I’m about to do a significant amount of remodeling and was about to order a dumpster. A friend at work suggested I sell lots of my used building materials instead of putting them in the landfill. This doesn’t seem worth it to me. Is it safe to do this? Is it practical? Have you done this yourself? What’s the best way to sell used building materials? — Julie M., Ann Arbor, Mich.
I think I can best answer your questions by sharing a few stories with you. I’m a huge fan of selling used building materials for any number of reasons. Years ago, I discovered that what you might think is junk some other person might consider gold. Burying something that still has useful life under tons of other debris and dirt is not prudent for all sorts of reasons.
Some items need to be discarded because they get destroyed during removal. That’s understandable. But many things, even built-in cabinets and bookcases, can be carefully removed, giving them a second chance to serve someone else at their home.
Last year, I was tasked with building a new deck at my home. Part of the job involved remodeling two existing decks that were adjacent to the new deck. The two decks I was restoring had 15-year-old generation-one Trex decking on them.
Who would have thought that someone would want my old decking and treated-wood railing system? While the railing was in great shape and needed a coat of paint and the sections were random in size, it still was appealing to a homeowner 60 miles away! I sold the railing on Craigslist in less than two weeks for $600!
I priced it about 45 percent what it would cost to purchase the same materials to build the railing from scratch. It’s critical you price out what the same item is selling for new before you list an item for sale. You want to make sure what you’re offering is a great bargain.
I was able to sell every piece of my used Trex decking as well. I had 1,280 square feet of it. You might ask, “Who would want used decking?” That’s easy. It turns out one of the buyers had a deck covered with the same material. It’s no longer made, and he wanted to enlarge his deck. My decking saved the day for him!
Other buyers wanted no-maintenance decking, and the price of new composite decking took their breath away. I ended up selling my used Trex decking for $1.25 per linear foot!
Very recently I sold a gorgeous 15-year-old rain shower head to a person who was remodeling his bathroom. This model purchased new would cost at least $1,000. I wanted to just get rid of it and gave it away for $125. Later in the afternoon I sold two used no-rot PVC window flower boxes for $250.
Believe me, you can sell used building materials and fixtures.
Another way to sell used items is on Facebook, where there are thousands of local groups that are marketplaces to sell just about anything. You just need to go to Facebook and look up your town, city or community name, followed by the words yard sale, garage sale or similar phrases. You’ll be stunned by what you discover.
Facebook differs from Craigslist in a fundamental way. Facebook employs push technology instead of pull. When you list an item on Facebook, everyone that’s part of that group gets notified instantly. With Craigslist, a buyer has to search for your item. If you don’t put in the correct words in your listing title, a buyer who wants your loot may not find it!
To get the best prices for items, you need to make sure they’re in as good a condition as possible. All the online sites allow you to upload lots of photos of the item. Take great photos of what you’re trying to sell and upload them. Provide all the dimensions of the items if it makes sense. Be honest in your description. Even though something is not in that great of condition, some buyer may be willing to invest the time and energy to restore it.
As for the safety of transacting business with total strangers, I’ve never had a problem. Just yesterday a single woman came to my house to pick up the flower boxes. She didn’t know me from Adam. You need to use common sense, and it’s never a bad idea to take a friend with you if you’re going to buy something. It’s not a bad idea to have a friend with you when you sell to a stranger.
Contact your local police department, as many are now offering lots of great advice about how to be safe doing online business. Some even have a special area in their parking lots where buyers and sellers can meet while the entire transaction is videotaped. This might be a good idea if you don’t want strangers coming to your home.
A month from now I intend to list hundreds of things that have been gathering dust in my garage, attic and outdoor shed. I’ve had such great success using the Facebook groups technology I’m sure I’ll sell every item. It’s just a matter of pricing things right. Good luck and happy selling!
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