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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Essential things to know before you sell on eBay

By Kim Komando

Are you looking for a new hobby that includes making money? Well, eBay is a great place to sell goods or crafts. But it's not as easy as it looks.

Many retirees have written me about their eBay experiences, and claim several advantages. Retirees can go to shipping offices when lines are short, can hit yard sales any day of the week to find hidden gems, and have more time to address customer questions.

Before you begin, here are some things you should know about eBay:

  • There are fees. You must register and create a seller's account. Credit or debit card information is required to confirm your identity. Or use the ID Verify program, which verifies your name, home address and phone number for $5.

    When you list an item, eBay will charge a fee. This runs from 25 cents to $4.80, depending on the starting or reserve price of your item.

    If the item sells, you also pay a final value fee. This starts at 5.25 percent for items $25 or less. The fee rises with price.

  • Research what sells. People will buy nearly anything. Your junk is their treasure. Before posting an item, search eBay for the same item to find the going rate. If you think the market is saturated, hold off selling it.

  • Describe it well. When listing an item, be exact. Avoid generalities such as "teddy bear." "Vintage 1950s Steiff teddy bear" will attract more attention.

    The description should include the item's condition and other relevant information, such as size and weight. Be honest about defects. Buyers will rate you. You don't want to be accused of misrepresenting goods.

    Check your spelling. A search for "teddy bear" will miss your listing for "teddie bear." Also, proper grammar and correct spelling will garner greater trust.

  • Photograph it. Shoppers are less likely to purchase something sight unseen. So display the item in the best possible light. Don't use your cell phone's camera or a webcam. Use a digital camera (purchase one, if necessary). Take pictures from different angles and choose your best shot.

  • Set the price. You can start the bidding as low as a penny. But you run the risk of selling a $500 item for a buck. If you set the starting bid too high, you could discourage bidding.

    There are two ways around this. You can set a reserve price; if bidding doesn't meet that price, you can refuse to sell. Or set a Buy It Now price; a purchaser can buy the item without bidding. Set the Buy It Now price slightly above your hoped-for auction price.

  • Payment and shipping. PayPal is the common payment method. PayPal guarantees payment if you follow its rules. Read this agreement carefully.

    When shipping the item, ensure that it can be tracked. For added protection, make the bidder sign for the package, to protect you against claims that it failed to arrive.

    Contact Kim Komando at gnstech@gns.gannett.com.