Mid-Week Q&A: Open Thread

Hey Scavengers. So far this week we've been listing as always, but also we're working on all the furniture we've been collecting over the winter at auctions. Often these are pieces that no one wants. If we had more storage, we've been tempted to become furniture dealers. The furniture we have all need a little work, so Ryanne is cleaning and oiling each piece. Our plan is to list them on eBay as "local pickup".

What are you doing this week?

As always this is an open thread to ask all your questions. Plenty of smart people here who have experience to share. There's never a stupid question (though we do ask you do a little google searching to educate yourself!)

Some simple rules-

    • We do allow anonymous commenters, but we encourage you to use your ID so people can get to know you. Plus you won't have to re-enter the code for each comment.
    • Be civil. People have different ways of doing the same thing. If we disagree, no big deal.
    • We are solution oriented. If you want to simply hate on eBay, go to the dark depths of the eBay forums where your hate can be polished like a precious jewel.
    • Please back up any issues with facts and specific links. We don't deal in rumors.
    • Comments are threaded (what?). So you can either reply to a specific comment or start an overall new topic.

How We Built Our Dream Home Using eBay Profits

In 2008, we traded urban living for life in rural America. We had decided we never wanted to pay rent again. I know, crazy. So we were living in a family cabin for cheap while we started our eBay business. Since this was just a temporary living arrangement, we started looking for a house we could afford. After having lived in NYC and SF the past nine years, buying a home always seemed like a ridiculous idea. We hated paying rent, but we also didn't want to be in long term debt with a huge mortgage.

By this time, the economic crash had hit the housing market hard (and real estate is already MUCH cheaper in depressed rural areas), so we bought a foreclosed home for $70k. We cashed in our retirement accounts, took advantage of Obama's first time home owner tax rebate and bought it all in cash. Awesome. Here's a video of one of the first times we walked through the house after buying it.


The house had "good bones" but was in rough shape overall. Holes in the walls and roof, dingy and a half-built sunroom. Several previous owners didn't maintain it. Except for some areas that needed immediate attention, we honestly could have just painted the walls and been done. Instead, we decided to go all in. Unless our life changed dramatically, we decided this would be the house we'd keep vs. "trading up" later. Instead of thinking of this as a "starter house", we would make this our home base for the rest of our lives. Since we're self-employed and spend much of our time at home, it really needed to be comfortable. So the renovation began. We lived (more like camped) in the house and second building during the entire construction period of two years.

We sub-contracted professional carpenters, plumbers and electricians to do all the serious work. But--we saved a ton of money by:
1. Being our own general contractors- dealing with the plans, designs and getting permits from the county ourselves.
2. Doing lots of the manual labor- We did demolition, hauled trash, bought and carried all the supplies and scavenged for useful materials.


Can't see the slideshow? Click here.

This slideshow shows the long process of redoing every part of the house. We installed new windows, tore down walls, updated the septic, new drywall, new insulation, new siding, new roof, new bathrooms and strengthened the foundation. And that was just some of the big stuff.

Because we wanted to make this a house we really loved to live in, using quality materials was very important. We spent a lot of time on Craigslist finding old heartwood pine flooring being given away for free. Sometimes we'd actually have to pull it up out of other people's houses ourselves. We also found that the Habitat for Humaity Restore was a great source of windows, sinks, toilets, lumber, everything! Companies would donate almost new stuff to the Restore when customers returned special orders. It was crazy that we were getting beautiful name brand Anderson windows for pennies on the dollar. As any Scavenger knows, shopping at the ReStore takes time and patience to visit every week to see what new stuff they have. We often changed construction plans based on what we were able to buy. Flexibility was key.

The property also had a two-story separate garage that was once used as a welding workshop. It was rain damaged and had been infested by termites at one time. As you can see in this slideshow, we completely redid this building to become our eBay office and storage building.

While all this was going on for two years, we were living in the house. Every morning, the guys would come to work, we'd wake up, make coffee, and cook breakfast in the microwave. Before we had a working shower, we bathed in a large plastic storage bin, no we're not kidding.


We were making money from our other tech job, but much of the money to pay for the construction came from selling on eBay.  The guys working on the house were cool with being paid week by week. Some weeks we'd take off when weather was bad. We'd go into overdrive photographing, listing, and selling shoes and coats (our main inventory at the time).



All our inventory was in plastic bins in rooms that weren't being worked on. Ryanne would pack each morning and I would drive the packages to the post office. We were able to finally finish the house and do everything we wanted with just a little debt on a credit card that we soon paid off.
So eBay isn't just a some extra money for us. We harnessed scavenging, owning our time and online selling to really invest in our lives. We don't want eBay to just be another job for us. Instead, our goal is to use the money we make on eBay to make sure we can continue to own our time. In 2011, we bought another old house that we're redoing so we can rent it out to vacationers. But that's a whole other story...

eBay Scavengers Episode 109: Interview with Tom the English Picker, Selling on eBay in the UK

Car Boot Sale Photo Wikipedia Public Domain, British Flag Photo Creative Commons Flickr Stefano Brivio.


Those of you who have followed us over the past year know that we love to travel. It's motivated us to figure out how to run a full-time eBay business. We want the freedom to go live in another country for one or two months every year. Doubtful this could easily happen if we worked for other people. In 2013, we lived in Prague and Amsterdam for six weeks. This year, we're going to go back to the Netherlands for another month or so. We even figured out how to keep successfully selling while away. It's good to have fun goals.

While we're traveling, we're always scavenging. It's much greater challenge when we're new to the culture (and language). So we've been looking for Scavengers in other countries to share how they Scavenge and sell on eBay.

This week, we talk to Tom the English Picker from the East Midlands in the United Kingdom. He explains the differences between selling online in the US and UK. For instance, British people don't do yard sales, but they do have "car boot sales" (like our flea markets). Since England is a much older culture, people there seem to have a much different sense of what vintage or antique is. But they also love Americana. We love hearing the differences and similarities. He currently focuses on antiques, jewelry and metals. His eBay store is tomac97.

Ask him any question in the comments below. You ever want to go scavenging in the UK?

Direct .mp3 link.
Direct ogg vorbis link.

eBay Scavengers Episode 108: What's Happening In Your eBay Store This Week?

Burberry Trench Coat, bought for $70, sold for $700. Coverbind bought for $15, sold for $550. yeah!

 We had some real big sales this week. That's always fun. Last week we poo-pooed selling LP records, but a listener told us he sells them all the time and uses these special LP Record mailers and everything is fine. Sweet! Jay is still checking out Ting.com for his new phone service, we'll keep you updated. We have a strange Hassle Free Automated Returns situation, that actually fell into our favor which was great. Check out this article about a shoplifting ring that was making millions of dollars selling stolen goods on eBay and Amazon. Now that's some serious (and illegal) arbitrage!

Direct .mp3 link.
Direct ogg vorbis link.

We've included our weekly eBay numbers below. In the comments, go ahead and post what you've done this week. And let us know if there are other numbers you want us to share.

The Weekly Scavenger Numbers

Jay and Ryanne’s Store Week April 6-12, 2014

  • Total Items in Store: 3405
  • Items Sold: 49
  • Cost of Items Sold: $277
  • Total Sales: $2,998.59
  • Money Spent on New Inventory This Week: $133
  • Highest Price Sold: $700.00 (Burberry Trench Coat)
  • Average Price Sold: $61.18
  • International Sales: 6 (6 GSP)
  • Returns: 2
  • Positive Feedback: 32
  • Neutral Feedback: 0
  • Negative Feedback: 0

Mid-Week Q&A: Open Thread


Good Thursday everyone. We want to welcome the new people who have found us recently. This community is all about becoming independent by using your Scavenger skills by selling treasures on eBay. And really this just means talking about all the work we must do to make this happen (no one gets rich quick around here). Read our Manifesto to understand our flavor.

We made this blog so we weren't working in a vacuum. Working at home can feel isolating, but the good ol' Web can bring us all together. We love this quote:
"Transparency is key to a good culture. Be open, share your process, ideas, tips and tricks. Choose camaraderie over competition."
So this is an open thread to ask all your questions. Plenty of smart people here who have experience to share. Ryanne and I are working through piles of unlisted items. Amazing what can be accomplished if we just do a little everyday.

Some simple rules-

    • We do allow anonymous commenters, but we encourage you to use your ID so people can get to know you. Plus you won't have to re-enter the code for each comment.
    • Be civil. People have different ways of doing the same thing. If we disagree, no big deal.
    • We are solution oriented. If you want to simply hate on eBay, go to the dark depths of the eBay forums where your hate can be polished like a precious jewel.
    • Please back up any issues with facts and specific links. We don't deal in rumors.
    • Comments are threaded (what?). So you can either reply to a specific comment or start an overall new topic.

How To Take Beautiful eBay Photos In A Dark Basement Room

On the Q&A last week, we got into a discussion about taking photos . You guys know that we advocate finding a spot with good windows to take photos during the day. Nothing beats natural light and a white wall (plus its cheap and so simple).

But many sellers are taking photos at night after work or have their eBay work area in a darker space like a basement. So Jennifer from Thrift It Forward was cool enough to share her lighting set up. She says:

As you can see, it is far from glamorous, but it's my cement floored basement and that does the trick for now. The board on the floor is the foam 40"x60" board from Office Depot. The window shade you see behind the umbrellas is my backdrop when I take pictures of non-clothing items that are small to medium size. I actually place a folding table in front of it and pull out the shade over the table to create the background. I then place the umbrellas close to the table and snap the pictures.



Here is the finished eBay product for the item in album above:
Chicago Cubs Cliff Engle Sweater Pinstripe MLB Baseball Adult Large

Looks great!

You can either follow Jennifer's original low-cost lighting system or buy a more professional set up that she uses in these photos from Cowboy Studios.

eBay Scavengers Episode 107: Flea Markets - Our Favorite eBay Shopping Spot

Creative Commons Flickr photo by News Oresund
This weekend was the first time this year that the weather was sunny and relatively warm. This means only one thing to Scavengers: the flea market will be opened. We woke up early and took a chance that others would be out and luckily all the vendors had the same idea we did.

When we say "Flea Market", we don't mean the inside all-year-round kind where people rent a permanent booth, prices are high and stuff sits for months (or years!) to collect dust. Those are more like museums.

We mean the outdoor kind where sellers are doing business out of their car/truck/van. Because sellers don't want to take anything home, there are deals to be had. It's like multiple yard sales all in one place. Beautiful capitalism the way god intended it to be.

In this episode, you'll hear our sheer joy from just having spent five hours at two of our biggest flea markets. We discuss the scene and the different kinds of sellers to look out for. Everyone has their own tips and tricks, but we also share our flea market stories and what kind of items we look out for.

We'd love to hear your flea market love in the comments.

Direct .mp3 link.
Direct ogg vorbis link.

eBay Scavengers Episode 106: What's Happening In Your eBay Store This Week?

65lb cash register, bought for $60, sold for $150. Weighed a ton! Shipped via UPS Ground.

This week, we shipped one of our heaviest items that wasn't a local pick up- a 65 lb vintage cash register. Because it ended up being about 75 lbs with all the packing material, it had to be sent UPS Ground and they charged us for pickup. eBay is changing the look of stores to be more fresh and modern, check it out. We have been having great success with our Q&A open comment threads on Thursdays. Thanks to Marc from New Jersey, we have reduced our fees from paypal using this info. Good luck, have a great week!

Direct .mp3 link.
Direct ogg vorbis link.

We've included our weekly eBay numbers below. In the comments, go ahead and post what you've done this week. And let us know if there are other numbers you want us to share.

The Weekly Scavenger Numbers

Our Store Week March 30-April 5, 2014

  • Total Items in Store: 3413
  • Items Sold: 47
  • Cost of Items Sold: $240
  • Total Sales: $1,947.82
  • Money Spent on New Inventory This Week: $147
  • Highest Price Sold: $150.00 (Vintage cash register)
  • Average Price Sold: $41.44
  • International Sales: 7 (6 GSP)
  • Returns: 1
  • Positive Feedback: 30
  • Neutral Feedback: 0
  • Negative Feedback: 0

Mid-Week Question and Answer: OPEN THREAD


Running an eBay store means it never stops. Successful sellers always have a process where they do a little bit every day. IT DOESN'T HAPPEN ALL AT ONCE. So where are you at in your process? What things are you doing today? I'm photographing and Ryanne is listing. We'll probably put in about four hours this afternoon (after I cook a good lunch).

We're also getting more good questions by email. This open thread would be a good place to continue these conversations in public.

Some simple rules-

    • We do allow anonymous commenters, but we encourage you to use your ID so people can get to know you. Plus you won't have to re-enter the code for each comment.
    • Be civil. People have different ways of doing the same thing. If we disagree, no big deal.
    • We are solution oriented. If you want to simply hate on eBay, go to the dark depths of the eBay forums where your hate can be polished like a precious jewel.
    • Please back up any issues with facts and specific links. We don't deal in rumors.
    • Comments are threaded (what?). So you can either reply to a specific comment or start an overall new topic.

VIDEO: How To Make All Natural (& Cheap) Liquid Spray Deodorant At Home



Here is another video about how we, as Scavengers, keep costs low in our house. Making your own deodorant at home is cheap, easy and you can fully control your ingredients. Using a base of unscented Aloe Vera Gel, Witch Hazel and a bit of Rubbing Alcohol, you can add whatever essential oils you like. I love the combination of Tea Tree, Lavender, Eucalyptus and a pinch of Peppermint. Now add a little Baking Soda to liquify the gel and aid in de-odorizing. That's it! So simple and so effective.

 Ingredients mentioned: Tea Tree Oil, Lavender Oil, Eucalyptus Oil, Peppermint Oil, Witch Hazel, Aloe Vera Gel, Baking Soda and Rubbing Alcohol.