Keeping up to date with the current trends in technology can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. Most new products are released on a yearly cycle or less. Apple’s iPhone is the only product that I’ve continuously upgraded each year on launch day. Even before the iPhone 3GS in 2009, I’ve upgraded to something new every year.
One important skill I’ve mastered is how to maximize resale value. Growing up in a below average income environment, there was never an opportunity to buy a new product and simply keep or pass on the old one. Lured in by the desire of new flashy models, I quickly adapted to perfecting the art of reselling older products to make enough money for the new one. This process has been refined over many years by taking advantage of subsidized pricing and corporate benefits.
This system is not for everyone and does not guarantee results. Some people are content with keeping a phone or product for many years until it dies. This guide is designed for those who don’t mind putting in a little effort resulting in having the latest and greatest each year.
Step 1: Get into the ‘system’
I use the term system because that’s exactly what it is. Once you are in, it becomes easier and requires less work each year to maintain it. The beginning is always the hardest. Making the initial investment for any product is the first step, including phones, tablets, televisions, or computers.
Mobile phones are the easiest because they are available at a subsidized price from the carrier. This does require a contract but significantly lowers the initial cost. There is a different process when upgrading now that Canada only offers 2 year terms. Previously, there would be penalties and other fees to close a contract early. Now you only need to pay the device balance and the contract is terminated.
One important thing to know is that the product’s value in the second hand market does not decrease throughout its cycle. If you purchase an iPhone or iPad while it is the current model, it does not make a difference whether it was acquired on the first day or 8 months after. There are many people who don’t follow release dates and just know what model is the newest one. It’s always best with mobile phones to upgrade on launch day or very shortly after. This helps maximize the usage time and minimize contract buy out costs.
Step 2: Take care of it
While it would appear to be obvious, many people overlook this step. Buy a durable case if you are prone to accidents. Even something simple such as a back plate case will protect the device when it’s placed on hard surfaces. The case can be included in the resell package, so it also increases value. Get a screen protector if you are constantly placing the device in your pocket, purse, or backpack. Marks on the screen will significantly lower its value since the display is the focal point. With bigger electronics such as a computer or television, clean it on a regular basis. There are kits for screen cleaners and other accessories. They are inexpensive and last a long time. Wipe down exterior areas to keep it polished and vibrant.
One big advantage to Apple products is the Applecare+ coverage. In most cases, having the ability to swap the device prior to selling increases the resale value by a large margin. The perception of a devices’ condition is different with each person, but presenting a phone with the factory wrapping on will always appeal to everyone. A good strategy is to perform an Applecare+ swap after the new purchase is made. This allows the device to be left unactivated. All current iPhones are activation locked, which means they are unlocked until the first SIM card is inserted. Expanding the pool of potential buyers will increase the chances of selling the device quicker. While AppleCare+ does have a cost associated with it, the end value outweighs the investment. If a swap isn’t required, then you’ve saved money and can now add extra cost in the bundle.
Step 3: Plan the resale
Research what product is right for you with expensive items such as a computer or television. After you’ve discovered the next product that you plan to purchase, a budget can be set on how much money is needed to invest out of pocket. Most people will see the price tag of a new product and simply say they can’t afford it. Adding in the value of a resale cuts the cost down significantly in most cases.
Look around at what other people are selling their products for. It’s good to check multiple sources to get a balanced price point. Once you’ve settled on a reasonable number, set the one you plan to sell a bit higher. Making the mistake of pricing it lower to get a quick sale will just cut out of your profits. Lots of stores now provide trade-in options for older devices and generally offer 50-60% less than what you could get yourself with a little effort.
Step 4: Impress and be confident
This process is mostly suited towards private sale listings that can be controlled. Outlets such as eBay don’t give the seller control to accept specific offers. List with places such as Kijiji or Craigslist. The ad details will be the most important part of the entire sale. Take a few pictures of the product after it’s been cleaned and edit them if possible. Showcasing your product in a professional setting will add value in the cost. If the situation fits, I always take out any accessories from the new device and put them in the older box to help boost the resale price.
In the image above, you can easily see the difference good quality photos make in an ad listing. Even though the buyer is making a second hand purchase, knowing that the item has been in good care and is presented in an appealing manner will help ease their mind in paying a bit more compared to another listing. I was able to sell my 32GB iPhone 5s that was purchased on launch day almost exactly one year later for $700 Canadian using three images, including the one above.
Wording used in the ad listing also has a large impact. Make sure that spelling and grammar is perfect. Be brief and do not list hardware specs of the device. People don’t care to know that your phone has a dual-core 1.3GHz A8 ARM processor. You want potential buyers to have all of the information they need before contacting you. This will save time with questions that should have been answered in the ad.
I had the asking price for the iPhone 5s set at $750. It may take a few days for inquiries to come through, but ones that do will be serious buyers opposed to people simply looking for a deal. Position the sale towards someone who is looking to purchase new and would rather save a bit for a lightly used version, opposed to targeting bargain hunters. I’ve never had a situation where a product didn’t sell close to my asking price. Every so often it sells right away, other times can take longer.
Step 5: Patience is a virtue
Reposting the listing is important. Open it in a new tab and copy the information over. Then delete the ad and you will be able to repost it. I would suggest doing this at least once a day. Staying at the top of the search results will provide the most exposure. If two weeks go by and not one inquiry has been made, the price is too high. Lower it by $20 on a Sunday night when the weekend traffic slows down and give it another week.
Reply promptly when an inquiry is received. Even if they don’t get back right away, it shows that you are courteous and attentive. If the offer is lower than your asking price, reaffirm the details of the sale and why you feel that it’s worth what you have it listed at. One advantage I always include is that local delivery is bundled in the price. Even if you have to take public transit, the extra $20-30 outweighs the cost of fare. I use that to leverage the sale if they try to negotiate. Discounts can be offered if they are willing to pick up same day. This will create a time sensitive situation and trigger a more impulsive decision with less time to think about it.
Depending on the pricing, I usually mark up $30-50 to use for negotiations. Everyone loves a deal, so setting the price high then offering a discount allows both parties to win. Set a meeting time convenient for them as soon as possible to complete the deal. If an agreeable term cannot be reached, say thank you and move on to the next. Don’t go lower than what you’re comfortable with just to get a sale. There will always be other offers.
If you wait more than 2 new product cycles, the value will decrease too much and the out of pocket cost to upgrade will rise significantly. For one week each year I do a little bit of work and am able to upgrade to the latest iPhone for the rest of the year. Anyone else can do it too. This guide is a simple outline of the process I follow and I hope it helps others enjoy the benefits of low cost tech upgrades. While it was mostly focused on mobile devices, these skills can transfer to almost any electronic item including video game consoles, televisions, cameras, and more.
Take care of your products and they will return the favour when that shiny new model catches your eye.
(Originally published October 2, 2014)