How to list an eBay auction for maximum profit

How to list an eBay auction for maximum profit

Over the past eight years I have been buying and selling items on eBay for myself and, more recently, for small businesses. In that time I've learned a few tricks to help get maximum profit for items with just a few tweaks during the listing process. Here's a checklist to use when listing your items:

  • List the item on Sunday
  • Know the item you're listing
  • Research what similar items have sold for
  • Be honest with your description
  • Be realistic with what you expect to get for it
  • Avoid most eBay add-ons
  • Get a good starting bid, avoid reserves, use Buy It Now
  • List the item for maximum visibility
  • Be as descriptive as possible
  • Use quality photographs
  • Explain any flaws
  • Spell check
  • Explain shipping & handling fees up front
  • Create a disclaimer
  • Reply to all questions in a timely manner
  • Ship fast
  • Use PayPal
  • Promote your auction

List the Item on Sunday

Listing a standard seven day auction late Sunday afternoon into early evening will give you the best chance of a great auction selling price. More people are likely to be home and you will get the exposure of the remaining part of that day and the entire following Saturday. If you live on the east coast of the United States, list it somewhere between 6 and 9pm. This will give people on the west coast ample time to see it. Ideally, you want as many people to see it in the last few hours as possible, which is when most people make the decision to buy.

Know the Item You're Listing

Sounds silly, but many people don't know exactly what it is they are selling. Say for example you are selling a toy you bought for your toddler but they hate it. You threw out the box when you gave it to him, so you lost a lot of the information about it, what age group it was for, etc. Without that information, you cannot make a solid, descriptive auction. The information should be available on the manufactor website, so search for that. Likewise, if you are selling something like a handmade wood bowl that your grandfather gave you, list that it is a handmade item and that it is one of a kind (if it truly is).

Research What Similar Items Have Sold For

You'll need to login to your eBay account to do this then go to the advanced search options. Search for already completed auctions to get an idea of what recently ending items have sold for and how much of a bidding war took place. With this information you should be able to properly gauge what your item is worth and start the auction accordingly.

Be Honest with Your Description

Sounds easy enough, but the number of sellers who don't give any information or very little about an items real condition can often not get as much money from their sale or have to deal with numerous questions during the auctions. If you are trying to sell a set of bookshelf speakers for example and you know that on the left side of one of them is a small mark, take a photo and make sure you note it in the description.

By being honest you will not only save the aggravation of dealing with an unhappy buyer after the fact, you will be more likely to come off as a real person selling the item. Buyers like to know that they are getting something from an honest seller. If you embellish your listing you are only selling yourself short. Likewise, be sure that you mention other details that some may care about. Often times when selling used clothing it is a good idea to mention that your home is smoke free and pet free, only do this if it is indeed true.

Be Realistic with What You Want to Get for the Item

After you've done your research on what similar items have sold for, be realistic with the condition of the item you are selling and how much you can get for it. Sometimes people shoot for the stars and end up not selling the item; by not selling it you waste money in listing fees. If you are not comfortable with the price at which recent auctions have ended, don't list your item. There is a chance the market for that particular item will have an upswing, just as likely as it could have a downswing though.

Avoid Most eBay Add-ons

There are dozens of options when listing your auction, you can see all the sellers fees here. Most of them will not get you more money in the end, such as fancy templates, making the title line bold and putting a funny little outline around your listing in search engines. Unless you have something really rare, I'd avoid these.

Get a Good Starting Bid, Avoid Reserves and Use Buy It Now

Low starting prices attract buyers, reserves scare them away, and so I'd avoid using them unless you really need to get a certain amount for the item. Listing your item at $1.00 with no reserve will more then likely draw attention but be aware that it might only sell for $1.00. Over the years, the Buy It Now option has become more popular; I personally prefer to buy auctions with them. There is a small fee associated with it, but auctions that list with the BIN add-on usually sell faster.

List the Item for Maximum Visibility

eBay offers several add-on features for a fee to get your item to stand out better in the search results, some of these are worth looking into some are not. The only one I'd ever really consider is the thumbnail view of your item to the left of the text link. What you can do for free is use all the space available for your auction title. Currently eBay gives 55 characters — use all of them. Additionally, use the underscore to separate words instead of a blank space. “Why,” you ask? The modern type is dynamic to each letter; the lower case letter l takes up less horizontal space then the lowercase letter w. By using the underscore instead of spaces you will essentially widen the auction title and possibly get it to spill onto a second line for free. Here's an example:

New Playstation 3 Core System With 2 Controllers
New_Playstation_3_Core_System_With_2_Controllers

Not only is the wider one easier to read, it will attract more viewers. There is also an add-on when listing your auction called Gallery, it is a $0.35 add on feature. While I am against most of these add-ons because they can really cut into your profits, this is one that is worth it. Why? Because it will show the buyer what your item looks like from the search results field. This can be very handy for many different types of auctions, in addition to drawing more attention to the listing.

Be as Descriptive as Possible

If the item is of electronic nature, say a home stereo, see if the manufactor still has the specs listed on their site and either link to it or copy over the important ones. In addition, list your personal experience with the item, how it works, functions, etc. You'll want to make a point of listing everything positive you can about the item. In some cases, I've also listed why I'm selling some items, depending on what it is.

Recently I sold a piece of luggage that I purchased in California on vacation that was needed to haul home all the stuff I bought. It was used once as a carry on and was in as new condition. This information was listed in the auction. Also take the time to list the environment the items lived in. If for example you were selling clothing, even new with tags on it, list in the auction that the item is new with tags and if applicable, that it comes from a smoke free, animal free home, kept in a cool, dry closet. Don't lie here!

Explain any flaws. Take photos of scratches, dents, scuffs, wear, etc. No matter how small it is, disclose the information in both photographs and pictures. This lets the seller know how are trying to be honest and up front about the item. You don't have to go into full detail about how everything happened, just be sure to list them.

Use Quality Photographs

If it is something small, get a piece of white poster board from a local Wal-Mart type store and place it on your kitchen table. Put the item on it and turn on all the lights in that room. Take a few pictures of it making sure nothing else is being shown but the item and the white background. If the item is fairly small, look for a macro setting on your camera and use that.

For any given item, 3-6 quality photographs will go a long way. Resize them down to be used on the web; an easy way to do this is with the freeware program Irfanview (Windows only, Mac users can use iPhoto). Once open, go to Image > Resize / Resample and click the 800×600 option, then OK. Save these to a new location. Since eBay only gives you one photo for free, use a free web photo hosting solution for the other images to be listed in your auction. Some of these sites are:

They all provide code to place them into eBay auctions and are free to use. I've been using xs.to for sometime and never had a problem. Simple and straight forward.

Spell Check

Take two minutes and reread what you wrote, make sure it makes sense and there are no spelling errors. Not only will this make the auction more valid for your potential buyer, it is the right thing to do.

Explain Shipping & Handling Fees Up Front

When listing your auction, eBay has the boxes you can use for shipping, flat rate, by weight, etc. I think it is also worth listing in the auction itself what the shipping & handling fees are, where you will and won't ship to, what the insurance options are, etc.

My experience is that buyers prefer flat rate shipping, so you will need to determine what your item weighs packed up and what the rate is from who you will use as a shipper (UPS, USPS, FedEx, etc.). I usually add $1-4 to that to cover my costs of the box, packing material and gas to drive to where I'm mailing it from. Insurance is an option in the listing process, you the seller decide if you want to make it required, optional or not available. I usually use the optional portion, 50% of the time the buyer will want it, and the other half they won't.

Create a Disclaimer

At the bottom of all my auctions I use something similar to the following:

I have listed this item to the best of my ability. If you have any questions, please contact me with at least 24 hours prior to the auction ending so I may reply to them. Payment is expected within three days of the auction ending, PayPal is the preferred method. The item will be shipped within one business day after payment has been received. Insurance is optional, however it is recommended. Please leave positive feedback for me when the item arrives, I will do the same for after you have left feedback for me. If for some reason there is an issue with the item when it arrives, please contact me ASAP to address it.

Reply to All Questions in a Timely Manner

Common sense here folks. Don't list an item and go on vacation. Do check your email and eBay account at least twice a day to look for questions. Reply to them in a timely manner and address each question to the best of your ability.

Ship Fast

If you can, ship an item the day of payment or the following day. This will help build a positive feedback rating for you as a fast shipper, something a lot of buyers look for. No one wants to pay for something on Monday to find out it hasn't shipped out till Friday. Take this into consideration when listing your item.

Use PayPal

PayPal allows instant payment and the ability for you the seller to receive credit card payments. By doing so, you have now enabled someone who may not have the cash to purchase your item to do so by putting it on their credit card. Additionally, it allows you to track payments and create shipping labels for both USPS and UPS. Using the built-in option for shipping labels will also send notification to the buyer that the item has shipped and what the tracking number is, one less thing you need to do. There are too many instances where checks and money orders bounce, get lost in the mail, etc. to make them worth while. Additionally, it adds time until the buyer receives their item.

Promote Your Auction

On any given day there are millions of items listed. Just having a clever title isn't good enough anymore. You need to tell people you have an auction. Get on the social network of your choice and make a blog or bulletin post announcing your auctions. Don't go around spamming people, but once when you list the auction and another the day before the auction ends can help drive extra traffic to your auctions.

Lastly, build relationships. Use the feedback options on all auctions, making sure to emphasize what the buyer has done right, using terms like fast payment or painless transaction. This will make you seem much more human and more buyers will want to deal with you. Should an issue arise, do everything in your power to resolve it as fast as possible.

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Russell Heimlich
Russell Heimlich
13 years ago

Excellent post! I have a tn of stuff that I need to get up on eBay. Lately I have been winning a ton of auctions and as a buyer, these tips about fast shipping hold true.

As for when to list them, I would think sometime during office hours because that is when I did a lot of my damage even staying later specifically to win an auction that I would miss while on the commute home. I understand that not every worker has this luxury.

Annie Jones
Annie Jones
13 years ago

I agree with everything you wrote except for listing on Sundays. I think it may depend on what you are selling, but after keeping track of a few hundred of my sales, I found my best results were on auctions that ended around 8 p.m. Central time on Mondays and Thursdays, followed by Sundays. Saturdays were my worst end days.

I love the Buy It Now add-on. The majority of my sales are on auctions where I’ve added the BIN.

Karen M Smith
Karen M Smith
13 years ago

Great post, I’m in the midst of putting stuff on eBay, some great tips that I’m applying right now.

One minor nitpick, Mike Panic writes about spell checking listings but writes ‘manner’ as manor.

Not a good example!

Love this website.

J.D.
J.D.
13 years ago

D’oh! I caught the manor/manner thing while proofing Mike’s post, but apparently let two instances slip through. How embarrassing…

Karen M Smith
Karen M Smith
13 years ago

I just thought it was funny that he highlighted spell checking then there was an error!

Again, love your website, am addicted to reading it and am trying to apply some of the ideas I have read here.

I’m in Australia, so your message is reaching around the globe, good work!

Pete
Pete
13 years ago

Nice post! Just a few comments: I’m not sure about the listing date. As another poster said, I’ve read before that Thursday’s are the suggested day. I’m not really a power seller, so don’t have a lot of experience, but maybe I’ll try a Sunday auction on the next thing I sell. I have to disagree with the auction titles and underscores. Yes, it might make it wider and possibly stand out more, but as a buyer I see something like that as smelling like spam. Maybe it’s because email spam has the same obnoxious “look at me!” tactics. I… Read more »

MaxHedrm
MaxHedrm
13 years ago

I totally disagree with the use of _ in the auction title. First of all, it is NOT easier to read. Plus what Pete said, smells like SPAM. And it could screw with search results.

MaxHedrm
MaxHedrm
13 years ago

And speaking of editing & spell checking, It’s “worth while” not “worth wild”. :^P There was something else I saw too, but I can’t find it now. :^)

Mostly good advice though.

toes
toes
13 years ago

Also speaking of spelling. If you are wanting to buy something on ebay, it is worth trying alternative spellings of the item you are looking for. A few years ago, a friend was searching for guitars on ebay and I suggested he search for “gutar.” He put it in and there were over 80 results.

coming clean
coming clean
13 years ago

Having made a living doing eBay for several years, this advice is good general info to start with, but there are lots of exceptions depending on the product you’re selling. Gallery photos are well worth the price. Buy it now are good when it is a product that is readily available – if you are selling antiques, I would not recommend it as they will often go much higher than you ever expected. I am shocked that the title advice like some have mentioned before, I’d ignore it. The specific day really does depend on the item and I found… Read more »

Sean Epperson
Sean Epperson
13 years ago

Thanks for the advise. This is one of the areas that i have been looking into to make a little money on the side, and it all adds up!

Mike Panic
Mike Panic
13 years ago

Yes I admit my own spelling mistakes are horrible, my apologies. Sometimes spellcheck doesn’t cut it. Pete – The underscores don’t look like spam when looking at all the listings from a search result because eBay underlines the links to indicate that they are links – they just blend in. You don’t see them until you look at the auction listing itself. Sadly, I think people who put similar items in their auction to get better search results look more like spam. An example would be, “playstation III Not Xbox 360 Wii”. As for listing date, Sunday is a good… Read more »

Eric
Eric
13 years ago

Start your auctions at $.01 instead of $1, there is a $.05 reduction in listing fees.

Eric
Eric
13 years ago

Actually, there is a $.20 reduction in fees listing at $.01, they raised the insertion price for $1.00.

Mike Panic
Mike Panic
13 years ago

Eric – thanks for pointing that out. Only start your auctions that low if you are OK with the idea that they may go for under market value though. Starting low bids is usually a good way to draw in lots of watchers which often turns into lots of bidders.

MillionDollarJourney.com
MillionDollarJourney.com
13 years ago

Personally, i’ve found listing on a Tuesday or Thursday works best. But to each their own.

FinanceAndFat
FinanceAndFat
13 years ago

Really great post, though I wish you had put this up last week! 🙂

I just went through a large number of Ebay listings/sales last week and while I made a fair amount of money, I don’t feel like I really maximized most of my listings. I will put this info to use right away. Thanks!

Ebiz Tax Tips
Ebiz Tax Tips
13 years ago

Great post! I would also like to add that I think gallery pictures can add value to a listing, so they are worth the additional fees. Plus, I like to review completed auctions for similar items to see what works/doesn’t work.

Steve J.
Steve J.
13 years ago

I’ve been selling comic books on eBay since 1998, and I’ve been following almost all of Mike’s guidelines for years. My auctions that close on Sundays have always done better than any other day of the week. In fact, I believe that having the entire Saturday beforehand for potential buyers to see my auctions is so important that I only start my auctions so that they close between 8pm-11pm ET Sunday. In my case, I believe my audience (age 16-30, usually male) is more available at that time than during the day midweek, for example. Midweek during the day might… Read more »

Roger
Roger
13 years ago

Can I just say I hate the “I’ll leave you feedback if you leave me feedback” thing? As a seller, I leave feedback when someone pays me–they’ve done their part. As a buyer, I leave it when I get the item–the seller has done their part. The underscores thing is dumb, but the rest is good advice. I’d also recommend setting reasonable shipping and handling fees…don’t list an item at $1 and then set a $50 shipping fee in an effort to get around eBay fees and lure gullible buyers. It doesn’t work and you look like an underscore-title kind… Read more »

Tim
Tim
13 years ago

The suggested conditions on feedback seem like blackmail to me. As a buyer, if I pay promptly in full (which I always do), I’m entitled to positive feedback from the seller, and this should not be conditional on my leaving feedback for the seller. In fact I refuse to leave feedback for a seller before buyer feedback has been posted for me. I feel so strongly about this point that unless the item is really irresistible I refuse to bid if a seller puts such a condition on the item listing. So it’s not a way of increasing sales, in… Read more »

Eric D. Burdo
Eric D. Burdo
13 years ago

You can take the reverse of this information to find good deals. Then resell them using the “good selling tips”.

I frequently buy items that have odd ending dates and poor photos/descriptions and resell them.

Of course, you run a risk that way, but it all depends on what your buying.

Robert
Robert
13 years ago

I agree with many of the suggestions, but have a few I must take issue with: 3 days to pay – that’s unenforceable, and unreasonable if you accept Money Orders. You cannot even file a UID (Unpaid Item Dispute) until the 7th day. Shipping insurance: Contrary to popular belief, the seller is responsible for getting the item into the buyer’s hands, whether the buyer buys insurance or not. Insurance is to protect the Seller. If a claim is made, it’s the SELLER who has to file the claim, deal with the shipper, and collects any payment. If you want to… Read more »

sa_australia
sa_australia
13 years ago

An interesting read for an avid eBayer, my main source of income for a few years now… auction end times definately make a difference, but really it depends on who wants a perticular item at the time, give as much detail and postage up front for those who come across an item just before auction end.. most of all be honest!!! happy ebaying to all and check out my site for great bargains sa_australia

Sammy B
Sammy B
12 years ago

Thanks for the advice A note on the feedback comments: Robert is right. A bidders role doesn’t end straight after they have paid. A seller could quite easily leave a “fast payment, many thanks” only to find a coupls of days later the buyer is making a fuss about the product which was perfect on dispatch. The buyer then gets away with causing unappropriate hassle and getting a great feedback score. The only time both parties should leave feedback is when the transaction is complete. Ie when the item has arrived and the buyer is happy…or unhappy and things can’t… Read more »

gill bear
gill bear
12 years ago

I’ve been buying and selling on ebay since it started. I have my own trade secrets when selling that often bring me well over 1000 visitors per listing which ends up resulting in a crazy bidding war. I would suggest that you get creative and find the way to best catch peoples eye with your main photo. Also be careful how you list. I often will look up similar highest priced completed auctions and I will take note on how they listed their item… everything from the wording in the title to how many pictures, etc. Then I will try… Read more »

Louise - UK
Louise - UK
10 years ago

The above from Gill is great!! Except – eBay actually states in their help pages that there is no fast rule on when either party should leave feedback but they ADVISE that the seller should not leave feedback until the buyer has received the item and is happy with it. I think they are agreeing with the earlier posts that some buyers can become a nightmare and you have already left them positive feedback? Before the mad rule change (sellers cannot leave negative for buyers – this is slowly destroying eBay by the way) an ABSOLUTELY TINY percentage of sellers… Read more »

Fred
Fred
10 years ago

I have been selling on Ebay for many many years I have just got back into it after a couple years off and it is no where near as good as it use to be. As far as the best day to list! It all depends on what you are selling and is it readily available. Antiques and collectibles should end on Sunday. Electronics and video games can end any day. TIME is probably the big sticker. If you pick the wrong time of day you can get 25-35% less than the average. Some items will sell very good whenever… Read more »

Stephanie
Stephanie
9 years ago

Thank you for the helpful information. I have been a seller with eBay since April of this year (myfivestephanie) and I can use all the tips you have. Just wondering- I have searched top sellers in regard to clothing (90% of what I sell) and noticed they are posting a few items as auctions but the majority of items as buy it now. What are your thoughts? Also I am using SSB as my template listing site. Do you have other site recommendations?

Mike Panic
Mike Panic
9 years ago

I think right now, it’s a coin flip. With the new pricing structure for sellers, it’s far easier to list an auction at a higher starting price because there aren’t any added costs to do so. At the same time, I think buyers have started to grow tired of the 7 day waiting game that is eBay and often prefer to just Buy it Now.

Have you tracked which is doing better for you?

Ashhab Ashraf
Ashhab Ashraf
7 years ago

very informative and solid post that makes sense. thanks for sharing lots of useful tips here that I often miss during the listing on ebay. But now a days ebay is geting too greedy to take an unreasonable percentage of money that I gets from selling.

Jay
Jay
7 years ago

Wow, this man is a genius. Makes me wonder how people think others are so stupid, where they can’t think for themselves, or have any common sense. He’s wrong: USE BIN w Best Offer at .20 a month, and set your price high to bring in higher offers, and accept. Let the item run continues in 31 day cycles, and it will auto relist for another 31 days until it sells for the price you want. Using auction style can be very risky, it all depends who’s waiting to bid at the very end, often people are gone on the… Read more »

Scott Rathwell
Scott Rathwell
6 years ago

This article has some great information on making the most from my Ebay selling. Thankyou!

I have been combing the web looking for all the information I can find on what to price my Ebay items at. I also found the following link very helpful.

http://www.webanswers.com/_EbayPricing/misc/when-you-sell-in-ebay-how-do-you-price-things-ca803b

Sheri
Sheri
6 years ago

Great article! Thanks for the tips. I definitely will put these strategies into practice.

Decor on living room
Decor on living room
4 years ago

It might hide flaws or highlight them if not used aesthetically.

You can also add up with a car porch or garage renovation or garage renovation in addition to home décor,
in order to synchronize the whole theme of your house.
Kitchen decorating ideas like replacing your old kitchen counters with a contemporary, new rounded
one will transform your kitchen and make it look beautiful.

Henry
Henry
4 years ago

I am curious about these auctions. When placing a bid on one. I always notice that when it is almost at the end and it is lot at the price that you want the item sold, do you go and put in a bid to try to make the item go higher? That’s what seems to happen all the time. Whoever you are bidding on something that has a low price. Almost always you will get outbid at the last moment.

Christine Lynch
Christine Lynch
8 months ago

Gearing up for my first sell. This article and the subsequent posts were so very helpful. Thank you everyone. Hope you have a blessed day (only if you want to). 🙂 Christine

Shawn Pritchard
Shawn Pritchard
7 months ago

Thanks Mike. Real helpful. I’m more or less new to eBay and I just set up a PayPal account with a credit card. Is that all I have to do to get into the auctions and / or sell something myself ? Hope that question makes sense. I thank you for your tips , and your time to respond .
Sincerely,
Shawn

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