9 Tips for Selling Your Stuff Online (and Actually Making Some Money)

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how to sell things online

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There’s a platform for anything you could possibly imagine selling.

I know because I’ve made $24,000 in eight years selling my unwanted stuff online. I’ve sold it all, from Beanie Babies to a Toyota Tacoma on Craigslist, extra concert and sports tickets on StubHub, and designer clothing auctions on eBay.

Short of creating your own website or storefront, here’s how you can use these online marketplaces to make your own extra cash.

1. Figure out what you want to sell

To answer the question of what you should sell online, start with your motivation. You might be saving your first $1,000 or trying to reduce your student loan debt.

Most of us have at least a few valuable items we’re willing to part with in order to reach a financial goal. You might discover these items when spring cleaning or moving from one home to the next. They’re the things you can live without and won’t regret leaving behind. Some of them are too big to land in the trash or donation pile.

Bored during the summer after my junior year of college, for example, I helped my dad sell a beat-up Chevrolet Suburban, a TV, and some furniture for $10,500. It was my way of declining family heirlooms.

A year later, I was graduating from college when I listed my bed, couch, and bicycle. That put $750 in my pocket as I was purging for my next move.

As you make your own to-sell pile, realize that not all items can be sold legally online. Illegal items include anything from alcohol to weapons and certain plants on eBay, for example.

Next, focus on peddling items that could actually turn a profit. Some quick math can help you determine the value of a given item. If it takes 10 minutes to collect the details of an item and snap a picture of it for an online post, is it worth $20? Well, if you made $20 every 10 minutes at your real job, you wouldn’t need to sell stuff online.

To be fair, more than 10 minutes will be necessary to field offers and ship or hand off an item. Plus, you might incur a seller’s fee. But we’ll get to all that in a minute.

2. Name your price

Once you have found an item worth selling, pricing it is the next step. All sorts of factors can affect the actual price, including whether you’re desperate to sell or are merely fishing for an offer you can’t turn down.

No matter your situation, you should start with a little bit of old-fashioned market research. Find out what you paid for the item and how long ago you purchased it. Also, see what it’s going for now if it (or a newer model) is still for sale on a retail website.

There might also be an industry source to go by. When I sold my first car, for example, I searched Kelley Blue Book (KBB). I cited the KBB value to a Craigslist haggler, refusing to back down from my fair asking price. He came back a week later and met it.

Consider too what other secondhand sellers are pricing your item for on online marketplaces. If your item is in better condition compared to similar listings, you could justify a higher price. If your item is more run-of-the-mill than one-of-a-kind, you might be tempted to undercut your competitors with a discount.

But if you price something too low — say an iPhone for $40 — you might scare off some buyers who think it’s a scam.

3. Make pricing a science, not an art

Use all the information you have to make your best guess. These days, you’ll have some automated help from your preferred marketplace. At eBay, for example, you’ll receive a price recommendation before finalizing a post.

Newer platforms go a step further. Chairish (for specialized furniture) has a pricing guide called Pink Book. ThredUp (for designer clothing) has a payout estimator for every brand’s popular items.

When in doubt, rely on the rules of supply and demand. When living in Brooklyn a few years ago, for example, I was readying to sell an antique typewriter. Thinking it was a collector’s item worth hundreds of dollars, I was disappointed when I saw Craigslist and eBay flooded with similar models. It seemed everyone had ransacked their grandparents’ garages.

The going rate was about $75 to $100 for a working typewriter. Mine was in good shape and included the original operating instructions and carrying case, ink cartridges, and printer paper. It sold for $150 about 10 days later.

4. Choose where to list your item

How much you sell an item for is predicated in part on where you try to sell it. On eBay, for example, you could create a timed auction or set a buy-now price. On Craigslist, you could set a starting price as an opening for negotiations and then solicit offers.

If you’re just trying to make some quick cash, you also might sell something cheaply on Craigslist, where folks are known to skim for trash-heap finds. But if you have more time to find the right buyer, you could turn around and sell the same exact item at a marked-up price on a more sophisticated website like Chairish.

In other words, it’s not always wise to go where the most buyers are. You’re looking for the right kind of buyers.

If a mass audience is right for your item, consider that eBay and Etsy, a marketplace for craft goods, are among America’s 10 most-visited retail websites, according to Statista:

best websites to sell stuff

Image credit: Statista

Although there are platforms for other regions — eBid was the United Kingdom’s response to eBay, for example — here are the biggest players in the U.S.:

Marketplace Best use
Craigslist Furniture, lower-value items that you want to sell in a hurry
eBay Electronics or unique items that might spark a bidding war
StubHub Tickets for concerts or sporting events
Etsy Handmade or antique items for an international audience
Amazon Lightly used books and electronics; anything with a barcode

The more specialized your product, the more likely you’ll have other websites to choose from. Used phones, for example, can find new homes on Gazelle; vehicles are likely to get looks on CarDaddy.

Poshmark might be a fit if you’re looking to make serious cash by selling clothes. There are also a number of sites to sell your textbooks.

For general use, you might also consider apps like LetGo and 5miles, which offer more modern user interfaces and faster posting and messaging than traditional platforms.

5. Watch out for seller’s fees

When choosing between platforms for your for-sale items, one determining factor should be fees. If you’re selling high-quality furniture, you might reach a higher-spending buyer on AptDeco, for example, but the site will take 23 percent of your profits. Some quick math will tell you whether you’re better off selling it at a lower price on Craigslist.

Don’t forget about other fee-free ways to sell. You might first post your unwanted items to your social media feeds, giving your friends first dibs. Facebook has launched Marketplace, for example, to appease users who had been selling items via status updates and groups.

If you’re selling a few items instead of starting a garage sale business, it would be wise to steer clear of high-fee sites. On Amazon, for example, individual sellers aren’t charged a subscription fee but are hit with a 99-cent fee on each item sold.

Other sites might charge you a listing fee, whether the item sells or not. Etsy, for example, charges you nothing to set up your storefront, but it does take 20 cents for each listing and 3.5 percent of every sale.

You can use a marketplace’s fee calculator (if it has one) to help you calculate your return before posting an item.

One piece of good news: If you’re selling a few items that have depreciated in value, you likely won’t need to pay taxes on the sales. But if you start running a side business, selling 200 items for more than $20,000 overall, you’ll have to report extra income to the IRS.

6. Advertise with an attractive post

On any of these websites and apps, you’ll need to create an account. For most of them, you might need to connect a bank or PayPal account to receive payment.

If you did your homework on your item, creating the listing itself is the easy part. Most platforms have made posting seamless. The newer platform OfferUp, for example, says you can create one in 30 seconds or less.

If you have a lot of items to sell, speed is important, but so are the details. They can make or break your posts.

Generally speaking, you’ll start by choosing the categories of your post. When I sold my typewriter, for example, I listed it under both antiques and general items. This makes listings searchable for browsers who aren’t in the market for anything specific.

The listing itself will be created by filling out a basic form. The headline should include whatever the buyer might search for. In most cases, that will be the brand name and product type, such as “Olympia SM3 Typewriter from 1959, in great condition with carrying case.”

You might also include a deadline in your headline (“Pick up by Tuesday”) if you’re in a rush or want to encourage on-the-fence buyers to act fast.

A succinct description should tell buyers what they need — and might want — to know about your item. Anticipate their questions:

  • What is it, and what does it do?
  • How long have you owned it?
  • How did you acquire it?
  • Does it have scratches or dings, and does it work?
  • How can I pick up the item, or how much will shipping be?
  • Is the price negotiable?

You’ll also be encouraged to include photos of your item. Using natural light instead of a camera’s flash is one of many common sense rules to follow. Put yourself in the shoes of the buyer. Imagine your skepticism about the condition of an item if there are poorly lit photos or no images at all.

You’ll want to present your item from different angles, even unflattering ones. It’s better to show wear and tear upfront and scare off potential buyers than have a buyer return your item and leave a nasty review.

7. Consider different types of posts

When creating a post for one item, you might also consider advertising other items, too. You could batch a bunch of items, each with their own sale price, together in one post. This is a good way to promote a yard sale and attract buyers who are in the market for more than one thing, such as multiple pieces of bedroom furniture.

You might also create a lot-style post, lumping a bunch of similar items into a single price. I once sold an iPad, a case, and a wireless keyboard together, for example.

You can help your posts gain traction by sharing links to them on your social media profiles and being communicative with potential buyers. It’s also wise to seek out your marketplace’s customer support or already-written posting guidelines. eBay’s tips for sellers, for example, can be extremely helpful.

8. Send the items to your buyer

You might have also chosen your marketplace because of the way it gets your goods to your buyer. On eBay, you create a shipping label and drop it off at a postage center. On Amazon, you could send your item to a fulfillment warehouse before it’s even sold.

Both marketplaces (and others like it) include shipping costs. Make the buyer aware of the cost — and their responsibility to pay it — to keep it off your balance sheet.

On Craigslist and other direct-sale sites, the process might be quicker for you and cheaper for the buyer. Typically, you’ll sell items to buyers who live in your city, even your neighborhood. If the item is especially unique, you might have someone driving from across the state.

In-person sales might be simpler, but they’re not as safe. Avoid hosting strangers in your home. To close my most recent sale, a seven-string Chinese zither that was hogging my girlfriend’s closet space, I asked the buyer to meet me in the lobby of my office. Depending on where you live, you might see if carrying out transactions at your local police station is possible.

The media is fond of reporting that more than 100 murders have been linked to Craigslist. Although it’s extremely unlikely you’ll sell to someone who means you any harm, don’t take any chances by leaving yourself vulnerable.

When you’re selling something that’s too big to move out of your home or driveway, have a friend with you and make the sale in public. Even give your cross streets to a potential buyer instead of your physical address. That allows you to size someone up before inviting them inside.

9. Be cautious online, too

Being wise about how you share private information online can also keep you safe offline. No matter your preferred marketplace, avoid providing personal details or contact information in posts. Scams also run rampant on sites and can infiltrate your email inbox.

Use your marketplace’s secure system. Craigslist anonymizes your email address when you email back and forth with buyers, for instance, and most other marketplaces have on-site or in-app messaging.

Be aware that not everything you post will sell, at least not right away. In nearly eight years of using Craigslist, 73 percent of my posts ended in sales (yes, I tallied it). I haven’t been able to get rid of seven seasons of Seinfeld DVDs, though, so if you know someone …

Your unwanted stuff can take you places

Knowing what items to sell and how to sell them are the key learnings, as your choice of online marketplace might vary from item to item. In fact, your choice of marketplace might not be a choice at all. Nothing is stopping you from listing your unwanted stuff in multiple places.

Although it might be frowned upon by the sites themselves, it’s a practice that ensures your items will reach the largest possible audience. You’ll just want to avoid posting on more than one platform that allows the user to buy with a single click, like eBay and Amazon.

As you make sales, remember why you’re putting in the effort in the first place. Your motivation will be different than mine, and it will change over time.

The best part is that selling stuff online can pay dividends for more important goals offline. Emptying my college apartment financed my move to New York City. And three years later, emptying my New York City apartment paid for a month-long trip to Scandinavia.

So, ask yourself: What will selling your stuff allow you to do? Then, get selling.

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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.97% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.

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2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

APR stands for “Annual Percentage Rate.” Rates listed include a 0.25% EFT discount, for automatic payments made from a checking or savings account. Interest rates as of 11/8/2018. Rates subject to change.

Variable rate options consist of a range from 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term, 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term, 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term, 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.98% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 2.35% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 2.40% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.65% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.90% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term would be from $180.89 to $193.75. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term would be from $139.65 to $146.76. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term would be from $104.56 to $111.98. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term would be from $78.77 to $86.78. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term would be from $67.05 to $75.68.

However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.

3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance:
    Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 7.979% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.470% APR to 6.990% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.470% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.30% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.

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CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.

All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.28% effective October 10, 2018.

6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of November 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.29%. Variable interest rates range from 2.79%-8.39% (2.79%-8.39% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.75%-8.69% (3.75%-8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled. Applicants with an Associate’s degree or with no degree must have made at least 12 qualifying payments after leaving school. Qualifying payments are the most recent on time and consecutive payments of principal and interest on the loans being refinanced. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The cosigner (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a cosigner will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.

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