If you've sold some of the extra unwanted stuff you have lying around the house using eBay, you have probably thought to yourself, "I wish I could make this kind of money all the time!" Well, you can!
The only problem is that you're selling your old possessions, which are limited in supply. In order to continuously sell on eBay as a very lucrative side income (or even full-time employment), you'll need products to sell and reliable sources to find them. Here's a list of places where you can find cheap (even free) goods to sell:
Thrift Stores / D0nation Centers
Thrift stores and donation centers have been running a great idea for a long time: get people to give you things for free and sell them for money to other people. The incentive of tax-deductible donations prompts many smart people to donate their surplus stuff, and these stores certainly profit off of the used goods.
The hip thrift store in the fashionable part of town is not going to be selling you anything at a discount. However, across town in the affordable suburbs, you'll find a lot of great places to shop and the situation will be more agreeable. Smaller stores will be open to dealing with individual sellers like yourself - set up a deal to get all the good stuff first! They also will be more willing to accept some haggling and they need to move their merchandise quick.
Be cautious, though, about purchasing some items from larger thrift stores. Goodwill, Salvation Army, and other donation-type retail stores have caught wind of the amount of money that sellers are making on their goods and have adjusted the prices accordingly. It takes a shrewd seller to know profit margins and the details about many types of goods to make a decent profit. It also takes a smart seller to realize that many hip and trendy thrift stores use eBay as a guide for how to price their goods...
As the weather changes to springtime, garage sales become more abundant and the opportunities for scoring some low-priced goods are much higher. Garage sale season typically starts in the spring and lasts until early fall. People are selling the extra stuff that's just been piling up, so the prices are marked to sell quick.
Garage sales are great because you are dealing with a private seller rather than a policy-bound employee at a chain store. Haggling is effective, sellers may be clueless or desperate to offload their goods, and you may have an opportunity at snagging vintage pieces without other people having a chance to appraise it first. The quality of a garage sale is hit-or-miss: you can find brand-new items with the tags still attached, and you can find heavily used and abused items that high in sentimental value and low in resale value.
Check Craigslist for postings during holidays, weekends, and nice weather. As always, wealthy and affluent neighborhoods will have better goods for you to purchase, and get there early for the good stuff!
Estate Sales / Office Liquidations
The upscale cousins of the humble garage sale, estate sales and office liquidations can be superb resources for quality goods. Whenever a family inherits a whole house worth of antiques, junk, and saleable goods, estate sales make finding those special items easier. Many office space property managers can find whole setups abandoned by fly-by-night businesses and need to rent the space out to make money. Both of these events are attractive to fellow bargain hunters.
Remember that if a liquidation/resale business is taking care of the sale, goods will be priced significantly higher than you might expect. Many of these companies first turn to eBay to get the most money for their high-value items before announcing the sale to the public.
Prices can be higher than you'd expect, but the quality of the goods can make up for it.
Flea Markets / Swap Meets
Like a bunch of garage sales jumbled together, flea markets and swap meets help eBay salespeople get their goods in one location. Using the same tactics you would use for a garage sale, you can get some good prices.
One problem that I have with flea markets and swap meets (which holds true for garage sales, as well) is that you do have to dig through a lot of trash to find what you are looking for. Many swap meet tables are full of junk, overpriced and obsolete electronics, or goods that could not be verified as working. Find swap meets that require sellers to pay a fee for space, as this discourages many people who would just be trying to get rid of their garbage.
Free Boxes / Dumpster Diving
One trend that I love is the free box - people leave boxes outside their houses for other people to go through and find valuable goods. For the most part, you'll find paperback novels, clothing, magazines, and other junk. Sometimes, you'll find valuable stuff. It just takes a keen eye and the will to look. Learn when garbage pickup days are scheduled and drive around wealthy neighborhoods for good finds.
It's a fact of modern life: sometimes apartment tenants just leave all of their possessions behind when moving or they forget to pay rent for a couple of months. Property managers have little recourse but to clear the space out and leave the goods for pickup on the curb. Check around apartment complexes around the 1st of the month and you'll find some great stuff.
College campuses tend to have a lot high-value garbage in free boxes and dumpsters around dorms. If you know when finals week is over, you'll find a wealth of high-value consumer goods thrown out as students make their way to Spring Break, Summer Vacation or back home for the winter holidays. Many students do not yet know the value of their goods, and just throw them away. Scientific graphic calculators, which can fetch prices of $50-$90 on eBay, are plentiful if you're willing to dig through bags of garbage. Books are also a common find.
Be sure to look up local regulations regarding dumpster diving before engaging in this activity, as acceptance and legality vary from state to state. I only mention this source because it is popular: I try to avoid dumpster diving when there are safer and easier alternatives. Some people swear by it, though...
I hope you've learned a lot from this article. There are more places to find that stock you need to make big profits on eBay, but you'll need to find what works for you. We all have preferences and favorite spots. Remember to have fun and keep your eye on the prize!