Selling everything before we left South Africa was a long, exhausting, and informative process. If anyone is facing the same task, here are a few nomad selling tips that worked well for us and a few things I wish I’d known beforehand.
Start Selling Early
Yes, duh. But there are more benefits to starting early than just preparation. Sometimes it took me a couple of months to emotionally detach from an item (my custom made pine work desk, aww), and though I’ve never regretted selling everything, not even the work desk, I benefitted from the extra time to get used to the idea.
Aside: I don’t regret the work desk because I’m writing you from an old, cozy apartment with beautiful wood floors. Every day I have the chance to see and touch new (to me) old, comfy, wood-smelling things. I don’t have to own them in order for them to fulfill my love of all things wooden and well-crafted.
We gave ourselves about six months lead time for a full three bedroom house that contained all the stuff David and I had amassed over the span of our six years together. It was a little hectic at the end, but because I was able to stay home during the day six months was about perfect. If you only have nighttimes and weekends for pickups, I’d add an extra month, for two reasons: daytime buyers often come immediately, whereas nighttime and weekend pickups are prone to rescheduling because of your and their commitments. About 15-20% of our sales came from daytime pickups.
Stick to a Process
Here was ours:
1) Go around the house with a camera and take pictures of everything you can bear to part with at that moment. Make sure the pictures are in good light, and include close-up detail shots depending on the item.
2) That evening, upload that round of pictures and create their sales ads. We chose to use our local Facebook Community, and our Craigslist equivalent. Both of those sites gave us enough volume. If we were in the states, we could also have listed on Amazon and Ebay. It’s not that hard to do an extra listing if you already have the description written. But if you have things listed for sale on this many websites, be sure that you’re keeping track of sales and immediately removing ads. This means you’ll spend less time responding to inquiries for things that have already sold.
3) After a week of selling through this round of listings, go through and do another round of picture taking. This can help stagger the overwhelming volume of responses you’ll get when you’re selling an entire house. You may also find that the extra time allowed you to ‘say goodbye’ to something you weren’t quite ready to sell before.
A few things to include in your description:
-Price (if you’re selling items as a group, specify if the price is for all, and whether or not you’re open to selling individual pieces)
-Condition (Be honest. It only hurts you and wastes both of your time if you try to exaggerate the condition)
-Brand, dimensions, etc. (I can’t tell you how much communication time is wasted when people don’t include dimensions)
-If it’s a high ticket item or electronic equipment, add a link to the manufacturer’s specs page.
Before you list an item, look around on the sales sites to see what similar items are going for. Then set a very fair price. Typically, unless it’s a brand name or in-demand item, you’re looking at about 50% of what you bought it for, depending on the item’s condition. (Don’t even try to sell your clothes unless you’ve got some really nice designer stuff. The money you’ll get, if you can sell them at all, will likely not be worth the hassle. Try donating, or leaving a few favorites at your Mom’s house. Thanks Mom!)
The benefit of aggressive pricing is that you’ll spend less time on back and forth haggling and questions about the item’s condition. The money will be in your pocket sooner rather than later, allowing you to focus on all the other stuff you have to do. Sometimes as little as a $5 price difference is the difference between getting it out of your house today, and leaving it to sit while everyone else buys the more fairly priced mattresses. (Used mattresses do not command a high price in our experience)
To make sure you get a fair price for your expensive things, list them early! The markets for them will be smaller, and it may take more time to find your buyer. You may have to decide at some point whether you’re willing to lose a lot of money (for us, it was an expensive silk rug that just didn’t sell), or whether you want to store it, in which case you’ll have to make the storage arrangements before you travel.
As an exception, there are a few things people are willing to pay a lot for. Know what these things are in advance, and you’ll get a good profit. You can always lower the price later, but it’s not really kosher to increase the price just because a ton of people show interest. People do it but it’s a dick move, and sometimes it starts big stupid fights on Facebook.
In our case, people always fought over our cookware and kitchen appliances. We managed to get 80% of the purchase price back out of our LeCreuset set. I also sold a Tory Burch purse that was in really bad condition for more money than I should have been able to. And power tools. People go crazy over purses and power tools.
If you’re selling through a household and want to sell as much of it as possible (we managed to sell even the tiny things by grouping them into ‘kits,’), you’re looking at a couple hundred items at least. That’s 200 communications with 200 people, if you can get the communication process down to an art.
- Give them everything they need to know in the ad (see above for description + when you’re available, how you like to be contacted) I generally don’t mention whether I’m negotiable. If I’ve already asked for a very fair price, I usually have buyers before anyone even asks about a discount.
- Give them a discount if they’re buying more than one thing. (For us, ~10% off the total price was worth the time we saved in finding and corresponding with another buyer)
- Once they contact you about their interest, give them a time (or range of times) to pick it up. Don’t make them write you back to arrange a time.
- DO NOT agree to meet them somewhere, unless you really want to sell it, and you’re willing to be stood up, or frantically try to get hold of them on their cell. People are jerks. They will stand you up, it happened to us twice.
- Sometimes on Facebook it’s nice to offer “second in line.” If more than one person is interested, you can tell the second person that you’ll let them know if the first person falls through. If the first person blows you off, you have a second buyer right away. We actually had someone mad that we sold something immediately after he failed to show up at the agreed time, when we couldn’t reach him on his cell. He was an irresponsible lout who didn’t respect other people’s time, and I told him as much.
- Remove sales ads immediately after the item sells.
Presell When it Makes Sense
Here’s a problem: you’re counting on the money you’re going to get from your couch, TV, and entertainment system, but you don’t much relish camping out on your floor. List everything for sale anyway, and in the ad include “Available on [a week or a few days before you leave].” There are plenty of people who are shopping for an upcoming move, and who are willing to wait.
We found we were able to sell the contents of our guest bedrooms, all of our kitchen, and most of our living room beforehand. It was really only our couch, TV, bed, and cleaning supplies that we needed to keep until the end.
Donate When It Makes Sense
We tried to sell everything we could, and with a few small exceptions, we did. These exceptions were clothing, and the food in our pantry. Also, if someone let us know that they were buying for a charity, and we were able to find a record of that charity online, we threw in other things they might need, like office supplies or disposable dinnerware, etc.
You can donate the small small items too, but we usually first tried selling them in a group with like items.
Let’s see, am I forgetting anything? If so, let me know. Good luck with the purge. If you’ve already been considering it, I doubt you’ll regret it. We haven’t.