Research proves we ask for too much money because we’re too attached to our junk.
Getting sentimental could cost you.
The biggest mistake many people make when trying to sell their stuff is charging too much. Economists have even dubbed this the “WTA-WTP disparity,” or the gap between what a seller is “willing to accept,” and a buyer’s “willingness to pay. “
But researchers at Brigham Young University decided to dig into why we overvalue our junk so much, and found that people who are asking too much are probably not ready to give the item up yet.
“If you’re finding that no one is willing to buy something from you for the price you’re asking, then your price is wrong,” explained BYU marketing professor Tamara Masters in her report. “You’re too attached and you don’t want to lose it.”
In this study, researchers helped some subjects develop a physical attachment to a mug by getting the participant to put his or her hand in a box with the mug placed on top. Then the researcher tapped the mug with one hand (which the participant saw) while touching the subject’s hand inside the box (which they felt) at the same time. The subjects were then shown the same mug and tasked with naming a selling price. And those who said they felt an attachment to the mug asked for more money for it ($6) than those who did not ($4.77.)
“If you find personal attachment or hate to let go of things that become yours, you will struggle to sell them at market value,” Masters wrote.
“I see this with my clients all of the time,” professional organizer Melissa Levy, founder of declutter + design, told Moneyish. “When someone is very attached to something, they’ll place a higher value on it – but when they are ready to let it go, they’ll sell it at any cost – even for free.”
So Moneyish tapped Levy and other reselling experts shared their tips to letting things go and getting them sold.
- How much does keeping it cost you? Lauren Greutman, a frugal-living personal finance expert, told Moneyish that you need to weigh the stress of holding onto something versus the cash you can get freeing yourself from it. “Think, ‘How much am I gonna have to pay to store this item, versus the extra money in my pocketbook,’” she said. “Or, ‘How much joy is this going to rob me because it’s sitting there and collecting clutter, and that’s going to stress me out?’”
- Give yourself a goal. If you’re sorting a parent’s estate or cutting down your positions, Greutman suggests working toward selling enough to make $1,000 or $5,000, or whatever is realistic. “It removes a little of the emotional attachment,” she said, “so now you’re thinking, ‘Selling this piece brings me $50 closer to my goal.’” Or set deadlines. “I give the person six months to think about the item and/or use it, and then revisit it in 6 months to make a decision,” said Levy.
- Prepare to take a loss. Levy notes that people are most often surprised at how little you get for used furniture. “Unless it’s an iconic piece or very high quality, you get about 10 cents on the dollar,” she said. “Most people are looking for bargains when buying your things, and are looking to pay as little as possible.” Used smartphones also depreciate in value faster than used cars. “Recognize that this isn’t personal – it’s industry wide,” added Levy.
- Do your research. The experts suggest going on a couple of resell websites to see for yourself what others have gotten for comparable items, and then pricing yours competitively. “Even look on big sites like Amazon to see what it’s going for new, and list it at about half that price if it’s still in good condition,” said Greutman. “You want to make your used item enticing to buyers. If you price it at just $10 below the price of a new one, someone may as well just buy the new one.”
- Better photos = better offers. A spokesperson from Letgo, the secondhand buying and selling app, also suggests cleaning and snapping items in a spot with great lighting, against an uncluttered background. Put smaller items, like headphones or a watch, on a solid rug or bed, and take a photo from a 45- to 90-degree angle. Make sure the item is in focus, and take several shots from different angles.
- Get specific. The more details, the better. Greutman suggests listing the full dimensions of a piece of furniture, for example, or what quality of diamond, gold or silver make up a piece of jewelry. Letgo recommends telling buyers upfront about any wear-and-tear on your item. And offer free shipping. “With Amazon Prime, these days everyone just expects free shipping, so you have to work that into the price,” said Greutman.
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