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

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 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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