Online sales have come a long way since eBay sold its first item – a broken laser pointer – in 1995. Back then, the company was known as AuctionWeb, and it quickly became a popular place to scout out collectible items such as rare Beanie Babies. Today, there is no limit to the things to sell on eBay, which hosts 1.6 billion listings in its marketplace.
But it’s not the only place to sell online. Craigslist offers free online classified ads in cities worldwide, and Facebook Marketplace allows users of the popular social media site to buy and sell locally.
All these sites are international in reach, and online selling can be a way for people around the globe to make money and declutter their homes.
“I recently renovated my house, and there was so much stuff … I sold on eBay and Facebook Marketplace,” says Meera Watts, who lives in Singapore and is the founder of Siddhi Yoga.
To learn more about how to make a profit, keep reading for tips from expert sellers as well as some of the best-selling items on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and eBay.
Tips for Selling Online
Even the best item may be slow to sell online if it’s not marketed properly.
“Photography is very important, especially that first (image). It has to catch the buyer’s eye,” says Pinky Chong, founder and CEO of The Resale Academy. Chong first began selling items from her own closet in 2010 and now provides consulting services to those interested in a resale business.
Here are a few tips from seasoned sellers like Chong:
- Price items right. If you are going for top dollar, you may need to do some research to value your items, but to make sales quickly, consider pricing goods at or less than half the going rate in stores. If your price is firm, be sure to mention that in the listing.
- Include plenty of pictures: As a volunteer with historic St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Spotswood, New Jersey, David Decker has been successfully selling on eBay collectibles and similar items donated to the church’s thrift store. To create listings, he simply sets the item on a table and snaps photos without worrying about specific lighting or backdrops. “It takes me all of about three minutes to do it,” he says.
- Use keywords. To attract shoppers, try to envision how someone might search for your product and use those keywords in your listing. For instance, rather than describing an item as a table, be more descriptive and add the type of wood or use a more specific term such as coffee table.
- List items separately. It’s best to only bundle items that are likely to sell in a group such as a set of clothing or related toys.
- Weed out window shoppers. Once someone expresses an interest, try to answer questions and make payment arrangements via email instead of in person. This avoids wasting time on tire kickers who are not serious buyers.
- Be honest: In both your listing and your conversations with potential buyers, be clear and honest about the condition of the item. “It’s better to say whatever problem is in the item beforehand so that it doesn’t become a problem later,” Watts says.
- Don’t hold items. Using a first-come, first-serve method of selling is often preferable. Buyers can and do back out of sales.
- Ask for a deposit. If you are going to hold an item, ask for a deposit via a payment service such as Venmo to ensure the buyer is serious.
- Complete transactions in public. For safety’s sake, complete in-person sales in a public place such as a police station, church or gas station, whenever possible.
- Conduct online sales in the platform. For online sales, Chong says it’s not uncommon for people to message sellers and ask to complete the transaction outside the listing platform. This can be a red flag for a scam, and sellers will lose any protections offered by the platform. She also suggests using Paypal’s goods and services payment method for additional security. “Paypal has higher fees, but they are still the best way to be paid,” she says.
13 Items to Sell on eBay, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace
While new products can be sold on most online sales platforms, these websites are more commonly used by people seeking affordable secondhand products or searching for rare or vintage pieces.
“A younger generation of sellers and buyers is driving demand for secondhand goods, particularly in eBay’s luxury categories like watches and handbags, which are backed by eBay’s Authenticity Guarantee,” says Charis Marquez, vice president of fashion for eBay.
In eBay’s annual Recommerce Report, 80% of Generation Z responding sellers reported purchasing pre-owned goods in the last year and 32% of sellers who started in the last year identified as Gen Z.
Products sold on eBay are often shipped to buyers although local pick-up may be offered by some sellers. Meanwhile, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace have typically been used for local sales.
“I have had great success on eBay,” Decker says. However, he still uses Facebook Marketplace for larger items, noting: “I don’t want to try to ship an antique desk.”
- Home goods.
- Pet supplies.
- Baby items.
- Yard and specialty tools.
- Outdoor recreation items.
- Vinyl LPs and CDs.
- Video games.
As people shifted to remote work at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, laptops were a hot commodity, and they continue to sell briskly today. Tech ties with apparel as the most popular recommerce category, according to eBay. Before selling any laptop or electronic device, be sure to delete any personal or sensitive material.
Decker says glassware has been a strong seller in his experience, but he’s not talking about garden-variety kitchenware. Instead, he’s been selling vases, figurines and other items from brands such as Lalique, Murano and Baccarat. “I find a lot of glassware bowls seem to have a great value,” he says. For instance, a Rene Lalique bowl recently brought in $560 to support his church’s ministries.
Home goods, such as small appliances, have also proven popular with online buyers in recent years. Pandemic hobbies, such as baking, have also meant the market is good for bread machines and similar products.
Clothing has seen a significant uptick in demand as Gen Z consumers embrace the ideas of sustainability, thrifting and upcycling, according to Chong. Some resale sites, such as Poshmark, specialize in fashion, but Chong says eBay offers a wider reach and may be an easier platform to navigate.
Pet care products are another popular category. People love their pets and are often willing to spend a great deal of money on them.
Since kids grow quickly, people are often looking for a deal on baby gear. Larger items such as cribs and strollers can sell quickly and can be used by multiple children. However, be aware that car seats have expiration dates which can range from six to 12 years after their manufacture. Once a car seat has expired – or if it was in an accident – it should not be sold.
Yard and Specialty Tools
People have spent more time at home during the past two years, and there has been renewed attention on home maintenance. Unusual or specialty tools that can’t easily be found locally may sell especially well online.
Outdoor Recreation Items
Similarly, as people started spending more time outside during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was renewed interest in outdoor recreation items. These range from kayaks for adults to Power Wheels vehicles for kids.
Vinyl LPs and CDs
While streaming sites such as Spotify and Amazon Music make it easy to listen to virtually any music at any time, some people prefer to have physical copies of albums. Ecommerce platform Shopify says sales of vinyl LPs and CDs saw year-over-year global order growth of 25,048% in 2021.
What’s old is new, and retro video games and systems are another hot seller. They also fill a need for those looking for indoor activities to do at home.
“From my own experience, I say that home furnishings are one of the best sellers on these platforms,” Watts shares.
When she listed a sofa set and dining table on Facebook Marketplace, they sold in less than two days. Although some online shoppers may be buying to refresh their décor, others are looking for older furniture pieces that can be refurbished and resold.
In its Recommerce Report, eBay says there has been a “major increase in the sales of collectibles.” Baseball and basketball cards, vintage toys and collectible card games have all seen increased interest from buyers.
“People are just missing that one beer stein from their collection,” Decker says, for example. To complete their set, collectors are turning to sites like eBay which allow them to search globally for sought-after items.
New and used car inventories have been meager on many auto dealer lots so people are turning to private sales on platforms such as eBay, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace to find a vehicle. There, they may find a larger selection of cars, trucks and vans and also be able to avoid dealer fees.
Almost anything can be sold online, but these 13 categories seem to be top-selling items on eBay, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. Whichever platform you use, remember to follow the tips above for smooth and safe transactions.