Heather Wood, Freelance Writer: articles about interior decorating & redesign, home staging & enhancement, & more
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By Heather Wood
published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Home & Garden section
Sunday, May 18, 2008

Spring: Consignment services make online selling simple. Spring has finally arrived -- and along with it, the overwhelming desire to shed the weight of winter.

This usually involves spring-cleaning -- organizing, storing or getting rid of the piles of stuff that have accumulated over fall and winter -- swapping out skis and snowboards for tennis racquets and bicycles, sorting through last year's spring and summer wardrobes, and generally asking, "Where did I get all this stuff?"

The garage and yard-sale signs sprouting up in Santa Fe are a sure indication of warming weather. But the green isn't just in the garden. If you're feeling a post-holiday and tax-time pinch, let this year's spring-cleaning effort reward you with some extra pocket money -- or at least a tax deduction. There are myriad ways to turn your cast-offs into cash, many of which take little effort on your part. If you shudder at the thought of hosting a garage sale, you may want to consider some other options that will leave you, and your home, feeling lighter and brighter.

Time to consign

Santa Fe has long been home to a variety of consignment stores reselling everything from clothing and collectibles to furniture and fine art. There are plenty of high-quality consignment shops that go beyond your usual second-hand goods. To find them, look in your favorite phone directory under "Clothing Consignment & Resale," "Consignment," "Vintage Clothing," "Furniture -- Used," or "Book Dealers -- Used and Rare."

If it's clothing and accessories you're looking to unload, you're in luck. Stores such as The Beat Goes On and Encore 505 at Double Take provide locals and visitors alike with high-quality -- and often one-of-a-kind -- fashion finds at affordable prices. Call ahead before bringing in items of your own; most stores have policies on how many items can be consigned at a time, what days they will accept consignments, and what "seasons" now are being accepted. (Many clothing consignment stores require appointments, but not all.) Items should be freshly laundered, pressed and on hangers.

Annette Sanchez, owner of Act 2 Consignment, says that second-hand is not second-rate. "It's not thrift at all, it's boutique quality. We have a lot of great bags coming in ... Prada, Gucci and Kate Spade. We're getting a lot of younger, trendier clothing from women in their 20s to mid-30s. Everybody's consigning now."

Jeans and jewelry are always hot-ticket items at local consignment boutiques. Sanchez's store will accept up to five items at a time, or by appointment. "Consigners get 40 percent in cash or 50 percent to shop with. I would say the average check we cut is $300 per customer."

A more recent addition to consignment sales are online consignment services, which primarily resell items on eBay and similar auction sites. Gene Bostwick, co-owner of Online Auction Block in Santa Fe, explains that their service is about convenience. Since opening in May 2006, this service has helped sellers get their items into the online auction action with minimal headaches.

"It's about convenience," Bostwick says. "You bring the item to us and wait for the check. We write the listing, keep track of the auction and ship it. We try to make it as simple as possible for the customer."

Bostwick says that electronics have consistently been the No. 1 seller. "Stereo components, computers, even 10-year-old laptops. Sterling silver flatware and hollowware does well, rare china and collectibles -- Hummel figurines, antique toys -- those things people find in their attic." Clothing and art aren't as easy to market online, Bostwick says. "We try not to take much artwork. The prices are way too low on the Internet, and buyers like to see things face-to-face when buying art.

"We don't take a lot of clothing, but we do well with purses, hats, shoes, etc.

Online Auction Block works on commission. "For example," Bostwick says, "if something sells for $100, you're going to net between 60 to 65 percent, depending on eBay fees. As the price goes up, the percentage gets better and better." Alan Saenz, owner of Drop It Here, an eBay consignment store in Los Alamos, explains how he sets the price on a consignment.

"We do research first on eBay to see how much an item sells for," he says. "We don't take items that sell for less than $50. The final selling price determines the amount we charge, and that includes all the fees for eBay, PayPal, taking photos, writing descriptions, and the shipping. We list it for seven days, and if it sells, we pack and ship items from here. Most of what we sell is old cameras, a lot of motorcycle gear, old amateur radios, computers, video cameras, TVs, and collectibles," Saenz says.

When it comes to reselling home and garden items, mainstays like Double Take, Recollections Fine Consignment and Stephen's: A Consignment Gallery, consign everything from throw pillows to patio furniture. Whether it is a lamp you're looking to unload or a gently used love seat, most resellers will help you set realistic prices and timelines for sales. Many offer pick-up services as part of the fee.

New on Santa Fe's gently used furniture scene are Queen Flea and The Highway Men and Desperado Designs. Co-owner Jane Peltier explains that while the store is new, the businesses have been going strong for four years at the Pojoaque Flea Market. "We pride ourselves on catering to locals," she says. "About 80 percent of our business is local. Bringing it into town makes it easier." The store specializes in furniture refurbishing and refinishing -- it's ready to use when you take it home. "That's where we differ from other consignment shops," Peltier says. In addition to consigning, Peltier says she and her partners "try to buy outright. It gives people a better price when they come to buy." The are always looking for furniture from the 1930s, '40s and '50s -- in case you have any pieces gathering dust in a garage or storage unit.

Classic classifieds

Classified advertising has been around for decades, and it's a method of selling that's familiar to most people.Most daily and weekly newspapers and some periodicals offer affordable advertising that may or may not include a photo of the item for sale. Most newspapers have online versions of their publications, which increase a classified ad's visibility. Most publications also offer the option to place your ad through a secure Web site. For local options, contact The New Mexican or search online for "classified advertising Santa Fe NM" for a host of options.

World wide wow

Just because you own it here doesn't mean you can't sell it somewhere else. The Internet has leveled the playing field when it comes to buying and selling everything from antique salt and pepper shakers to home electronics. Whether you want to auction to the highest bidder or barter for a bargain, check out these sites.

One of the most popular do-it-yourself selling and bartering tools today is craigslist.org. Started in 1995 by San Francisco, Calif., resident Craig Newmark, craigslist.org is a World Wide Web version of classified advertising, with everything from job postings to house swaps to items wanted/for sale. There's no charge to post an item. All you need to post an ad is a valid e-mail address. Because craigslist.org uses an e-mail masking service, your anonymity is ensured until you choose to share a personal e-mail address or phone number with a buyer.

The original online auction block, eBay was founded by Pierre Omidyar in San Jose, Calif., as AuctionWeb in 1995. Still the king of Internet auctions, for nominal fees you can create an eBay listing for everything from diamond rings to cars to baby clothes. Most eBay auctions run for seven days, so be sure to have time to monitor your object's progress and answer buyers' e-mail inquiries about your item. You should also know exactly what your shipping costs will be beforehand. Another eBay feature, "Buy It Now," lists an item at a set price. Creating a listing can be somewhat time consuming if you are new to the process, but if you're handy with a digital camera, comfortable writing an advertisement, and have time to monitor your auction, eBay may work for you.

Giving for good

A financially and personally rewarding way to clear the clutter is to donate goods to your favorite charity or nonprofit organization. While you won't get cash in hand, you will get the opportunity to support your charity of choice while receiving a tax break. Many health and human services organizations, such as Goodwill Industries and The Salvation Army, operate thrift stores to raise funds for programming. The Hospice Center Thrift Store is host to clothing, household items and furniture, and proceeds benefit Presbyterian Medical Service's hospice program. Look under "Thrift Shops" in the phone book for a comprehensive list. Be sure to call ahead to determine the type of items an organization may need, as well as its preferred drop-off hours and locations. In exchange for your donation, you should receive a tax-deductible donation receipt, where you, not the organization, are responsible for determining the value of the items donated. Keep in mind that donation values are typically determined by the resale value of the item, not the original purchase price. Consult the Internal Revenue Service's Web site, www.irs.gov, or your accountant for current tax laws.

The Habitat for Humanity ReStore is unique in its mission. According to store manager Simone Ward, the ReStore "accepts building materials, doors, windows, plumbing items and lumber, as well as power tools, hand tools, nails, screws, etc." Most of the store's donations come from individuals, some from contractors, she says. The ReStore also resells donated furnishings and appliances. "Appliances have to be less than 10 years old and in perfect working condition," Ward says. The proceeds from sales at the store benefit the Santa Fe Habitat for Humanity, dedicated to building "simple, decent and affordable" housing. "We build homes for families in need, approximately five per year," notes Ward. "We would love to have more community involvement. A lot of people in the community don't know about us and what we do."

If you love the library, give it your old books. While most people find it hard to part with books because of their expense, the likelihood that most of them will be reread is low. Tim Greer, manager of the Santa Fe Public Library's main branch, explains that "people can donate books to the library by bringing them to any of the three branches. We accept everything but old textbooks, encyclopedias and Reader's Digests. We take book donations during the hours we're open, and we take videos and audio books, too.

"If we don't put the books in the collection," Greer says, "they go to the Friends of the Santa Fe Public Library and they sell them." The friends of the library have stores at the Southside Library and the Main branch, and anything they sell benefits the library. Elaine Anton, store manager of the Open Hands Thrift Store (formerly 851 Exchange), says that profits from the store support Open Hands' adult day-care services, including the adult day-care center, which serves the elderly and economically disadvantaged.

"We'll take about anything except computers and computer programs," Anton says. "What we don't sell we piece out to different organizations. Extra towels go to veterinary clinics, clothes we take to Save the Children ... We try to be as green as we can; we're down to one trash pickup a week." If people are moving, they can come to Open Hands for boxes. "Everything is sold or used locally," Anton says, "and all our money stays local. Unlike other charities, we don't sell on eBay."

Heather Wood is a freelance writer who writes regularly for the Santa Fe New Mexican. She can be reached through her website at www.HeatherWoodFreelance.com.

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