Selling Other People’s Junk: Good Idea or Waste of Time?

by Ashley Eneriz · 8 comments

Once family members and friends found out I’d sold items on Ebay and Craigslist for a profit, they started to ask me to sell their stuff. They asked me to sell an ancient printer, “very expensive” dolls, and many other odds and ends.

For the most part, I declined, telling them I appreciated the thought but didn’t have the time. There were, however, a few select times I’ve sold items for others — and enjoyed a nice payday.

Not sure if you should sell other people’s junk as a side business? Here’s how to know if it’s worth your while:

When It’s a Good Idea

It’s a good idea to sell other people’s items if the item is valuable and the pay is worth your time and effort. Of course, we don’t want to swindle our family members and friends for a little bit of money, so the sale should make both parties happy and satisfied.

One time, my husband and I sold an old Jeep for his grandfather. He wanted $1,500 and said if we sold it for more than that, then we could keep the extra. Taking photos of the Jeep and listing it on Craigslist took less than an hour. After about a week, we sold it for $2,500. We were happy to walk away from the deal with $1,000 profit, and my husband’s grandpa was excited to get his money with very little effort.

Just recently, a realtor friend needed to sell everything left over from a house. It was her idea to split the money 50/50, since my husband and I were going to do all of the work. Many of the items have been easy sales, and we’ve been able to pocket about $400 so far. Selling items for this friend has been much more time and labor intensive — but we’re willing to sell items for her so she can get the rental property cleaned out and back on the market. It’s been a win-win for both of us, though we may not have accepted the gig if we didn’t know her as well.

When It’s a Waste of Time

Many times when I’m asked to sell items, I know right off the bat that the seller won’t get the price they’re looking for. These people have a skewed perception of how much their items are actually worth.

For example, a friend wanted me to sell some dolls that were purchased at a very high price thirty years ago. When I did some research on them, they were selling for less than $20 a doll. That was way less than what she wanted to sell them for. In this case, I just told her she wouldn’t get the price she wanted, so it might be better if she kept them. I didn’t want to waste my time listing the dolls at a high and unsellable price, and I didn’t want any drama if she didn’t get the profit she expected.

Other times, my husband’s grandma has asked me to sell a very old piece of technology (i.e. old printers or desktop monitors). I tell her that it might not sell, but I list it on Craigslist anyway. I’ve done this many times for her, even though I know the item won’t sell and is a waste of time. I do it as a favor. Remember that it’s not only about making an extra dollar; it’s about helping family members, too.

How to Successfully Sell Other People’s Stuff

So when is it a waste of time to sell other people’s junk (or as they would call them, treasures)? My answer is the majority of the time. It’s hard to ask people to give you at least 30-40% of their profit, even though you’ll be doing most of their work for them.

For example, if they have a collectible that’ll sell on Ebay for $100, you then lose about $15 of that to Ebay and Paypal fees. Then, to take a 40% cut from that would leave the person with $51 for their $100 sale. Many people wouldn’t be happy with that, and they might not understand — especially if they thought their item was worth $300.

If you do wish to make a side business out of selling other people’s items for them, make sure you have established ground rules. For example, tell them what percentage of their profit you’ll take, or your flat rate. It’s wise to explain to them that selling an item on Ebay or Amazon has fees and shipping costs that will also eat into their profits. Finally, let the person know realistically how much their item will sell for, based on recent sales.

I shared my successful selling stories with you; now I want to hear yours! Have you ever had success selling someone else’s junk for them?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Denis says:

    When you sell something on craigslist or Ebay, are there not tax consequences that need to be dealt with? Doesn’t the government see that as income and want their cut as well?

  • David Ning says:

    Awesome advice about laying out the ground rules up front. It’s up to the people who want your help to sell their stuff to agree to the terms or say no, but there won’t be any surprises.

  • I can’t think of anyone else’s junk that I’ve ever sold, but I’ve sold plenty of my own junk on Ebay, Craigslist, and Amazon. Sometimes I do have a little debate with myself over whether or not it is worth my time to list whatever the item is, but now that Ebay and Craigslist both have mobile apps you can use to list items it has become much less time consuming so I usually do it!

  • Simon Cave says:

    Once again it’s all about negotiation! You perfectly illustrate it here. If you want to get 30-40% of the sale it requires negotiation.

    • David Ning says:

      30% seems to be a common number cited for selling things on eBay, but I imagine it could be lower for a high priced item. As they say, everything is negotiable!

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