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Buying & Selling Off The Grid

Posted Thu, Jun 24, 2010 by Cyrak

When you're buying and selling items in World of Warcraft the Auction House is the go-to location. The benefits to using the Auction House are that you can buy and list items quickly and not worry about them, everything is automated. There's a downside to playing that game however. The auction house demands an upfront deposit to list items which can be hefty, and it takes 5% of the total value of your sale. When you're dealing with large items worth thousands of gold 5% is a big chunk!

It's important to know how to hawk your wares without the assistance of the Auction House. This can not only be substantially more profitable than using the Auction House, it can also help you develop relationships with buyers and sellers that can be useful in the future. Here we'll go over the best ways to sell items 'off the grid' and the costs and benefits of doing so.

Alternate Trade Venues

  • 1. Trade Chat - The alpha and the omega of World of Warcraft barter is the Trade Chat Channel. Available in all major cities, Trade Chat is where players spam messages indicating what they are selling or buying and at what price. This is where you will do the vast majority of your business outside the Auction House.
  • 2. Forums - Sometimes when you've got an item that is sufficiently rare, valuable, or sought after it is worth taking your business to the forum for your Realm. Typically many of the better players on your Realm will read that forum, and those are typically the type of players that are going to want to buy extremely rare or valuable items.

Know the Value of your Goods

The first step to selling off the grid is to know what your goods are worth. The reason that this is important is that when you start aggressively advertising your wares the relationship between you and your buyers fundamentally changes. You are 'selling' an item rather than simply passively listing it on the Auction House, and you are selling to buyers that aren't necessarily looking for it the way they would be if they actually looked up that specific item on the Auction House.

This means that you need to price your item accurately or you will get absolutely no interest. Pricing average items such as herbs or metal ore that you want to sell without the AH cut is relatively simple. You can use the AH to determine the 'going rate' then slightly undercut it. Your undercut should be less than 5%. For example: if a stack of ore is going for 70g you'd offer to sell for 68g and buyers that frequently purchase that material would get a discount and you'd pocket the difference between the sale price and the AH cut.

When is it Worth it?

As you can see, this tactic isn't very profitable for nickel and dime transactions. In the example I gave you'd make 1.5g extra for every 70g sale, is your time worth that little that you couldn't be doing something more profitable than sitting in town rather than using the AH? Not likely. That's why it's important to determine when you've got an item on your hands that is worth selling in person.

The main factors that go into this calculus are:

  • 1. Rarity - How rare is your item? Did you score an elusive ultra-rare drop like the Hyacinth Macaw? If so, you'll definitely want to create interest by spamming trade chat so people know that you're selling something like this. This also applies to rare bind-on-equip mounts, gear, and Trading Card code items.
  • 2. Value - For every 1000 gold an item is sold at, the Auction House is going to take 50 from the sale. That really adds up when you're selling items worth tens of thousands of gold. Big ticket transactions should always be done outside the AH.
  • 3. Deposit Fee - The way that the deposit fee is calculated on the AH can be very confusing. Some items demand a ridiculously high deposit which will not be returned to you if you item fails to sell. Items like this should not be listed on the AH unless you are confident that they are going to sell the first time they are listed.

You always need to be aware of these factors when you're trying to decide how to proceed with a sale. It mostly comes down to whether it's worth your time to spend the extra effort and avoid the AH; sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.

Tactics

Tactics are an important part of buying and selling items outside of the Auction House, particularly big ticket items. Buyers and sellers both have tricks that they can use to get better value out of their time and wares.

Using the Auction House to your advantage is one excellent tactic for selling big ticket items. If you come across something extremely rare and valuable and want to attract buyers that really want it and will pay big for it go ahead and list the item on the Auction House. Just make sure you list it at an absolutely ridiculous price. If something is worth 10,000g list it for 25,000. If someone comes along and buys it for that then you're even luckier, but normally this will generate whispers and in-game mail from players interested in the item but unwilling to pay your ridiculously high AH price. This tactic also establishes a high initial bid that they will be obliged to counter and puts you in a strong bargaining position because they are coming to you.

Buyers are in a particularly strong position when buying off the grid. A personal favorite of mine is spamming that I am purchasing raw crafting materials (typically gems) at prices much lower than they normally go for. Often players that are looking to quickly unload without going through the hassle of the AH will jump at the opportunity to sell for cash, and you can buy at significantly discounted prices.

Shady Tactics

There are some less than honest ways to take advantage of the buying and selling dynamics in Trade Chat. One of my personal favorites  is to have a friend spam that they are looking to purchase an item that you are trying to sell at a relatively high price. You then wait a minute or so and start spamming that you are selling that same item at a price lower than the one that your friend was 'buying' at. At any given time there are dozens of people monitoring Trade Chat for the sole purpose of speculating on items for a profit. Players like this will remember that the other player is buying that item for higher than you're selling for, and will often bite on your sale even if the price is steep!

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