Long the hot spot for discontinued Hummel figurines and lost childhood toys, eBay, the online auction site, is now positioning itself as a source for remodelers to find everything from vintage wood flooring to Viking ranges. The site's offerings have evolved since its start in 1995. Back then, private individuals and liquidators were the main sellers of construction and home improvement merchandise. They'd buy excess inventory from manufacturers and resell it on the site.
Now, a great number of products found in these categories are being offered by the manufacturers themselves, who have found the site to be a successful way to unload scratch-and-dent and out-of-box appliances, slow-moving or discontinued models, and other products. Most items sold by the manufacturer come with full warranties. Besides furniture and home décor, eBay's Home and Garden category “covers everything from plumbing, hardware, tools, outdoor power equipment,” and more, says John McDonald, director of Home and Garden for eBay. The Business and Industrial category is home to larger tools, capital equipment, and larger lots of building materials.
McDonald touts the advantages the site has for remodelers, citing the size and breadth of the offerings. There are literally thousands of listings in cabinets and cabinet hardware, ceiling fans, bath faucets, and kitchen sinks on the site at any given time. Sears and other manufacturers, along with individuals and liquidators, have nearly 4,500 major appliances for sale.
And then there's the mother lode: upward of 56,000 tool listings. A quick search under “Contractor Tools” brought up more than 15,000 items, including plenty of name brands.
The site is also a good source for hard-to-find items. “[Remodelers] can find vintage things,” McDonald says, offering the example of a DIY-er who found some antique 8-inch-wide flooring. “It might be an easier or cheaper way to find single items. You can buy large lots, but if you're looking for single odds and ends, you can also find that kind of stuff.” Cabinet hardware is abundant, from country cute to industrial steel. A number of range clocks for a high-end stove manufacturer appeared in a search, as well as quite a few vintage light fixture shades.
The site works both ways, so remodelers looking to get rid of excess or unused materials will find many eager bidders on eBay. However, keep in mind that you have to ship the items to buyers and be available to answer any questions prospective buyers might have about the items before the sale is made.
That relationship between buyer and seller is a unique aspect of the site. Potential buyers are encouraged to contact the seller to get more information or clarification on items, which makes for confident bidding. It can also give you a feel for what you might be getting into. If the seller is reluctant to share information, or has a low eBay rating, you'll know to keep searching.
So whether you're desperate to match a set of discontinued sconces or just want to browse for bargain appliances, the offerings on eBay are more diverse than in any bricks-and-mortar warehouse. And while you're there, you just might find that set of mint-condition A-Team action figures you've always wanted.
For more product information, visit ebuild, Hanley Wood's interactive product catalog, at www.ebuild.com.