In the months leading up to our family sabbatical, we had to get rid of a lot of stuff. When you take a travel-based family sabbatical you either have to store your belongings while you’re away, or get rid of most of it altogether.
We’re spending our career break
Ever been through a move and thought, “I’m going to go through everything and really pare down and organize!” only to run out of time and end up throwing everything into boxes? Me too, and I didn’t want that to happen this time, so I started going through our things months in advance.
We sent bags of stuff to charity and we sold numerous items on Ebay, Etsy and Facebook Marketplace, but that wasn’t enough. We needed a way to realize some value on things that were too large to sell online and ship, that hadn’t sold, or that we needed to keep until right before we left.
Enter the local online auction: websites that allow sellers like us to hold their own online auction of, say, 40 items or more. Sellers upload photos and descriptions for their items which are presented online as an auction that runs for a week. Buyers register on the auction site and bid on lots. After the auction closes the buyers go to the seller’s house or business location at a pre-established pick up time to pick up their winnings (hence the “local” part of “local online auction”).
To explain, Hibid is an online auction platform that is made available for auction companies to use. Businesses and entrepreneurs use the platform to liquidate store overstock or offer estate clear-out services or consignment auctions. The auction house pays to use the auction platform and then incorporates that cost into the fees they charge buyers and sellers. You as a seller contact the local auction house to host your auction for you.
As a buyer, you can search the Hibid site to find all of the online auctions near you that are hosted on the Hibid platform. Warning: online auction shopping can become a bit addictive because there is sooo much good stuff for sale! Ask me how I know.
MaxSold developed its own online auction platform and does not make it available for business use; rather, MaxSold’s platform is for individual sellers (like us) to use, under the MaxSold brand name.
We decided to go with MaxSold for our auction because it has a good following of buyers in our city, and because we could minimize fees by doing the physical part of the auction (photographing, listing and hosting pickup) ourselves.
How does MaxSold work?
Sellers can set up, photograph, list and supervise pickup of their own auctions on MaxSold, or, for a higher fee, MaxSold has a full-service option. Auctions are searchable on the MaxSold website by location, either in a list or a map view. Local buyers register on the site with a credit card, and can browse auctions, bookmark lots they want to watch, and bid on items.
All Maxsold auction lots start at a bid of $1, so as a seller you have to be willing to take the risk that items will be sold for a lot less than you would like. All payments for winning bids are collected by MaxSold and the proceeds are sent to the seller electronically after MaxSold’s fee is deducted.
- Full-service MaxSold sale: 30% plus $700
- DIY service: the greater of 30% or $300
We went with the DIY service and the rest of this post describes the DIY process from beginning to end.
We didn’t have much stuff to sell, relatively speaking, and so we hoped to cover the $300 listing fee and make $300 to $400 over and above that.
MaxSold Review – Holding a Seller-Managed Auction
Step 1 – Sign Seller Contract and Learn to Use the Site
I contacted MaxSold by email and an agent emailed me back right away. It’s evident from MaxSold’s emails that customer service relies heavily on email templates. Some of the emails I received were a bit awkward due to the use of template language (ie. starting an email with “As we discussed,” when I’d never spoken to anyone), but the agent was friendly and after a few introductory emails he sent me clear information about how the Maxsold auction process works.
When I said I was ready to sign on, the agent emailed me the MaxSold contract to sign electronically. The contract language was clear and in plain language, and the electronic signing process was fully explained and easy.
After I emailed the agent the signed contract he sent me a link to detailed written and video instructions showing how to set up my auction. The instructions were thorough and easy to understand and I went back to refer to them several times as I set up the auction.
Step 2 – Organize Auction Lots
We didn’t have room for any auction-related work inside our house, so we moved our car out of our garage, spread tarps on the floor, and started laying items out in lots.
The easiest lots to organize are the higher value items that are going to be sold alone. Putting lots together of other items (for example, we had a lot of random electronics, several lots of 10+ toys, that kind of thing) was harder and more time-consuming.
It took us a good week (on weekends and after putting kids to bed) to go through our house and pull everything we were going to sell and to organize them into lots.
An important thing to do at this stage is to review MaxSold’s list of items that are not allowed to be sold, which includes food, alcohol, firearms and high-end designer items, among other things. We didn’t check the list until we were almost finished our draft listings and had to remove from the auction a watch we had planned to sell (and removing an already-uploaded lot is harder than not listing it in the first place).
In the end we had 60 lots, which isn’t all that much for a local online auction. We didn’t have any furniture to sell, only smalls. This made me a bit anxious that the auction wasn’t worth doing, but in the end we forged ahead, figuring that even if we didn’t make any money, it would be worth it to have other people come pick up the 60 boxes in our garage!
Step 3 – Photograph and List Lots in the MaxSold App
Once our things were organized into lots I installed MaxSold’s cataloguing app onto my phone.
Sellers can use a computer interface to set up their auction but MaxSold encourages use of the app, and I can see why – it was simple and intuitive to use. You open the app, open your catalogue, go to the next open lot number, photograph the item, enter a title, measurements and a description, and then click a button to start the next lot. Easy-peasy.
The listing phase was really time-consuming due to the fact that our garage was too dark for taking photos. I had to carry each lot over to a white sheet that I spread out in our backyard where the indirect light was good (don’t photograph in direct sun, your photos will look washed out), set the items up, photograph them, pack them in a box, label the box with the lot number, and carry it back into the garage, repeat.
It took me three full weekend days to get all of our lots into the app.
I found listing our items to be a teeny bit emotional. In our auction both Wandering Family Man and I let go of things we’d carried around for a long time:
- a box of collector beer bottles, the last of a massive collection I had in the 1990s
- a working 1930s coffee grinder that we meant to display in our kitchen but never did
- loads of kitschy vintage decor we loved but had no room for
- the banjo I wished I knew how to play, but not enough to practice.
Would buyers see value in these things, as we had?
After we processed all of our lots we added a few blank lots at the end of the catalogue. This was suggested in the MaxSold seller guide and is a smart thing to do, because once you upload the auction to the MaxSold server you can’t add any more lots to the auction. Having a few blank lots lets you fill them with the few last-minute items you’ll inevitably find and want to include.
Finally, we clicked the upload button in the app to send the catalogue to MaxSold.
Step 4 – Edit the Draft Catalogue Online
About 15 hours after we uploaded the catalogue, we received a link from MaxSold to our draft auction. We opened the draft auction on our computer in order to review and edit our listings and photographs. Because we had added the few blank lots at the end, we were able to list two more items that we found to sell.
At first I was surprised that the online catalogue editing seemed a bit clunky, especially for reviewing and editing photos – but then I realized it was because I was using FireFox. When I switched to Chrome everything worked quickly and well.
Although typing into an app is a pain compared to typing on a proper keyboard, I’m glad I typed full auction details into the app when I had my items in front of me. It’s possible to use the app just to take photos and enter lot titles and then add the description later using the computer, but if I had done that, I think I would have missed some important details.
Once we were happy with our photos and descriptions, we clicked “lock auction” and selected our desired date and time for pickup. MaxSold sets the auction run-dates so that the auction ends a few days before your selected pick-up date.
Then we clicked “GO!”, sat back, and waited!
Step 5 – Try Not to Check Your Auction Every Five Minutes
The auction went live as scheduled and it sounds a bit silly but it was neat to see our belongings on the internet!
The auction ran for a week and for the most part, we tried not to look at it because we know that most of the bidding happens just before the auction closes. “Trying not to look at it” meant we looked at it about five times every single day.
We were pleased and surprised to see that the bids we received covered the MaxSold fee within the first two days. We hadn’t expected to see much bidding at all until the last couple of hours of the auction.
When an auction is ending the website switches to a “live view” which we watched together as a family. Wandering Family Boy practiced his new adding skills by totaling the gross sales as the lots closed. That meant he got to stay up well past bedtime because MaxSold, like all local online auction platforms, ends its auctions in the evening and uses a soft close – meaning if someone bids on an item during the last two minutes of its ending time, the deadline for bidding on that item extends by two minutes.
Step 6 – Supervise Pick Up
Our auction closed on a Wednesday and pickup was the following Saturday. Hosting pickup was easy pleasant.
Everything was in the garage, boxed up with the lot number written on the box. MaxSold emailed me a list of all of the lots grouped together under the buyer’s name (many buyers bought more than one lot).
When a buyer showed up, I took them to the garage, asked them to show me their receipt (just to make sure they were in fact the buyer), looked up the lot numbers on my list, and then handed them the right boxes.
Everyone showed up and within 4 hours, the garage was empty. Hooray!
After pickup, I emailed MaxSold confirmation that everything had been picked up. If there are any no-shows, you advise MaxSold at that time, and indicate whether you are willing to receive an email from the buyer to arrange another pickup time. If you’re not willing, then you’re free to dispose of the item and you still receive payment for it.
Step 7 – Roll in Your Pile of Dough (Okay, Not Exactly)
So how’d we do? We had hoped to net about $400 from our auction. There was much cheering in our house when the total sales came in at just under $2200! After fees and taxes that meant we cleared over $1500!
We sold 59 of our 60 lots and emptied out our garage without lifting a thing (value: priceless). The total time required was about 22 hours:
- 3 hours gathering things, cleaning items and setting up lots spread out in our garage
- 12 hours photographing and listing
- 2 hours editing
- 6 hours supervising pickup
Twenty-two hours of work for $1500 meant our auction earned us $69 per hour, which is just fine with me! Mind you, these figures do not take into account what we paid for the items to begin with, but our goal here was not to resell for a profit, but to downsize and see as much value for our belongings as we could.
What was our overall impression of selling with Maxsold? Overall, quite positive. It’s not a “polished” experience, in that the customer service emails are a bit awkward, the online tools look a bit dated, and the seller guide documents could use some more professional-looking formatting, but everything worked well, and that’s what matters.
We were able to figure out the whole process without frustration and without having to contact MaxSold for assistance.
Would we have done the MaxSold auction, knowing what we know now? Definitely YES. Set-up was effortful but:
- we got rid of a garage full of stuff without having to move it ourselves
- our things went to buyers who were really happy to get them, and
- we earned more than we expected, enough to pay for the bicycle rack for Harvey the RV!
If you have any questions about our experience feel free to ask in the comments!
This review was in no way sponsored or backed by MaxSold; however, if you think you would like to use MaxSold to run a local online auction, and would like to help support our efforts to write useful (we hope) posts like this one, please shoot us an email so we can refer you to MaxSold directly. We’ll receive a small referral bonus at no cost to you.
Here are some other posts you might enjoy about how we saved the money for our family gap year:
- The Best Vacation Savings Account for Our Year of Family Travel
- Saving Up Money for Travel – 57 Easy Ways to Cut Costs