This is one of those questions that can lead to a fistfight at an otherwise lovely dinner party, assuming, of course, that there are all eBay sellers at this dinner party. Everyone has their own opinions on what is the best day and time to list something and everyone swears by their specific time. By the same token, there are others who will fight just as hard that the time that you list your item does not matter at all.

To start with, the time and day that you list an item matters only because it directly affects the time at which the listing ends. In other words, if I start my 7 day auction at 3:00 PM EST on Wednesday, that auction will end at 2:59 PM EST exactly on the following Wednesday. The end of the listing is when all the real action happens and is what can create the most drastic change in value.

Along those same lines, the timing of a listing matters much more for an auction style listing than a fixed price listing. While you can certainly use timing to give your fixed price listing its best chance of being seen, a fixed price listing only needs to find that one perfect buyer while a successful auction needs to find as many bidders as possible to reach a high value.

This question has several parts, so I am going to break them down and discuss them in stages. As with so many things, the decision is up to you, but I am hoping to give you enough of an overview to help you make an educated decision on this topic.

Part 1: What is the best time of year to list my items?

Though online, eBay is subject to the same retail seasons as any store and, as such, gets far more traffic during the holiday months and far less traffic during the summer months. Most sellers save their “big ticket” auction items for late November or early December as this is when they are likely to reach their highest potential value because demand is greatest. The closer that you get to Christmas, the riskier an auction is, however, because buyers are looking for a gift that is a “sure thing” and are less willing to gamble on a risky auction as they would earlier in the season and are more likely to go for fixed price items.

Items sold during the autumn and winter months in general sell for more and are more likely to sell then those sold in Spring and Summer. Why? Well, when the weather is nice and the days are longer, most people are outside or otherwise enjoying the weather. When there is a chill in the air, they are more likely to be clicking around on eBay. Each year, one of the television networks complains that the nice weather affects their viewership ratings because people are outside instead of watching TV. eBay works the same way. The less people on the site, the less people looking at and bidding on your item.

Some items, however, have a seasonal market and you’ll need to take that into account. For example: While there is a year-round market for costumes and dress up accessories, there is a far greater demand right around Halloween. In the same way, though people buy pool supplies year round, your market will increase dramatically in Spring and Summer.

Part 2: What is the best day of the week to list my items?

The most important time for your listing is the 24 hours before it ends. For many eBay bidders, the “Ending in the Next 24 Hours” page is the only way they ever browse eBay. Your item benefits from added exposure, impulse bidding, and bidding competition all at this time and it is this time period that can determine whether your item sells at the top or bottom of its price range.

The second most important time for your listing is the 24 hours after it is listed because it is designated with an attention getting icon and also gets added exposure. But please note that this time period, though important, is far less so than the time before the auction ends.
Before you list any item, take a look at the calendar. An auction ending on an holiday, major viewing event (Super Bowl, Oscars, etc), or a big social evening (such as Friday or Saturday nights) will sell for significantly less then something that ends on a more typical internet traffic day.

A good rule of thumb and a simple way to start teaching yourself is to take a look at the calendar whenever eBay offers a one-day listing fee promotion. Take a look at 7 days in advance of that date and figure out what is wrong with it. They are no fools over at eBay HQ and they only tend to offer a break off of fees for days that are not great days for selling. In the past, for example, eBay has offered a listing fee sale on December 18th because any 7 day auctions would be ending on Christmas Day (when there would be far less people on the site). While this should not stop you from taking advantage of sales, you just want to be aware and keep the items that you have the highest hopes for in reserve.

I, personally, have always believed in starting my 7 day auctions on Sunday evenings just based on my own routine. In my mind, this puts the 24 Newly Listed hours on Monday when bored back-to-workers are likely to see it and the pivotal 24 Ending Soon hours all day Sunday when people are more likely to be at leisure. I was very pleased to discover, while researching for this article, that my theory seemed to be right on par with what a lot of people were saying. Sunday seems to be the preferred day for ending an auction, though, as with anything, there are always exceptions.

For sellers who prefer 10 day auctions (which are subject to an additional fee over 7 day auctions), Thursday evening is the best day based on the logic above. This is because the seller gets the advantage of 2 weekends and your auction will still end on the coveted Sunday evening.

The second most popular theory is the Monday morning theory. This theory operates on a very similar principal as the Sunday night theory, but reasons that the dedicated bidder can bid on your item either by staying up very late or getting up very early on Monday. While this theory is widely held, I can tell you right now that there is nothing on God’s green earth that is going to get me up any earlier on Monday morning that I have to get up.

Part 3: What is the best time to have my eBay listing end?

As discussed above, the time you list the auction is the time it starts, unless you use eBay’s scheduling feature which results in an additional fee on each listing. My own personal theory on this is that if you cannot find time to be at the computer to list your items at X o’clock, chances are that your eBay bidders are also busy at X o’clock and will not be bidding on your item. This theory, however, is just based on my own personal philosophy, however, and may not be true for everyone and every case.

Also, you’ll want to fit into the schedule of your ideal buyer. Parents of small children are only going to have time to shop online for toys either while the kids are at school or in bed for the night. In the same way, a restaurateur isn’t going to be idling surfing online for restaurant supplies during the dinner rush. What generally works for most items may not be what is best for your specific item so you’ll need to do some research into who your buyers are and identify their habits.

The other thing to consider is time zones. This works two ways. Firstly, if your item is regionally specific (ie surf boards for California) you will way to aim for a prime time for that market.
Secondly, if your item is of wide appeal, you want to try to take all time zones into account. When I list my items on Sunday night, I list them late enough that it is evening on the west coast, but isn’t unreasonably late on the East Coast.

But that’s just my opinion. Let’s get a more official opinion on this. Just so happens, eBay has answered this exact question in their FAQ:

What is the best time to schedule my items to start?
The best time to start your items really varies depending on what you sell and who your buyers are. For example, if you sell office supplies and your main customers are small businesses, then you might want your items to be available for bidding and buying during normal working hours. If you sell recreation or leisure-related items, you may want your items exposed in the evenings so users can shop after work. We encourage you to try out some different starting and ending times for your items to see what works best for you.

How . . . specific. Gee, eBay, want to vague that up a little more for us? All kidding aside, eBay is not going to take a stand on this. They want there to be a relatively similar number of listing ending on the site at all times and aren’t going to endorse any listing pattern that might throw that off.

If you are, like me, too stingy to pay for scheduled listing, but still want control over when your listings start as well as the ability to prep them ahead of time, I highly recommend setting up your listings in Turbo Lister. Though Turbo Lister does offer the paid scheduling feature, it also enables you to set up as many listings as you want and then leave them all happily sitting in the “Waiting to Upload” window. These listings will stay, ready and waiting, until the moment that you decide to upload them. I typically prep as many listings as I can during the week and leave them all sitting in waiting until my usual Sunday evening time when I just click the “Upload All” button, wander away and then come back to shut the computer down when it’s finished.

There are also services, such as the free and highly useful Auctiva, that will let you schedule your listings for free so those are definitely something to consider if you absolutely cannot be there to list your listings in real time.

Part 4: The Exceptions and the “Does this really matter?”

There is one big exception to every single thing listed above and that is newsworthiness. There are times when you very truly just need to get an item listed as soon as humanly possible no matter what the day, month or time. For more info on newsworthiness, you can read my thoughts on that here, but let me just give you a quick example.

Though a slightly morbid case, within the 24 hours after wildlife television personality Steve Irwin was killed by a stingray, toys featuring his likeness were selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay, particularly if they featured his voice. The sellers who waited until even a few days later in the week to list their identical Steve Irwin items found that their items sold for sometimes 5% of what the items listing only a few days before had sold for ($10 for an item that sold for $150 the week before and so on). Why? Because, as the news faded from the front page, the desire for the objects faded in the minds of the bidders and they forgot their desire for the item.

Now to address those that feel that the time, day or month of listing doesn’t affect the final sale price, if you are selling predominantly fixed price items, I would agree that the time that you list the items does not affect you greatly, especially with store items. With auctions, however, I have sold exactly the same item at different times and seen very different results so I do believe that timing does have an effect. That, however, is just one person’s opinion.

In the end, you need to weigh for yourself if the benefit of the fuss (fees for 10 day and scheduled listings or otherwise sitting by the computer to list your auctions at an exact time) is worth the extra money you might (or might not) make. Remember, eBay is a worldwide marketplace so there are always potential buyers on the site and there are all sorts of external factors that can affect your listings that are out of your control.

I do think it is worthwhile to think about your listing behavior, even if you only follow it for some items. Even though I am a fan of the Sunday night listing, I have been known to upload items on a random weekday afternoon for no other reason then I am sick of looking at the items or I am just trying to lessen the number of packages that I have to pack on Monday morning. In the end, you have to bow to what is manageable for you and your business.

When do you like to have your listings start?