Make money at home selling used items
Especially with more of us spending time at home, and often looking for ways to raise some needed cash, what better way to “declutter” than by selling off items we no longer need?
For the past three years, Melanie Heltke, a 61-year-old realtor from Connecticut, has been making money online selling purses from her “very large collection” of Louis Vuitton handbags, along with other used knickknacks, including shoes, jewelry and glassware.
Heltke said she has made tens of thousands of dollars this way using Mercari, an app for selling gently used items online.
Websites and apps that allow individuals to post photos of products they want to sell — like Mercari, Poshmark and Etsy — are becoming almost as popular as older, more well-known selling sites eBay and Craigslist.
With Mercari and Poshmark, you post photos of your items for sale online and ship them directly to the buyer using packaging and a label provided by the company. You get your proceeds in cash. Both sites take a cut of the sales price.
Poshmark is just for clothes, and Etsy is a marketplace mostly for selling original art and handmade crafts.
A different model is used by ThredUP. For this site, you ship all the clothes you want to sell directly to them, postage free. They post them on their website and, once the items sell, give you an online credit to purchase other shirts, pants and shoes from the site.
Not exactly a career
Almost half of the American population has a side hustle (a way to make cash in one’s spare time), according to a June survey by Bankrate of 2,550 adults. Three in 10 do it because they need the money to cover living expenses.
While Heltke doesn’t use the cash she earns from the app to pay for bills, it still has made a difference in her life. “The money that I make on Mercari is my fun money,” Heltke said. “I do whatever I want with it.”
In the first year, Heltke paid for four plane tickets to Florida, along with a vacation condo and rental car. Now, she uses the extra cash from her side hustle to replenish her handbag collection.
Heltke, however, does limit her side hustle gains for tax purposes. While a person can sell their own used items — whether at a garage sale or online — and not owe taxes, if you sell 200 items through one of these sites in a year and take in $20,000 or more, you’ll be considered to be “doing business.”
The online marketplaces will then send the IRS a Form 1099, so you will need to report your online income and pay taxes on it.
The first year she used Mercari, Heltke didn’t know that, and she received a 1099 on which she owed taxes. “I blew it; I made too much money,” she said.
For others, getting a 1099 and owing some taxes might not be a big deal, especially if they’ve turned this side hustle into a business. “You can actually turn it into a full-time job,” Heltke said of selling on Mercari.
How do these new sites compare to eBay, the website that inspired these copycats?
Before turning to Mercari, Heltke used to sell her items on eBay. She didn’t like its monthly fees, which start at $8 but can easily go higher; using Pay Pal to accept payment (which also carries fees); and eBay’s liberal 180-day return policy for buyers.
Once, a buyer returned Heltke’s handbag after almost six months, claiming she didn’t want it anymore. “They got to use that bag for 175 days, and they still got their money back,” Heltke said. With Mercari, a buyer must make a return within three days.
Of course, there are no fees or return policies if you sell your goods on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. But don’t forget that they require a face-to-face meeting, which some people consider unsafe.
“I’ve heard too many horror stories on that,” Heltke said. “I’d rather pay the 10% fee and have it shipped.”
How to use the apps
To sell an item on eBay, Etsy, Poshmark and Mercari, set up an account, snap a few photos of items you want to sell, and upload them. Add a description and set your price. (Hint: search for similar listings to set an appropriate selling price.)
Communicate with potential buyers on the app or website. Some sites can show you who has viewed or liked your item, and let you extend an offer. Once you and your buyer agree on a price, you will receive a shipping label via email.
Here’s an easy guide to basic facts about these online marketplaces, so you can choose the one that makes the most sense for you:
• Craigslist: craigslist.org; listing fee: depends on item, at least $3; no selling fee
• eBay: ebay.com; listing fee: $0.35; selling fee: 10 to 12%
• Etsy: etsy.com; listing fee: $0.20; transaction fee: 5%
• Mercari: mercari.com; no listing fee; selling fee: 10%
• Poshmark: poshmark.com; no listing fee; selling fee: 20% for items more than $15
• ThredUP: thredup.com; no listing fee, but you receive only shopping credit if clothes are bought within 90 days; selling fee: 20% to 95%, depending on how much the item sells for.