Teresa McUsic

Try these smartphone apps to hold a virtual garage sale

Smartphone apps allow consumers to sell or buy used goods that might otherwise be sold in a garage sale.
Smartphone apps allow consumers to sell or buy used goods that might otherwise be sold in a garage sale. Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner

My niece recently had a garage sale that netted her a whopping $8.

If you’re getting a similar return for gathering your stuff, pricing it and sitting in the hot sun (or worse, rain) for a whole day, think again. There is a better way.

Check out one of a dozen or so smartphone apps that let you post and sell your stuff locally online. They are typically free and easy to use.

Debbie Cooper, an Arlington educator, said she came across one such app, OfferUp, through a friend when she wanted to get rid of a few things.

“Then I got hooked,” she said. “Everybody has a garage full of stuff to sell. This is more convenient than a two-day garage sale.”

Her successes have seen big returns. After her neighbor passed away, Cooper said she offered to help out-of-town siblings sell his entire household of furniture, kitchenware and rugs on OfferUp. Her return on the sale: $4,000. She said she gave it all to his heirs.

“He was a bachelor and didn’t have enough for an estate sale,” Cooper said. “This saved them having to hire somebody to just get rid of his stuff.”

Once signed into the OfferUp app, you simply take a photo of your item with your phone, type in a brief description and your list price, and your item is posted for sale instantly.

“I’ve gotten a call within two minutes of posting,” Cooper said. “It’s like a cash register going ka-ching! The younger generation seems to be catching on quickly to selling like this.”

Buyers can search for goods by type of goods (desks, strollers, etc.) and sort by city, or just scroll through all of the categories for the area (so all the desks for sale, for example, in DFW). Or you can scroll and see all of the things available in a given city.

OfferUp is free to users and buyers and is currently among the top three downloads at the Google Play store, said Ian Fliflet, vice president of marketing for the online service. The app is also available through Apple.

In business since 2014 and now operating in all major metro areas, OfferUp has been a lightning rod in terms of sales volume, Fliflet said.

“We have seen some amazing traction on OfferUp,” he said. “Nationally, we are on track for $14 billion in activity on the marketplace in 2016 alone.”

Fliflet said their data scientist recently analyzed the costs of buying items for certain “life events” in various cities.

For example, if you want to furnish an apartment in DFW with items like a dresser, sofa, desk, table, bed and TV stand, it would cost on average $819 on OfferUp, he said. For a new baby, buying a stroller, car seat, crib, changing table and other related items would cost $654.

“Some high-end strollers can get up to the $300 price range, so seeing that new parents in Dallas/Fort Worth can get everything they need for their new baby for a reasonable price is incredible,” Fliflet said.

A glance at the OfferUp app or website shows prices range from very cheap to typical for used goods. A stroller is listed for $25 in Arlington, three bar stools in Hurst are $50 and a small desk for $20 in Fort Worth. There also were some high-end items like a 1999 Ford Escort for $1,999 and a Kenmore refrigerator for $300, both in Fort Worth, and an Explorer camper in Arlington listed for $6,600 or best offer.

Safety when selling things online is important for both buyers and sellers.

OfferUp requires sellers to provide a driver’s license to verify their identity and has a trust and safety team available 24/7, Fliflet said. Buyers and sellers can also use Facebook accounts and other social media to familiarize themselves with who is buying or selling from them.

Selling sites like these also recommend meeting to make the transaction in a trusted location, like a mall or café. OfferUp also has a five-star rating system from buyers to help legitimize sellers.

Cooper said she has had no trouble using the app.

“I’ve never had a transaction where I felt uncomfortable,” she said. “I’ve never had a person that wasn’t polite. I’ve made some great friends through this.”

So next time you want to get rid of some stuff, see what your smartphone can do for you.

Teresa McUsic’s column appears Saturdays. TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net

Other selling apps

5Miles. Started in 2014 by an SMU graduate, 5Miles offers resale items, services, housing and jobs typically within five miles of your location. 5 Miles says it has two million users and did 100 million transactions last year. An added feature is the ability to voice record. Available for iPhone and Android for free.

Poshmark. Reserved for high-end handbags, clothes, shoes and accessories. Buyer pays for shipping. Includes a 20 percent commission to company for items costing more than $15: $2.95 for items selling for less.

SellSimple. In addition to the app, listings interface with social networks like Facebook and Twitter and online marketplaces like eBay, Amazon and Craigslist for greater visibility. Free for iPhone.

Freecycle. This nonprofit runs a website, not an app, at www.freecycle.org where items are listed for donation and pickup.