Editor's Note: MainStreet's Farnoosh Torabi went on the Today show this morning to discuss the ins and outs of bartering. Here’s her take:
As bartering becomes more commonplace during this recession here are some key tips to help you make a favorable trade.
1. Reach out to local friends and family first. Scott Larsen and John Patton, co-founders of FriendlyFavor recommend first requesting barters from a trusted network of friends and family. It’s potentially safer than trading with someone you don’t know and more convenient since the trade can be local. It may also help eliminate costs like shipping and handling. “There’s something inherently a lot cooler to trade something with a friend or a friend of a friend,” says Larsen. In addition to FriendlyFavor, contacting friends on Facebook and sending emails out to your co-workers, friends and family is another way to reach your local network.
2. Search categorically online. After exhausting friends and family, turn to the web’s plethora of bartering outlets. Whether you’re looking to swap your electronics, books, old handbags or your house, there are a variety of free sites dedicated to specific barterers. For books, DVDs, music and video games there’s Swaptree. Your only cost is shipping your item. The site advises you use the post office's Media Mail service which lets you send almost everything for less than $2.50. If you want to swap un unused gift card for another one that’s more your taste, check out sites SwapAGift, TheGiftCardJungle and Plastic Jungle. For swapping clothes and accessories there’s SwapStyle and DigNSwap. And if you’re interested in staying in Europe for a week but don’t want to pay for housing, offer someone in Rome your place for theirs. Sites like HomeExchange, Homeswap and HomesForSwap are set up to facilitate the trade.
3. Be specific. The more specific and detailed your request, the better your chance of making a favorable trade. Don’t leave your request open-ended either. A posting on Craigslist has someone asking for “exercise equipment” but doesn’t say exactly what is requested. Be upfront about what you’re looking for. For example, if you want to trade your bicycle for some interior house painting, mention the make, model and condition of your bike with pictures, and then explain what kind of paint job you need. How many rooms? Are they providing the paint? Or are you just looking for labor?
4. Keep records. Have an agreement in writing in case anything goes wrong or doesn’t meet expectations. Also, a paper trail will come in handy during tax season.
5. File with the IRS. The IRS says individuals must file the fair market value of property or services received in a barter transaction. “Fair market value” is accepted as the value of the product or services you and the other party agreed upon before the transaction. This is recorded as income on Form 1040. If you engaged in bartering to benefit your business, and the value of the goods or services exchanged was more than $600, you need to report the exchange on form 1099, the “miscellaneous” form.