If you’re looking to buy or sell online, eBay isn’t the only online marketplace out there. Check out Susan Johnston Taylor’s tips for using Facebook Sale Groups to bring in a side income.
I grew up scouring yard sales for used books and clothes with my mom, but now I’m a city-dweller, so I don’t have a yard—or a garage—for selling my stuff. Fortunately, local Facebook garage sale groups eliminate the need for signs, price tags, and yard space, because you can post items online and check out Facebook profiles before inviting a stranger into your home. Whether you need extra cash or want to avoid paying retail prices, Facebook Sale Groups offer an alternative to Craigslist.
Last year, I helped my mom clean out her townhome by selling stuff on Facebook groups, and she liked being able to see what friends she has in common with buyers. I’m now in the process of selling my stuff before moving.
Here are some strategies I picked up along the way.
Getting Started with Selling on Facebook
- Join multiple groups. As a buyer, joining various groups boosts the chance of finding exactly what you’re looking for. As a seller, posting to multiple Facebook groups increases the likelihood of finding a buyer. Some communities have super-specific groups for different types of products (for instance, groups devoted to specific clothing or electronics brands), and these are often a better bet than general garage sale groups. Minutes after I posted candles and candle-holders from my centerpieces on a wedding buy and swap group, several brides offered to buy them ASAP. However, pay attention to what you’re allowed to post in each group and how often you’re allowed to post.
- Follow through. Flaky buyers and sellers frustrate everyone, so if you really want an item or you want to sell an item, be clear in your communication with the buyer or seller and call or text if you’re running late. Many buyers and sellers finalize the details of the transaction over Facebook Messenger, so be sure to check your “other” messages folder and tweak your privacy settings if needed so people outside your friend circle can message you. If you’re making the transaction in person: Try to bring exact change if you’re the buyer, and carry a few small bills (in case you need to make change) if you’re the seller.
- Learn the lingo. Buyers and sellers on Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook often use shorthand to describe their items, so here are some common online selling terms you should know.
- Bump means to move your item to the top of the feed, often by posting a comment such as “still available” or “price reduced.” Groups have different rules about how often you can bump your items (once every seven days is common), so check each group’s rules first.
- EUC stands for Excellent Used Condition.
- ISO stands for In Search Of. If you’re a buyer looking for something specific, you can post an ad describing the item with a photo for illustrative purposes. If you’re a seller and see a buyer’s ISO ad that matches your item, you can respond rather than posting the item separately.
- X-posted means an item is cross-posted in multiple places, so even if you’re the first to respond in that group, another buyer could still be ahead of you. If you’re a seller who’s cross-posting, it’s courteous to mention this in your post.
Tips for Buying on Facebook
- Be ready to pick up. If a seller has a truck, he might be willing to deliver for a few extra bucks, but in most cases, that’s the buyer’s responsibility. Be prepared to meet the buyer at the time and place that is convenient for her. If you make her wait several days while you come back from vacation or borrow a friend’s truck, she may move on to the next buyer.
- Haggle ahead of time. Some haggling over price is expected, but if an item is in high demand and you really want it, you’ll probably have to pay the full asking price. If you’re not picky about which patio set or bookcase you buy, then haggle your heart out! However, if you try to haggle in person on an item that’s exactly as described, you might walk away empty-handed. I had several buyers show up offering less than the price we agreed upon simply because they felt they had leverage in person. In one case, we met in the middle because I wanted to make a quick sale before my move, but when I had more time, I stood firm on the price and found another buyer a few days later.
- Get electronics checked out. A buyer for my old smartphone asked to meet at a local cellphone repair shop and the shop was happy to confirm for her (for free) that the phone wasn’t stolen and check that the headphone jack and camera worked properly. This also gave me some peace of mind that the customer was serious about buying the phone. If you’re concerned about safety, meet in front of the local police station for items that don’t need to be checked out.
Tips for Selling on Facebook
- Set prices with room for haggling. For most items in decent condition, you can expect to get around half (or less) of what you originally paid. Items that are brand new or in high demand may earn you more. If you’re hoping for a quick sale, set prices as low as you’re willing to go. If you’re willing to wait and want to get as much money as possible, start high and then reduce the price over time if it doesn’t sell. Starting at top dollar gives you some wiggle room if buyers want to haggle.
- Be honest. If you misrepresent the condition of your items, you could lose out on the sale. If the buyer shows up expecting a coffee table in near perfect condition and finds that it’s heavily scratched, they’re likely to walk away or ask you to drop the price. Some buyers are willing to buy items with defects for the right price, so explain any imperfections and include photos.
Susan Johnston Taylor has covered business and personal finance for publications including the Boston Globe, Entrepreneur, FastCompany.com, and USNews.com.
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