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I was always a big fan of playing the auction house in the early days of WoW, and you could make some money if you knew what you were doing. Then a bunch of mods came along and made it pretty easy to use, but also took away a lot of the opportunities for significant profits.

Since Diablo 3 doesn't have mods that track vast amounts of historical auction data, how should I decide what to charge for an item I'm interested in selling? Should I find a similar item and price mine slightly below it? How do I know whether that item is significantly over or under priced? Should I just charge some multiple of what a vendor would give? Or is there some way to determine which random attributes are most sought after and thus would raise the price of my item? What about buyouts?

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LessPop_MoreFizz's answer covers non-randomized commodities very well.

However, for randomized items, it is very difficult to compare most equipment types.

Generally, I estimate how much gold I earn in an hour at that level, and price the rares I sell with a buyout of roughly one hour's worth of gold accumulated at that level (what I would earn through normal quest progression). If the item has a stat that seems likely to make it particularly valuable (e.g. + to magic find, unusually high amounts of stats likely to be attractive to a class that would use it, + damage, etc.), I will bump up the price to 2 hours worth of gold accumulation.

However, weapons are a big exception. Since DPS is so important to every class, any weapon I find that has a high DPS gets a very different pricing strategy. I pick the class that I think would be most likely to use that weapon based on weapon type and secondary attributes (e.g. a dagger with high +int would cause me to consider it a WD weapon, an axe with high +str would make me look at barbarians, etc.), and then look for comparable rare weapons for that class in that level range. I then compare the stats to the other weapons with similar (+/- 3) DPS, determine if my stats are significantly better or worse than the competition, and then price either slightly below or slightly above (+/- 10%) the cheapest weapon in that DPS range, depending on whether I think the secondary stats are better.

If the weapon I'm selling is socketed, and the others in that DPS range are not, I'll mentally bump up the DPS several points since adding a ruby will add quite a bit of DPS, making it much more valuable.

This strategy gets me a steady stream of smaller amounts of gold from the items that are nice, but not fantastic, but also gets me large spikes of spending cash from when I find that really awesome weapon that just isn't quite right for me.

The most important consideration, though, is ALWAYS set a buy-out price. Few people will wait 3 days for an item, and the only thing you are likely to accomplish with a "highest-bid" auction is people trying to snipe it for cheap at the very end of the auction.

Edit: After almost a month, and after starting farming Inferno, both the market and my strategies have changed significantly. Here are some additional thoughts:

For high-end items, the strategies for pricing are rather different. To get the most for the items you find that are actually good, there are some specific things you need to pay attention to.

The first thing is to know what is actually good.

Some stats automatically add value to an item, but even then, the overall combination of stats are the most important. Still, any item with any of the following stats is automatically worth a second glance, to see if the item is worth something:

  • Improved Attack Speed
  • Faster Movement Speed
  • Rings or amulets with a damage range (e.g. "12-30 damage")
  • +to all resistances
  • % life
  • Life on Hit
  • A primary stat (Str, Int, or Dex) > 200
  • High DPS weapon (800+)

Other stats that add value if they are on an item that is already good are:

  • +Vit
  • +Crit Chance
  • +to Crit Damage
  • Magic Find
  • Gold Find
  • Bonus Damage vs. Elites
  • specific resistances (physical resistance seems to be the most popular)
  • Other "on hit" effects (stun/fear/knockback/immobilize etc.)
  • Sockets (although these are more "mandatory" than "bonus" for chest and leg armor, in which case having only 2 sockets makes the item less desirable than if it had 3)

If you've got an item that has any of the above characteristics, evaluate the overall combination of stats.

This makes it important to know at least the basic strategies of each class, but as a general rule of thumb:

  • +Vit pairs well with everything
  • "Wasted" stats decrease the value of the item. If an item has +Int and +Dex, one of those will be seen as relatively useless by whoever uses it. There are a few oddball exceptions (e.g. Witch Doctors looking for +Str and +Int because they want to try boosting their pets), but the oddball exceptions don't net you a lot of cash.
  • Great stats aren't that great if a class can't find at least 100 points in their primary. Gloves with +ias are always good, but if, as a Wizard, I see +ias, + x from health globes, Health Regen, and Resist All, I'd rather spend my money on something with +ias and +130 Int.
  • The best money is for the items that have 200+ in a primary stat, plus other great stats.
  • Get a feel for the class-specific desires. Witch Doctors tend to look for Mana Regen, or Mojos with a high damage range (anything with a top end over 200 is decent; anything with a top end over 300 is good), whereas DH quivers don't seem to sell well in general (at least I've had no luck with them).

As far as pricing, I'd like to add one basic rule that covers everything you put up for auction: Always, ALWAYS increase the starting bid! The system defaults the starting bid of an item to the amount you'd get from vendoring it. However, you pay a "transaction fee" if your item sells, meaning you get only 85% of what the item actually sells for (on the gold auction house). If you leave the default starting bid, and someone bids the minimum amount, and no one else bids, you will lose money.

For good items (based on the rough criteria I described above), a few useful tips:

  • Check the prices of similar items. Remember that just because similar items to yours are listed with really high prices doesn't necessarily mean anyone is paying those prices. If the competition seems too high, chances are that they are (particularly if there is only a couple of dozen or less items available).
  • The lower your price is compared to the competition, the less the chance of you having to wait out the entire auction duration. You need to evaluate how important a quick sale vs. getting as much as you can for the item is, though (and don't forget that AH cut!).
  • Cheap trick, but effective: try to knock off a digit if you can do so without decreasing the value too much. Changing the price from 1,000,000 to 999,000 may seem like a cheesey gimick, but it works. When people are scanning the prices, yours will jump out from the rest, particularly if you really are cheaper than the rest. When items of the same quality range run 1,100,000 - 2,000,000, and you post something for 1,000,000, it looks cheap, which could entice a sale, or could wind up with potential customers saving up for the "ideal" item. When you post it for 999,000, though, it looks like a bargain, and someone will snatch it up.
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Definitely agree on always having a buy-out, at least until you're selling items for characters that are at or near the max level. –  bwarner May 18 '12 at 18:43
    
Also, since a recent update, you can right mouseclick an item in your inventory and search for similar items. A mere macro, but saved me good amounts of time. –  Bora Nov 21 '12 at 11:01
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Preface: I only sell rares, and just vendor/melt blue items based on their vendor value.

The (totally arbitrary) rule of thumb that I've used in the current free-for-all race to the bottom is to set a buyout somewhere between 50-100x the minimum level to equip the item, based on item quality. For a minimum bid, I'll usually set it at something like 2x what I'd get for vendoring the item - basically, enough to make it worth my time. The market is crashing fast, so expect the sort of buyouts you can get away with listing to continue to drop.

Is it optimal? Of course not, but the economy hasn't taken shape in any way that allows for any real valuation of items, so the method I've described is a handy shorthand for undercutting vendor prices while still being quite profitable. For the most part, it seems to be working. Where it breaks down however, is with highly desirable high end items such as legendaries, set items, and high DPS weapons. In these cases, your best bet is going to be good old fashioned market research. Search for comparable items and undercut.

If you're just after a profit though, the best scam going at the moment is to look at commodities - especially Subtle Essence/Fallen Tooth and low grade gems. Buy them in small quantities (the smallest number that puts your purchase above the 100g minimum), then arbitrage/relist them. There's usually a dozen or so severely undervalued outliers on the market - if you just keep refreshing your small quantity search buying everything out for a few minutes, eventually you'll see the price spike once you've bought out the bottom of the market. At this point, relist everything at the higher 'market' price, and watch the profits roll in.

A note on sustainability: Nearly everything I've described in this post, while viable right now, while the game is new, is likely to be wrong in a month. The nature of the items that are flooding the market right now, and the current in game progress of the player base are what allow this to work. As time goes on, most low and mid level items will naturally reach an equilibrium price that is roughly similar to the market value of the crating materials they can be melted into, or the amount for which they can be sold to a vendor. If they ever fall below that, arbitragers will rectify the situation shortly. The occasional perfectly itemized piece might go for more, but for the most part, the real market will be for max-level commodities and high-end items, such as legendaries, set pieces, and rare crafting patterns, the prices of which should be astronomical as more and more gold enters the economy - especially given that they can be resold after use. If you'd like a glimpse of what the future looks like, WoW's Auction House should be a pretty good example.

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A good dps weapon at level 30 will go easily for tens of thousands of gold. A buyout of 3000 gp like you suggest is throwing away money. –  Beofett May 18 '12 at 12:57
    
+1 for price fixing. Way to put that economic degree into play! –  mindcorrosive May 18 '12 at 13:00
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While the 100x is a nice rule of thumb, one might say that if you've never had an auction unsold at all, you are severely underpricing. :) –  Wikwocket May 21 '12 at 20:17
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I think this information may already be out of date. I'm pricing level 30 rare items at around 2000 gold and some aren't being bought. –  mmrobins May 23 '12 at 9:10
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@mmrobins Are these good level 30 rare items? Just because an item is rare doesn't mean people will want it. You also could have just been unlucky. Typically items with good dex/int/str and great vit sell quickly and for a lot, as well as high magic find (especially magic find helms with gem slots). If it's rare, try looking up other peoples' auctions and pricing yours accordingly. –  Chris May 23 '12 at 15:17
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I've been buying and selling in the AH for days (sometimes doubling my profit). Here are some general rules of thumb to identify expensive items so you can snipe them if they are cheap:

Armor

  1. Even though every class has a favored attribute, vitality is important to everyone. So if you find a high strength & vitality item, then it's probably a very nice piece to have on a barbarian.
  2. Resistance to all elements is highly desired, the higher it is the better. Having a second single element resistance makes the item very desirable for monks since they like to stack them.
  3. If your armor has increased attack speed, chance to crit, or critical bonus, it makes it serious DH bait, and you'll be able to sell it for a lot.
  4. If the item has high armor, it'll show up higher on the AH listing (since its usually sorted by armor value first). This makes it more likely you'll sell your item.
  5. Any +% to life is good.
  6. For boots, having faster movement is highly desired.

Weapons

  1. DPS is the most important factor for a weapon, it needs to have high DPS to be listed higher in the AH searches.
  2. These weapon mods are highly desirable on weapons and will make them worth more:

    • stats (primary + vit if possible)
    • IAS (even though its already factored into DPS, faster IAS means faster resource generation)
    • Life on hit (high life on hit is what all tanks want, for example a 700 dps 900 life on hit weapon can sell for 3-4 million but a plain 700 dps one hander will only sell for 100-200k.) Life drain is pretty useless in inferno due to it only being 20% effective you can easily out perform that with high amounts of life on hit.
    • crit any crit boosting skills or class specific damage boosting skills
    • For monks, spirit regeneration and/or gain life per spirit point spent is useful

Offhands

  1. For shields, block %, stats, and all resistance is good
  2. For quivers, its all about crit chance, ias, dex, and bonus crit chance.
  3. For sources and mojos, added damage, crit, stats, and res.

Jewelry

  1. Stats Stats Stats, not useless combinations like int and str, but useful ones (typically vit + 1 other).
  2. IAS
  3. Resistance
  4. Crit chance

Like other people said, always set buyouts, and remember to set your initial bid to be somewhere close to the buyout. You don't want to risk your high priced item being sniped for 5000 gold and then see it being resold.

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Based off my experience from WoW, which has a very similar Auction House concept, the general rule of pricing items depends on their demand:

  • Items which are consumable (gold, etc, in D3) can be priced about the average price of those items already on the AH and be sold, as demand ebbs and flows during the day. As long as your's isn't massively overpriced, it should be sold.
  • Weapons and armour depend on many things, including the popularity of the class(es) that can or want to use it. Based off my experience on WoW, your best bet is to price it slightly below the cheapest corresponding item currently on the AH if you want to sell it, unless that item is significantly less than the next lowest item.

You may not realise the most profits using this mechanism, but it's a pretty easy system to making a decent profit.

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The best way is to compare with other items. If I for example find a blue amulet with +194 strength and +121 vitality, I would go to the auction house and search for amulets with more than 180 strength and 100 vitality to get an idea of what such items are worth. You will want to ensure that your search criteria enables you to compare to a bunch of similar items. If you only have one or two items to compare to, the items you are comparing to might be terribly mispriced.

If you have a rare, you can probably quite easily determine what properties are the most important ones. Consider a rare with: +143 dexterity, +16 vitality, +48 resist all, increased gold pickup radius by 5 yards

This rare should be compared to other gear which gives 130+ dexterity and 40+ resist all, as those two properties are the main important properties of the rare.

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Slow way:

Try to find an item that match your item and set the buyout at that price.

Faster way:

after you do the slow way several time you start getting to know what the price is.

Now, post at 1 million or 2 million. If it doesn't sell the next day, cut the price in half and sell that again. Keep doing it till price is 10k.

Obviously each slot has "value". So wait for a day when selling expensive item. When price is already around 200k, just keep halfing every time you happen to login.

Bad method:

Just set minimum price with no buyout and leave. I lost great item for a mere 1k gold due to this. In fact, if you want to do arbitrage, this is the way. Sort by time. Look for auction wanting to finish and auction that just started. Then buy underpriced item.

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Ever since they started showing the price for Not Sold items, I've been using the "cut the price in half" method too. I still try to come up with a reasonable starting price, but if it doesn't sell then I keep halving until it does sell or I got to 10k. –  bwarner Sep 6 '12 at 16:58
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If it's a weapon, it needs sockets, a single high primary stat, and a high + damage. Otherwise you're best learning where the maximum stat values are and basing price on that.

I've bought a number of items from the AH, and when I do i'm hunting for one stat in particular, looking to get the best deal / lowest price for what I want.

You could probably make a pretty penny doing a lot of reselling at the 20-30 clevel range right now, that's where activity and underselling is the highest at the moment.

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I usually only sell yellows unless a blue has stats that I personally find useful. I think the best thing to do I check whatever else is currently out there. Use your filters to max effect! They are very useful for both buying and selling! If you item is on par with the other offerings, undercut the other items by 1k. I guarantee that someone will pick yours over something else similar that is priced higher.

If you item is better than everything else currently selling in its range, try going for a 5-10k boost over depending on how much better it is.

For trash yellows, i usually let the starting bid default and let the buyout be 5k. They go pretty quickly and I can put the next items in my stash up.

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General rule of thumb: Ask yourself what you would be willing to pay for the item, then double that prize. There is always someone who is willing to pay something extra. That might sound silly but it works for me since Lineage 2.

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