Virtual Yard Sales have been growing in popularity over the years but do you know how to keep yourself safe?
In this week’s post I am going to be sharing 10 tips to ensure these your virtual yard sale transactions go as smoothly as possible, while still allowing you to make money for your unwanted items.
I’ll even share the story of how I almost got scammed selling a desk online for about $900. SPOILER ALERT: It sucked.
If this is your first time here, welcome! If you’ve been here before, thank you so much for spending your time with me. My name is Lindsay and I‘m a proud Anthem resident and your local REALTOR® with the Wise Move AZ Team at Realty ONE Group. On our blog and our YouTube channel we have a lot of fun talking about all things Anthem and real estate every single Thursday, and we absolutely love having you along for the ride.
What is a Virtual Yard Sale?
Virtual garage sale or online garage sale, from what I can tell is just a fancy name for selling the items you no longer want or need, through an online platform. This can be a great alternative for people who aren’t able to have garage sales or for people who don’t want to host a traditional garage sale.
In this post we’re going to be focusing on selling your items online and what you can do to protect yourself. That being said, if you’re interested in hosting a traditional garage sale, you’ll want to click here to watch this video where I share my best tips for a successful sale.
The cool thing about a virtual garage sale is that you don’t have to block off a weekend to sit in your yard, you don’t have to have a ton of stuff to sell, and you can protect your privacy a bit more. It’s possible that in the wake of COVID-19 we’ll see fewer and fewer traditional garage sales, because people are opting to sell their items online instead.
Where to Sell
There are so many different apps and websites you can use to sell your items, including:
- Facebook Marketplace
- Local Buy and Sell Groups on Facebook
- Let Go
- Offer Up
… and so on.
Virtual Yard Sale Safety Tips
No matter what you’re selling or what platform you’re using, please consider taking these 10 tips to heart to keep yourself safe.
#1: Don’t Disclose Any Personal Information
The virtual garage sale starts the moment you post your first item for sale. Please make sure that you’re not giving out any more information than you need to. Many of these apps and websites have their own messaging platforms built-in which allow you to protect your anonymity. In most cases you don’t need to give out your full name, phone number, email, or address to anyone. Only give out additional information if it’s absolutely necessary.
#2: Check your Photos
When you’re taking photos of your items, you of course want to make sure that you are taking clear well lit photos, but I also encourage you to look beyond the item in the photo.
Is there anything in the background that jeopardizes your anonymity?
Personally we like to take our items out on to our driveway or into our garage to photograph so that there’s nothing personal in the background. If you take your items outside make sure that you aren’t catching address numbers, street signs, or neighbors homes in the photos. This probably sounds totally paranoid, but why risk disclosing where you live.
#3: Negotiate in Good Faith
For many people the highlight of buying from local buy and sell groups is the ability to negotiate on the price. That’s not really my thing, maybe I get my share of it negotiating on the price of homes, but I know a lot of people love it.
Do your research and list your item at an appropriate price, with a little bit of wiggle room. It’s also a good idea to know your bottom line on the price so that you don’t have to make that decision in the middle of a negotiation when your judgement might be skewed.
Additionally, some unscrupulous buyers will message you from different accounts trying to see if they can get you to agree to a lower price on one of the accounts. Negotiate in good faith and be aware of the different parties you’re negotiating with at the same time. I am a firm believer in treating all parties fairly and with honesty. That being said, you need to cognizant of the fact the other party you’re negotiating with may not share the same sentiments.
#4: Meet in Person
Alright now that you’ve safely posted your items and you agreed on a price, I recommend that you meet in person to exchange the items and money. We’re seeing more and more websites that are enabling you to ship items and while it seems like a good idea from a convenience standpoint, it can add a lot of complication if something goes wrong. Personally, I like the old-fashioned approach of meeting in person, letting the buyer inspect the items, and then exchanging the goods and the money at the same time.
I was almost SCAMMED!
So, why I am I so opposed to shipping the items directly? Because, I was almost scammed. Last year I was helping one of our clients sell a few items before his move back to California, including a really beautiful and HUGE desk. I posted the desk on a few local buy and sell groups and didn’t get much traction. Eventually I posted it on Craigslist and received some interest fairly quickly. This individual said that they were out of state and would need to arrange for shipping. They asked if they could mail me a cashier’s check for the full amount of the desk as well as the amount for the shipping.
Yeah, spoiler alert, this is a textbook craigslist scam!
But did I know that at first… NO! Something felt off but I couldn’t quite place it. Anyways, when the “check” arrived it was so obviously fake and in the meantime I had done some research into these types of scams. I reported what had happened and eventually found a local buyer for the desk. Thankfully, I realized what was going on before any damage was done, but it did waste time that I could have been selling the desk to someone else.
Now, I’m sure there are safe ways to sell your items online without meeting in person, but as you can imagine I’m still feeling a little burnt. My recommendation is to try and sell your items locally and meet in person first. If you don’t have any luck you can explore your other options. Okay, rant over!
#5: Meet in a Public Place
If at all possible meet in a public place. You want to meet in a place where there will be other people around and even cameras. Some good options include police station parking lots, malls, bank parking lots, and so on. I particularly like the idea of meeting in a bank parking lot. Not only do banks usually have good security, it also takes away the popular excuse that some buyers try to use ‘oh, I thought you said $20 instead of $40’, they can just pop into the bank and get the extra $20, right?
If you can help it, you don’t want the other party to know where you live. Remember, the goal is to protect your personal information as best we can.
#6: Meet in Daylight
It’s always a good idea to meet in the daylight. There are more likely to be people around, you will be able to get a better look at the other party, and I just always think we’re better equipped to protect ourselves when we aren’t contending with darkness.
If you can’t meet in the light of day, choose a well-lit place to meet.
#7: Bring a Friend
When I was younger, my dad always taught that there’s safety in numbers, and I think that rings true when you are selling things online. Bring a friend or family member with you to meet the other party. Not only can they keep you company when the other person is inevitably late, but they’re also there to call for help if you need it. Oh, and I guess I should mention, don’t forget to bring your phone.
#8: Use a Secure Payment Method
If you are meeting in person and we aren’t talking about a huge sum of money, I recommend using cash. If you’re dealing in really large sums of money you may want to use a secure online payment platform like PayPal or possibly a Cashier’s check. Know that there are risks with all of these. If you’re going to use anything other than cash, do you research and make sure that it’s secure. You also want to know that there’s some sort of recourse if there’s a dispute or fraud.
I probably don’t need to say this, but don’t agree to accept or pay anyone in gift cards, this is just too hard to track and it’s an easy way to scam the other party.
#9: Consider Providing a Receipt
I don’t want to say that you absolutely have to provide a receipt, but when it comes to larger and more expensive items I recommend drawing up a bill of sale and bringing two copies with you. That way you can each keep a copy for your records. This is really just a measure to cover you if there are any claims against the transaction down the road. It probably isn’t a bad idea to provide a receipt or bill of sale with every item, but I know this can add a little more work to the process.
#10: Trust your Instincts
If something feels too good to be true, or if something feels off, it probably is. Trust your instincts. Do everything you can to set up for a safe exchange of the item. If you still feel uneasy about it, cancel it. There is no used item you have that is worth risking your safety over.
So, there you have it! What do you think? What will you be selling online first? Over the past few months we’ve bought and sold exercise equipment through our local buy and sell groups and (knock on wood) everything has gone pretty smoothly.
Lastly, if you’re still debating whether or not you should host a more traditional yard sale, click to watch this video where I share 10 tips to set your sale up for success, or if you’re selling all this stuff with the goal of listing your home for sale, click to watch this video where we share out best tips for listing your home in 30 days or less.
Enjoy those and I’ll see YOU next Thursday!