eBay: the new way to make living

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Taarik Furmie jokes that he's the Santa Claus of the internet.

As a seller of toys and games, Christmas is Mr Furmie's busiest time of year.

He's run off his feet checking stock, sending off orders, comparing the competitiveness of his prices and making sure his accounts are in order.

And he does it all without leaving the comfort of his home in Casula, in Sydney's western suburbs.

Mr Furmie is one of a growing number of Australians who are making a full-time living selling goods on internet site eBay.

In September this year, there were more than 17,500 Australians who used eBay as their primary or only source of income.

Another 94,000 eBay sellers had considered quitting their day jobs to sell full-time on the trading website.

Since it began in 1999, eBay has significantly changed the way Australians shop and opened self-employment opportunities for those who thought they'd always be bound to a nine-to-five desk job.

Mr Furmie worked in IT when his wife started selling old toys and games their children no longer used.

Soon, she was buying goods from second hand stores and garage sales and re-selling them for a profit on eBay.

When she had her third child, Mr Furmie took over the hobby and it flourished.

Four years ago, he left his job to focus full time on his toy business. He also moved from secondhand to new toys and games, sourced through local suppliers and manufacturers.

Now he competes with major department stores and has set up his own business name, Treasure Planet Toys.

"You will find that you are generally getting better prices on eBay, because I don't have the overheads that they (department stores) do," he told AAP.

"You find that a lot of people, especially today with the stress of modern day life, people are finding less time to get to the shop and when they do get there it's stressful.

"If you can sit in front of a computer and find the same item (and) it's going to be delivered to your door, you save yourself two hours and frustration."

Mr Furmie is coy about how much he makes, but says it's better than his previous job, although much of the money goes back into growing the business.

He is classed as an eBay PowerSeller - sellers who average a minimum of $2,000 in sales per month, over three consecutive months. Titanium PowerSellers - the top level - earn $300,000 a month.

Mr Furmie teaches people how to sell on eBay in an eight-hour course conducted at people's homes, but some institutes are now offering lessons on how to make the most of the trading site.

The Council of Adult Education (CAE) now has a one-day course, Buying and Selling Goods Through eBay, which teaches how to "make money and find that elusive item".

Victorians are some of Australia's biggest eBay users.

A national survey last month found residents of Springvale, in Melbourne's southeast, were the country's biggest online traders, buying and selling at an average of $274 per member.

Second place was taken by nearby Dandenong, which averaged $173 per member.

Dandenong resident Rebecca Wilkin is an eBay convert.

The 28-year-old buys and sells goods on the website, particularly clothes and baby goods.

She recently decked out her daughter's nursery with brand new furniture for $500, including cot, change table and rocking chair.

"I do research before I buy anything, either at the shop or online as to how much the retail price is," she said.

"Nine times out of 10 I find I can get a really good bargain on eBay."

Ms Wilkin believes Dandenong and Springvale topped the national trading figures because of their low socio-economic demographic.

"Dandenong is predominantly a low-income area and you do find you get more for your money, if you know what you're looking for," she said.

"You've really got to make your money go further and you can get a bit of spare cash by selling things you don't need any more."

Ms Wilkin also thinks the language barrier could be a factor, as many migrants live in Dandenong and Springvale.

Consumer trends expert Bernard Salt, of KPMG, said many of the top-ranking eBay suburbs across the nation had high levels of migrant populations.

Three quarters of Springvale's 18,000 residents speak a language other than English at home.

"Perhaps Australia's newest residents prefer to buy their goods on eBay rather than have to negotiate the language barriers of traditional shopping centres," he said.

Leigh, of Boronia in Melbourne's outer east, says he'll never visit a chain store again.

He buys clothes on eBay for half what he'd pay in a shop and they're delivered to his door.

He also sells items he has lying around his house that he no longer wants.

He has sold an old Australian Airlines watch for $35 and T-shirts from car shows for $70-$80.

As a car collector and restorer, he also finds eBay useful for sourcing and selling cars and car parts.

"I've got a set of wheels lying around that you could take to the wreckers, but I'll put them on eBay. People are looking for stuff like that all the time," he said.

"If I want something cheap I will see if it's on eBay first. It's definitely a good money saver."

Leigh bought an XP Falcon Coup for $5,500 in Western Australia and a F150 pick-up truck from Queensland for $11,000.

Potential eBay buyers are warned to do their homework before they buy.

That includes checking the feedback on the seller and always using the PayPal facility.

"The majority of people on eBay are there to do the right thing, but you can lose money if you just don't take precautions," Mr Furmie said.