What to look for?
When you are first starting out it is usually a good idea to focus on what you already know if applicable. You don’t need to be an expert, as I don’t consider myself an expert on any particular type of item. I do however know a lot about a lot of different types of items, and more importantly I know the value of them. I have been told before that if I ever got on the price is right I would be accused of cheating. If you are inexperienced in sales or pricing stick to what you know, maybe a hobby of yours or just something that you are very interested in. Maybe you like to work on cars; maybe you love photography or collect coins and money. Perhaps you’re a sports nut and you know the big names on sports teams, you could also be a computer nerd and I don’t mean that to be offensive as I consider myself one as well as a sports nut. Regardless if you can find something you already know about and are interested in, it will make it easier and you will be more confident in buying and selling these types of items. When I get asked what type of items I sell, my response is anything I can make a profit on. I do however love buying and selling cameras, antique clocks, musical instruments and electronics and that is usually the first types of items I look for when I am out hunting. If you are trying to make some extra money or turn reselling into a nice hobby and supplemental income it is a lot easier to focus on a niche category you like, however if you are trying to do it for a living you may want to expand your product base. There is no reason to worry about what to look for yet, or worry that you don’t know anything about item values. I am going to show you a few techniques that I use to make myself feel like an expert and give me the confidence to make smart purchases.
Research and Valuation of items
I am going to reveal my most valuable secret when it comes to buying or bidding. Unlike my competition I almost NEVER lose money on items that I purchase. Whenever I am given the opportunity to view an item before bidding or buying I don’t rely on guessing or what I think something sold for somewhere or a price I read in a guide that is most likely outdated by now. I carry a small note pad with me and a pen and I try and write down a brief but informative description about the item. The first thing I look for is the brand name, the next thing is the model or catalog number, brief description of what the item is and possibly a serial number if I am going to have time to do extensive research or if it even applies. For instance, if you are looking up a Fender Stratocaster guitar you will find an overwhelming number of results and prices ranging all over the place. However if you have a serial number you will be able to track down the year of the guitar in question and have a better shot at getting the price range of the one in question. If I can’t find a model number, serial number, brand name or any identifying marks on the item which will be the case for many antiques than I try to be as descriptive as possible with the item. What is the item made of? About how long is it? What color is it? The other day I saw a spoon and fork deco set and was not sure of the value. They wooden, very large and looked to be rather old, I did research on the keywords vintage/antique wooden huge/large spoon/fork and found a lot of comparable results. Typically I will write down descriptions for items that I am not familiar with, items that appear to be potentially valuable which is going to be different for everyone but you get a better idea the longer you do it. I also like to write down the condition to the best of my knowledge, if something is missing parts or pieces that I can tell or scratched, cracked or damaged in any way I will note it. Check if the battery compartment is corroded, if it is electrical then plug it into an outlet if possible to see if it powers on. The more information you can get the better your decision process will be and the more accurate your price evaluation will be. This process is known as due diligence, if you don’t do your due diligence than you will have only yourself to blame for stupid purchases and lost money. The amount of information that I write down for a specific item depends on how long I will have to do research and how many items I am interested in.
After I have written down my descriptions and am satisfied with them I go back to my car. I have a netbook with a paid wireless anywhere service that allows me to access the internet just about anywhere in the United States. When I have several pages full of items to lookup and want the fastest research possible I use www.terapeak.com which is authorized and promoted by eBay, Market Research database. This site will allow you to pull up all of the sold and unsold results for an item listed on eBay for any 90 day period within the previous year. So let’s say we are at an estate sale of a rich camera collector and there is a Leica M9 Camera in mint condition there that the estate company has verified to be authentic. We plug in Leica M9 camera into Terapeak for the last 90 days of sales. Below are the results:
We can see at exactly what time of day, day of the week and listing type that the item sold the most for. We also can see what the top of the market is for this item being sold on eBay. Don’t be too concerned with the average sale price is when doing a search like this one, as you can see the average price is only $1002, while the top of the sales is just about $7000. This would be a huge discrepancy in price, however what is also included in the search results are accessories for this camera such as lenses, adapters, cases, etc. We can use the same search query and click on the categories on the left to search deeper and more precise. The modified search is pictured below:
As you can see here the results are now confined to only the listings that were in the actual digital cameras category. At the very bottom of the sales results the lowest sales of this camera were for cameras that were sold “for parts or repair” and the ones above those were listed with very poor listing titles that did not attract enough qualified bidders to the listing and sold for less than market value, we will be discussing keyword listing under seller best practices later in this book so for now just understand that a short and keyword lacking title is very bad. So we can narrow our potential resale price in the $6000-$7000 range. This will give us a better idea of how much room we have for profit depending on our purchase price. You can use the calculators on www.eReselling.com to input exact profits by inputting purchase price and resale market and sales price.
Terapeak is a great tool for fast and accurate data on the eBay marketplace, we can also use Amazon to not only find out what the current market value is for used and new books, electronics and an ever expanding marketplace. Searching Amazon will also give us a product description from the manufacturer so we know what should be included with the product when it was purchased new in box. Below is the same search for the Leica M9 camera but on Amazon.
Our Amazon search results confirm our Terapeak eBay marketplace price points for this camera and we now have two options for reselling this camera quickly if we can buy it at the right price. Personally if I were presented with this situation I would be a buyer up to around $3500 if I just had their word to go by, if I were able to completely test it then perhaps I would pay as much as $5000, anymore and we are not leaving ourselves enough room for market fluctuations, fees and a worthy profit margin.
I understand buying a netbook or laptop with a wireless broadband card and paying a monthly service for internet is not an option for everyone. If you are not interested in that route you can always go to your home, a library, a free wireless hotspot if you have a laptop and do the required research before bidding or buying. Another option, but a rather tedious one as far as I am concerned is using a smartphone to lookup items, if your phone is capable of displaying flash based websites you can access Terapeak. I see a lot of amateur buyers trying to use their cell phones to lookup items in the middle of an auction and they seem to be the same ones making bad purchasing decisions. To be able to make proper comparable searches for an item you need to be looking at multiple listings and sites if possible and doing so on a phone is very time consuming if done correctly as I have tried this many times. In any scenario if you are planning to do research always leave yourself enough time to be able to conduct your due diligence, otherwise you will just be throwing darts at a dartboard until you have a better understanding of resale values. I encounter dealers and resellers all the time that have been in the business their whole lives that I can outbid because I have access to better information and resources using technology. If you cannot find a comparable sale for an item using Terapeak and you have used the 90 day period range throughout the entire year and no information is available on Amazon or using a Google search I recommend passing on the item, especially if you are new to the business because you might end up never selling it and freezing up capital that could be better spent elsewhere.