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Selling online: How to turn your clutter into cash

The average online shopper has more than £100 of goods that are never used and just gathering dust, but for many the thought of selling them is just too much hassle.

Selling items you don’t want not only clears space in the home, but also gives you more money to spend on things you really want.

You can do this through sites like eBay, Loot, Gumtree or even your local newspaper. Here’s how.

Top tips to start selling online

  • Price - establish what the going rate is for a specific item by checking out what the competition is offering it for. This will increase the chance of you getting its true value. Be careful not to undervalue your items either – you don’t want to be unwittingly selling something that could be worth a lot more than you think. If in doubt, it could be worth seeing a specialist. Remember to factor in the cost of delivery and any administration costs such as listing fees
  • Description - it’s essential to give an accurate definition of the goods you’re selling, as you could fall foul of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which applies to all goods sold after 1 October 2015. For example if it’s a second hand item you can’t describe it as new or the buyer could ask for a refund
  • Reputation - you can build up a reputation on auction sites in the form of positive feedback from buyers, whereas those that attract negative responses are likely to put off potential customers.

How to set up your online shop

Selling online via a reputable auction site gives you access to millions of potential buyers. Transactions are passed through a screen that ensures neither parties’ financial details are made available to another person; so you’re more protected.

Typically, you set up an e-money account so your customer can pay for items. Your account is linked to your bank account, and administered by the likes of PayPal or Google Checkout.

Beware of the risks of selling on the internet, don’t put yourself at risk. For example if people are coming around to your house to collect items make sure you take practical precautions.

Selling online should be straightforward, but there are some potential problems to be aware of.

You need to make sure you have a good understanding of the levels of protection afforded by selling sites, so read their T&Cs. For instance, PayPal may be convenient, but it won’t cover you if you hand over an item to the buyer on the doorstep, which they subsequently deny having received and fail to pay for.

It’s also important to know the timescales for dispute processes - if there is a problem you may need to be quick off the mark.

Track your packages

One way to help avoid issues is to send your packages by recorded delivery, so you can track their whereabouts. This is especially important if you’re selling higher value items.

If you are selling goods on eBay for example that are more than £750, they require you to use a service that comes with online trackable proof of delivery and requires signature confirmation. If you don’t do this you won’t be eligible for buyer protection.

Without a third-party shipping receipt, you’re not covered by PayPal’s seller protection. One way to get this is to send it through a postal provider such as Royal Mail.

It’s worth keeping a record of any transaction, including the method of delivery.

Want more information?

If you are looking to sell unwanted items because you are low on cash, it could be worth using our Quick Cash Finder to establish whether you can make small changes to your spending to save money.

Update: Please note this article has been updated to reflect changes to consumer rights law. All information is correct as of 16 November 2015.

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  • Sarah / 7 January 2016

    When I sell through ebay I use my hermes for delivery as this includes tracking and courier collection from your house which is more convenient than queuing at the post office. Prices start from £2.98 with parcels weighing up to 1kg so ideal for sending more bulky items but probably not ideal for sending large letter sized items.

  • Ann Moncaster / 6 December 2015

    Incorrect advice in this article - Royal Mail recorded delivery does not exist it is now called "signed for" and is not trackable and all you get is a signature on delivery. The only trackable service from Royal Mail is Special Delivery" Signed for covers items up to £50 and Special Delivery covers more valuable items starting with up to £500.

  • Paula / 5 December 2015

    Hi all I sold an item then the person said it was the wrong size, I said I would give a refund, but they just keep saying it's the wrong size and where was the one they had brought. Failing to return the item they are not happy with. They then said where was the other item that they had brought with the first! But they haven't won, brought, payed for a second item! No total amount adds up to what they are claiming! Payment was made via PayPal and eBay site whom charge commissions on sales, does not show such a transaction either , Totally frustrating! They are nuts! I keep being harrassed by them, trying to claim for something they haven't brought. Always keep proof of everything as back up for the very few liars and chancers out there!

  • Kareen hamblet / 4 December 2015

    This was very useful. It gave some practical advice that had not occurred to me. Helped me come to a decision about not selling on-line.
    The quick cash finder had some very helpful suggestions too.

  • Julie Ross / 3 December 2015

    Be aware if selling that you take lots of pictures my doll was deliberately damaged by the buyer who had bought the doll and wanted to do a deal outside of eBay by saying the doll was faulty when I didn't agree he cut the hair and sent it back

  • Chris / 27 November 2015

    I have been thinking of doing this for a while, and this has spurred me on

  • Joyce Blondin / 27 November 2015

    Have been thinking of doing this, and appreciate information that I was not aware of.