Whether you went the full Marie Kondo with all that time saved working from home, or you’re simply moving to a new house to take advantage of lower rents across the UAE, selling up your old furniture and white goods could fetch some hard cold cash. Perfect, in fact, for our pandemic-straitened financial resources.
UAE residents have been putting a significant number of second-hand items up for sale over recent months, says Dobromir Radichkov, chief data officer at listing platforms dubizzle and Bayut. While the classifieds site dubizzle was initially hit by the general Covid-19 slowdown, the market has since rebounded considerably with a greater number of items being sold more quickly.
“We have seen a swift and promising recovery, backed with a strong surge in demand for used goods,” he says. “We are seeing healthy activity on the platform with both buyers and sellers benefitting from an increased interest in used goods, which are also transacting at a higher volume in a shorter period of time.”
Every second-hand category on dubizzle has clocked an increase in buying and selling activity, but the #WFH trend has accelerated tractions on several fronts, including sports and gaming equipment, furniture, computers and mobile phones. It reflects the current mood, as buyers have become more price-sensitive and are increasingly looking for good deals on second-hand items, Mr Radichkov says.
But can you actually make money from sending pre-loved items off to new homes? UAE residents recount their experiences below.
“I made a few thousand dirhams”
Scottish expatriate Fiona McAndrew relocated to the UK after 21 years in the UAE, selling whatever she could to build up for a nest egg for the first few months back home. “All in all, I made a few thousand dirhams, which helped towards relocating and replacing items that were too expensive to ship,” she says. “It’s a hassle, but it’s worth it. In the current Covid climate, it’s not so easy to give to charity, and some clearance firms charge to take away your pre-loved items, which they seem to be selling on.”
From a dining room table and chairs, beds and mattresses, living room furniture to garden items and wall mirrors, she put the items on dubizzle and Facebook.
“The classifieds websites are easy to navigate,” she says. “Community Facebook pages should be another major port of call. People living in your local area may well be like-minded individuals who generally live in similar-sized spaces so curtains, furniture and other items will fit well.”
Describing the process, Ms McAndrew warns you should expect both good and bad experiences. “The best experience is when prospective buyers are genuine, they turn up when they say they will and pay the asking price – and as an added bonus, they may purchase other items you have for sale.” On the flip side, she had to deal with sob stories as some potential buyers sought price reductions. Others simply booked items and then didn’t show up to collect them – something other sellers say is common behaviour.
“Post and repost across different sites and with different strategies”
Lebanese national Houri ElMayan took the KonMari route when moving apartments recently. This method encourages people to get rid of items that no longer have a purpose and keep items that are purposeful and meaningful. Managing director of public relations firm PR Wonderland, she says second-hand sales require a bit of a strategy. Spend time monitoring and republishing your listings. “Sales can be a bit slow, so you really need to repost your ads. Also, share the ad with your contacts so it remains visible on different sites.”
Facebook’s community groups were Ms ElMayan’s first port of call. Because she lived in Sports City, she placed her ads on groups catering to residents of that development, as well as nearby areas such as Motor City and Arabian Ranches. If items didn’t sell within the expected timeframe, she reposted them to classifieds sites where, she says, sellers have greater visibility if they pay a small fee to boost their advertisements.
“You can post for free, but nobody sees it. If you pay a boosting fee, at least you can sell the items.” The advertisements cost between Dh49 ($13.35) and Dh79, she says.
She sold a refrigerator, a washing machine, a sofa set, balcony furniture and home décor items. She says applying her consumer understanding helped. “We like free stuff, so I bundled things into packages. I’d place an ad for a refrigerator, but offered a couple of extra items for free.” In total, she made about Dh5,000.
“Expect buyers to bargain for discounts”
Nooruddin Matheranwala is familiar with the second-hand market, having both bought and sold pre-loved items on at least three different occasions. He says negotiations on price are part of the game in a price-conscious market such as the UAE.
“Bargaining is the name of the game. Buyers have the mind-set that sellers must be desperate to want to get rid of their furniture, perhaps because they’re leaving and are short of time. So, they will ask you for a lower price,” he says.
Mr Matheranwala, a 44-year-old banker living in the UAE since 1999, didn’t have those time constraints because he wasn’t moving and only wanted to upgrade. Selling a range of different items via second-hand websites took between two and five weeks.
He says the first items to go are often white goods, smart devices and gadgets, he adds. “The best experience I had was with electronic goods, these are in-use items that are easy to pick up at a low cost. People may not want to pay Dh1,500 for a new item,” he says. “I was able to get back 60 per cent of my purchase cost.”
In total, he was able to recoup as much as half of what he had paid for the items. Among the articles he sold were a sofa, a dining table set, a TV cabinet and a washing machine.
“Always start by listing a higher price than what you’re willing to accept,” he advises. “That way, you can reduce the price afterwards and the buyer is happy.”
“Consider giving to charity instead”
Sharjah resident Vinutha Sathyaprakash, 45, says the high volume of responses to her listing required more time and energy than she had anticipated. In hindsight, she feels giving to charity may be a better option.
As someone who is inspired by interior design websites, she often thinks of redesigning her home. An opportunity arose when she and her family moved to a larger apartment and she wanted items that fit with her new interiors. “From friends, I got to know that going online is the best way to sell your old furniture. So, I put up an ad with what I thought was a good price,” says the Indian national, who has been a UAE resident for 14 years. “I was flooded with more than 15 enquiries a day!”
Among other things, she was asked for details about the items, to lower her asking price, to send more photographs from different angles, and if she could deliver the item to people’s homes. “The worst thing is that you are constantly on the phone, taking calls, responding to queries and sending your location to people who want to see the furniture for themselves,” Ms Sathyaprakash says.
She made Dh800 selling an old shoe rack and wardrobe this July. The items originally cost Dh3,000.
Ms Sathyaprakash had to settle for a lower price than what she wanted. A cost-benefit analysis given the amount of work for what she did earn has prompted her to think that people may well be better off giving the furniture away, perhaps to charity. “At least you will have the satisfaction that your furniture has come of use to some needy,” she says.