demand.

Sometimes, even if you have a competitive price point and display/describe your items nicely, they just don’t sell. In these situations, it’s almost always because there isn’t enough buyer demand.

Maybe it’s a very rare antique that only the “right” collector would be interested in – -and you just haven’t found that right person yet. Or maybe you live in a more remote location so garage sales and Craigslist pick-ups are tricky since no one wants to drive out to your house.

In these situations, Ebay is often the best option for selling and shipping these types of items — however I personally don’t have much experience with Ebay so I’m definitely not the person to ask if you have more detailed questions!

Over and over and over again, I get emails from discouraged individuals who have been purging and hoping to make a few extra bucks by selling their castoffs with little luck. After a couple emails back and forth, I can usually pinpoint their selling troubles to one of the 3 things listed above. And when I make a suggestion as to what they might change, they usually excitedly email me back within the next day or so, letting me know their items sold!

Yay for less clutter and more cash! 

If your sole purpose for selling your unneeded items is because you simply don’t want them taking up space in your home (which is usually the case in my experience), then why not lower the price and add a few extra pictures (or a nice garage sale presentation) to increase the chances they sell ASAP??

And for the record, I do apply this theory to EVERYTHING I try to sell —  we even sold our first house for a full-price offer in 3 days!

What are your best tips for selling items ASAP – either online or at a traditional garage sale?

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16 comments

  1. Jesse

    09/20/2016

    I have been selling things on CL since 2006. I used to sell things very quickly, but for the last few years it has been so much harder that I now sell most on eBay which I hate because of their fees.

    The economy is the biggest reason I can think of. Or are there just much less people buying on CL these days?

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  2. Nicole

    06/10/2015

    As a previous, professional yard saler, I can say that after my first sale, I was inclined to increase my prices a bit to include bargaining room. Everyone wants to negotiate, no problem. But in some area’s people can get rude and ugly. Plus consider asking for a deal if you’re purchasing multiple items. I’ve been to only a few sales where prices were set in stone. If they appear high, ask if they are open to negotiation.

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  3. Katie

    06/06/2015

    This is all so true! When we moved to our new home, we bought a kitchen table. We wanted to buy it used, but the prices were so high on our local Craigslist, so we ended up buying a new one. It seemed like less of a hassle.

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  4. Laura

    06/03/2015

    Andrea, would you be willing to post an example (a screenshot or something) of a Craigslist ad you’ve posted? You can obviously block out all private information, etc. – I’m just curious to see what this actually LOOKS like.

    These are fantastic tips! One thing is to know your audience, though. My husband tried to sell his boat last year on Craigslist. It was posted at a good price with plenty of great pictures, but the ad was *extremely* detailed, to the point where I think potential buyers’ eyes might have just glazed over. We reposted it about a week later – same price, same pictures, etc. – but included much less information, just the main points. He had two calls that first day and sold it the second day. Not sure what happened there, but lesson learned with selling boats, I guess!

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    Andrea Reply:

    This post shares my post template that I use (http://andreadekker.com/craigslist-101-how-to-sell-successfully/) — hope it helps 🙂

    And yes, too much detail is not good either. I include main points and then a link to the item on Amazon.com (or any website if applicable) for more information if they are interested.

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  5. Brooke

    06/03/2015

    I’ve never had success on Craigslist, but a few things I’ve found to be successful on Facebook Garage Sales sites:
    1. Time of day that you post an item matters. On the site I use, I want it to hit the main feed around lunchtime. That seems to be whent he most about of people are on looking at the site on their phones. Even if I post it at a time that’s more convenient for me, I’ll go comment on it during lunch to get it to pop back up to the top of the feed.
    2. Selling things in lots is sometimes helpful. Selling kids clothes is a great example. I’ve done much better selling a few outfits together as a lot than individually, and it’s a lot less work since you’re only dealing with one buyer and not multiple buyers.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes — great tips! Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Sarah

    06/03/2015

    One of my biggest rule of thumb for garage sale, most people won’t pay more than 70-90% off orginal price. I save stuff over the year (I have room to store) and then do a large sake with friends. Beginning of the may we did a 4 family sale and clear $1100 with everyones stuff. Mine was the most and I got about $560 of that. There are many other things I can note – but you are right on the main 3. I was a retail manager before kids so when I run a garage sale – I run it like a store. 😉

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  7. Heart and Haven

    06/03/2015

    I’m surprised you got rid of that little utility trailer. I have one similar size, and use it so many times throughout the year – to get mulch, compost, gardening supplies for our yard and garden or to buy larger items/deals I find on craigslist 😉

    I’ve bought and sold many, many items via craigslist. Howe, there are times (despite every effort of writing a good ad with desc. & pics) that items still just don’t get any attention from craigslist buyers. If I’ve decided to sell or get rid of an item, I’ll post an ad for 1-2 weeks, and if it doesn’t sell within that timeframe I’ll donate to Goodwill, Habitat Re-Store, etc to get the clutter OUT. 🙂

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  8. Melissa Norrbom

    06/03/2015

    I cannot stand when the description includes something like, “has a stain” or “needs a wash”. How about you wash it and then post it for sale?

    A local FB sale page had someone selling a Windows 95 Frogger game for $5. Ridiculous.

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  9. Georgia

    06/03/2015

    Could not agree more!! Price your items to sell, not dwell! Take care and enjoy your day! 🙂

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  10. Magda

    06/03/2015

    I loved this post and your comments about pricing. You are so right! I just had my first-ever garage sale and by taking advice from your awesome posts I made over $500…and that’s that I usually take a ton of stuff to Goodwill every few months. I hadn’t been stockpiling stuff to sell but had kept baby stuff.

    Would you consider doing a post on selling your car on Craigslist? My husband and I need to do that soon and I’m so intimidated by the process. I looked online for suggestions and couldn’t find anything really helpful. Did your ad state that you’d only take cash?

    Thanks so much for all of the terrific information/advice that you provide.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yay for $500 at a garage sale! glad some of my tips helped you out 🙂

    I’m honestly not sure that selling our car on Craigslist would warrant a full post — because there really isn’t that much to tell. I just cleaned up the car, took a few nice pictures, posted some general information, the VIN, the mileage, etc. and hit publish. The whole photo/posting process took about 30 minutes — although I did spend a lot longer than that cleaning up the car 🙂

    It’s pretty self-explanatory once you log into Craigslist for a vehicle sale. They literally walk you through every step.

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  11. Sara

    06/03/2015

    Ug. I hate overpriced garage sales. Even if your stuff is brand new, never out of box, I do not want to pay anywhere close to a store price for it. As for the used stuff, it should be cheaper than what I can buy it at my local thrift shop. I will pay more at a thrift shop for the convenience of a large selection. Traveling to numerous garage sales is not convenient. I am looking for deals.

    I do both Craigslist and ebay. I always check to see what my item is selling for on ebay first. If the going rate is too low, it isn’t worth my while there. I will usually then put it on Craigslist. Craigslist is also good for heavy items that would cost a lot for shipping on ebay. I know I hate to pay for shipping, and I am sure my buyers do too.

    Descriptions and good pictures are a must. If you are looking to make some money, put some effort into it!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, I haven’t been to many garage sales lately just because they all seem over priced and I can find better deals online, on Craigslist, or in thrift stores — which are all MUCH more convenient!

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  12. Jennifer

    06/03/2015

    YES! To all of this!

    I’ve recently been looking for a lot of baby stuff and furniture on Craigslist (after a while of not buying anything there) and as a buyer these are exactly the reasons I don’t buy things that I might otherwise be interested in.

    I personally feel that, for furniture in very new condition, and which is actually very new (i.e. still available in the store or purchased less than a year ago), I’m not willing to pay more than 50% of the original price at most – and even that, I feel, is kind of high. (But we live in an expensive area.) What sellers need to remember also is that if you buy something new from a store, most likely you can arrange delivery for a large item, return it if it’s faulty or breaks, etc. – whereas buying secondhand you forfeit all these benefits and might have to spend some money for transportation (gas, rental of a van, plus time and possibly muscle). So there are some ‘costs’ to buying secondhand that have to be well compensated for by the cheapness of the item!

    The lack of information about an item also puts me off – sometimes there are no measurements, no indication of what it’s made of (very important with furniture), how old it is, or where it came from! I certainly won’t buy anything important without that information, and as you say, sometimes I just don’t want to spend the time emailing to ask.

    It’s probably a good idea to check out local thrift stores for their pricing, because the same people on Craigslist are probably at the thrift stores too! As you say about baby clothes – I can get them for 50 cents apiece at Salvation Army on their weekly sale day, so why would I pay several dollars for them at a garage sale when they are probably equally used? I wonder if some of the overpricing is just a lack of awareness of what the ‘going rate’ in the area is for secondhand goods of a certain type.

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