My Unofficial Guide to Selling Furniture Online: AKA “I should be boss of the internet.”
Craigslist. Kijiji. Ebay. UsedEverywhere. All wonderful inventions in theory. (I personally only surf Kijiji and UsedRegina, because they’re local.) Here’s why they’re awesome:
- I love finding awesome furniture pieces for good deals
- I love imagining old pieces reinvented with a bit of new fabric, paint, or TLC.
Here’s why they’re not awesome:
- People can post whatever dumb ads they want.
So since I can’t be the boss of these things, this is my attempt at setting up some ground rules for selling your stuff online (specifically furniture stuff, because that’s all I care about)…
1. DECIDE IF YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO SELL YOUR ITEM BEFORE YOU POST IT ONLINE.
This may seem ridiculously obvious. It should be common sense. But I’ve actually had the experience of standing on a doorstep with a friend, ready to pick up the set of chairs we’d agreed to purchase earlier in the week. And for some reason no one was answering the door. We knocked. And knocked. And knocked. Turns out we’d missed a phone message from the seller on the way to her house that she’d changed her mind and didn’t want to sell the chairs. *sigh*
And I have on a number of occasions responded to an ad, willing to purchase (for full price even!) and received zero response. And the ad stayed up for days… weeks… months…
So. Assess your commitment issues. Then post the item if you’re ready to let go.
(Similarly, if you commit to buying an item you should show up. And if you can’t, let the seller know in a timely fashion so that you don’t waste their time and they can sell to another interested buyer.)
2. TAKE A PICTURE. A GOOD PICTURE.
FACT: If you don’t put in the effort to include a picture, I won’t put in the effort to read your ad. You could write whatever grandiose claims you like: “Flying Magical Elephant for Sale! Elephant will grant you 45 wishes and make you a chocolate milkshake every day!!!!” It won’t matter. I need to see it.
FACT: I don’t want to purchase your phone book. Or your laundry. Or a portrait of your grandchild. Or your cat. It takes, like, 2 minutes to make your item presentable for a picture before you pull out the camera. You should do this. Clear the clutter so that buyers can clearly see what you’re selling. *Side note: more than one picture from multiple angles is helpful!
FACT: I will not believe you if you say your item is “just like” the picture you snagged from the Pottery Barn website. You need to post a picture of your actual item.
3. PLEASE DON’T DEPRESS ME ABOUT THE STATE OF OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM WITH YOUR POOR GRAMMAR, CRINGE-INDUCING SPELLING, AND NON-SENSICAL RAMBLINGS.
Proofread your ad before you post. Have someone else proofread your ad before you post. Only write necessary information (like the size, colour, age, or condition of your item). Only use one exclamation point (if you must use one at all).
This will help you in two ways:
- You will look like a more respectable, knowledgeable seller
- This will help buyers find your ad. When someone types “Chandelier” into the search box, I’m afraid your ad entitled “Shandaleer 4 sale” will be lost in oblivion.
4. PRICE FAIRLY AND REALISTICALLY
This step may require you to refer back to point number one - do you actually want to sell this item? If so, you need to offer it for a saleable price.
In some circumstances it’s perfectly fine to have a bottom line. If you don’t want to sell the piece for any lower than a certain price, that’s fine - I’ve been there. But you should state that in the ad, and you may need to be prepared to wait it out for a buyer.
If you don’t have sentimental attachment to the piece then you may want to surf a few pages of ads and look for comparable ads. What are items like yours selling for? List for a comparable price (or even lower for a quicker sale.)
And, Dude. Don’t even try to sell an item from IKEA for more than it is currently selling for at IKEA. I’m not kidding - I’ve seen it.
5. BE HONEST ABOUT THE CONDITION OF YOUR ITEM FOR SALE.
People generally appreciate and respect honesty. State in the ad if there are deficiencies with the item you’re selling. If you can include a picture of said stain, scratch, scuff, etc. that’s even better. I think this actually increases your chances of finding a buyer since people won’t feel like you’re hiding something under your glossy claims of perfection.
Besides, many buyers are looking for pieces that they plan to revamp in some way. My wingback chair I purchased was sold for a great price because a cat had scratched through the upholstery on one side. But that was inconsequential to me since I’m reupholstering it anyway.
This leads me to my next point…
6. KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.
Here are two examples of common issues:
- A dark, wood-like finish does not automatically equal “solid walnut”. A light wood-like finish does not automatically equal “solid oak”. If you’re not entirely sure what your piece is made of don’t make any claims about it.
- Antique. Vintage. Old Piece of Junk. There’s a difference.
Claiming anything “old” is antique is either misleading, or makes you look silly. There’s some debate over the term “vintage”, but as a general rule, consider this:
ANTIQUE = an item 100 years old or older. But remember just because it’s old it does not qualify for an exorbitant price increase. Also consider it’s desirability and condition.
VINTAGE = Anything younger than 100 years old to pre-80’s. There’s debate over whether a piece needs to be 50, 40, or 30 years old to be considered “vintage”… But generally if it’s pre-80’s I think it’s OK to list as vintage.
If it’s from the 80’s or 90’s, chances are it qualifies as “OPJ” (“Old Piece of Junk”). Not that you shouldn’t try to sell it. Surely someone out there wants to imagine they’re living in an episode of “Saved By The Bell” and will want your multi-coloured vinyl couch:
(Sorry for the small picture. I went back and it was already sold. See?! People are searching for OPJ’s!)
7. BE COURTEOUS AND RESPOND TO INQUIRIES.
If you posted your ad online you clearly have access to a computer. If you list a phone number you obviously have access to a phone. So use them, please.
If you actually want to sell your item then answer reasonable questions about the item. And though not required, it sure is nice if you notify people if the item is no longer for sale. (However, the easiest/best way to do this is to remove your ad when you’ve sold. Do this promptly.)
So there you go. A guide. Or a list of pet peeves. Either way, heeding such advice will help you make a deal.
(All illustrations by Justine Taylor, 2011)