Your Money: Season ticketholders need to watch for pitfalls when selling tickets

When autumn rolls around, sports fans usually have plenty to be excited for. A man holds up tickets prior to an NHL hockey game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes.

When autumn rolls around, sports fans usually have plenty to be excited for. Basketball stars return to the court, hockey players hit the ice and baseball and soccer teams head for their playoff stretches.

There is no shortage of games, but attending them can be a costly affair, so many season seat holders sell some of their tickets to recoup a portion of their cash.

Cory Lucas, a realtor who owns six Edmonton Oilers seats, has been selling some of his tickets for the last four years.

Lucas usually sells his tickets at face value, which he bases on a list the Oilers provide him. However, the Oilers' rough last season meant he had to price some of his seats below face value.

He recommends prospective resellers avoid selling single seats because most people want at least two. If you have to break apart a set of seats, leaving one unsold, he says it's worth factoring it into your price because it will be hard to make money off a lone ticket.

When pricing seats, he also suggests thinking about which teams are playing.

"When the Leafs come through town, it is actually disgusting how much you can sell them for," he says. "Prime games like that are the ones I usually hold and try to get a little more for."

The timing of the game should also be factored into the price, Lucas says. Games around the December holidays can usually fetch a pretty penny because they're often given as gifts and Saturday night matches tend to be a money-maker too, he says.

"Try to go a little higher on those ones… and don't discount until you absolutely have to," he says.

If you are going to price tickets significantly higher than face value, beware of teams that try to discourage resellers from marking up the price of their spare seats by doling out consequences.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Argonauts and Toronto FC, for example, reportedly began charging people they suspected of being "commercial resellers" a 30 per cent premium to renew their seats last season.

Lucas likes to sell many of his tickets to friends, family and clients, but says he often has some of his best luck online.

He recommends sellers look for Facebook groups dedicated to fans looking for tickets. Lots of members and plenty of recent posts are often a good indicator of a promising group.

Sellers can also use online platforms including Stubhub and Ticketmaster, but Lucas warns they often take a cut of the sale or come with surcharges.

Many resellers like to put most of the tickets they have for sale at the start of a season to avoid a scramble just to make any money off them, if their team tanks down the road.

"If there is a big game coming up, most people, if it's something they really want to go to, they'll just look well in advance," said Lucas. "The cheapest time to ever get a ticket is...four hours before the game, when the people who are stuck with their tickets are just trying to unload them."

Aside from big games and ones on Saturday night or around the holidays, he recommends trying to sell seats when you can.

"My first year I was trying to be a little too greedy and there was a little bit of a surge for a game and I missed it because I was holding out and I ended up selling for less than I probably could have," he said. "Don't get greedy because you are better off selling them for $15 less than you think you should so you don't have to scramble and get rid of them later on."

In all his years of reselling, Lucas has never dealt with a scammer. He avoids shady buyers by never sending his tickets over before he receives a payment. Sometimes, he takes the step to meeting buyers in person to ensure a buyer is credible.

If you're selling multiple seats and are leery about making the transfer online, he recommends asking for half the payment to send over one seat before transferring the rest.

"You have to be careful," he says. "Once your tickets are gone, they are gone."

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