Who: This is for people who don’t know much about eBay, but want to learn how to save money by intelligently purchasing items on eBay.
What: This article discusses the basics of buying items on eBay. You will learn when to buy on eBay and tips for optimizing your purchases.

1. Do your research - This is perhaps one of the most important steps to follow in order to become a successful buyer on eBay. Knowing about the product you want to buy allows you to be informed about its true value and the things you need to look for when purchasing the item.

  • Is eBay even worth it? - For the item you want to buy, you will want to find out what constitutes a reasonable price. Check out the Do Your Homework post for some help on this. Once you have determined a reasonable price range, you can check to see if eBay listings really are worth your while for making the purchases.
  • Completed listings - When you are searching for a specific item, make sure you check to see completed listings for that same item. If you look on the left side of the search results, you can refine them by clicking “completed items.” By viewing completed listings you can find out the average selling price for the item on eBay. Even more importantly, you can find auctions that sold for abnormally high or abnormally low prices and check to see what characteristics those items had in common. If you find characteristics of the items that sold for a lower price, you can isolate which auctions you want to bid on based on those specifications. This will allow you to get a good price for the item. As a hint from me to you, I think you should look for auctions that end on Mondays and Wednesdays. More on this in later post.

Hidden Treasures

2. Finding the hidden treasures - This is my favorite tip and has saved me *literally* thousands of dollars over the course of the past few years. Many folks search for the most obvious keywords when they are searching for an item and rarely search for alternate keywords that would allow them to find the same item.

  • Browse category listings - eBay has a very extensive category hierarchy. You can get somewhat specific in this hierarchy so that you only have to slog through half a ton of junk as opposed to multiple tons of it. If you are patient, you can find some great deals by browsing these listings. Be on the lookout for misspelled words, alternate (less commonly used) words, and oddly titled listings. These listings that you see in the category view are less likely to be found via a search (how the majority of people on eBay buy). As such, they are likely to be a much better value.
  • Search for alternate keywords - You know the standard name for the item you want. But are there any other alternates? If you want to be specific, you can set your search to not just look in the titles, but in the listing as well. This may cause a lot of junk to pop up, but it also gives you the opportunity to find a lot of items that you normally would not be able to find. For example, if you are searching for a Gameboy Advance, you may want to look for GBA and instead of just Dell Laptop, you can try the specific laptop name i.e. Inspiron/Latitude.

3. Know the Seller - eBay is not terrible about protecting buyers, but it could be much better. Analyzing a seller’s feedback is very important in determining how successful the transaction is likely to be.

  • Date of Feedback - It is important to see when a seller’s feedback was garnered. If a seller has continually received feedback for a long period of time (1.5-3 years), it is probably safer to buy from them than if their feedback was very concentrated in the last few days/weeks or very concentrated 2 years ago. Consistency is important.
  • Item similarity in Feedback - Is the seller in his/her element? If you have a seller that normally sells antique collectibles, but today they are selling high-tech electronics all of a sudden, it might be a good idea to wait to see how those auctions turn out. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, in recent months a lot of eBay accounts have been hacked. Hackers will place fake auctions for relatively high-priced items using an eBay account that has a lot of feedback. Once all the auctions end and the payments are received, the hacker will liquidate the PayPal account and run. Similarly, a previously legitimate seller will use their postiive feedback history to make a big hit and run. So be wary of small-time sellers suddenly offering big-ticket items. Pay attention to the similarity of the seller’s items.
  • Feedback quality over quantity - Just because a seller has a ton of feedback, doesn’t necessarily equate to a high probability of the transaction being successful. Quality feedback is important. Read the feedback to see if there are personalized, and positive comments. This is somewhat tough nowadays with the plethora of “A+A+A+A+A+A+++++++++” comments, but it can be done.

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