The prices for all kinds of things fluctuate. I talked a little about this in my post for casual auctioneers, but there is serious money to be made with market timing for very little investment. Basically, the goal is to watch prices for a few weeks, try to predict their next swing, and take advantage by buying low and selling high.
Easier said than done, like most things worth doing. You might get hundreds of items you'd like to watch, and short of a photographic memory or a manual spreadsheet, you're going to need some help keeping track of it all. Enter Market Watcher. This is a nifty addon that, once configured, allows you to scan the auction house for just the things you're interested in, and will show you a graph of their prices over time once you get a couple scans done.
It actually has a fair bit more functionality than just graphs, but it's stuff like buying and selling, and I never bothered looking that far into it. I simply created a list, scan it daily, and use the data to determine value.
Click the history tab to get started, and click on the add button to start choosing your tracked items.
Click the "get item info" button and then "add". Now check "record scans" and leave the other stuff as is.
Click on the scan tab, then the scan button:
Now since this is the first time you've used Market Watcher, you're going to get some useless info that you could see for yourself just by searching. Specifically, the prices for all the items that you defined in the first step. Here's what my history tab looks like, though, as I've been scanning every day that I remembered for months:
What to look for
Now that you have the tools needed to identify what the average price for something is and how it tends to change, how do you decide what to add to your list? The best items are things that are in demand by raiders or PvP players. Particularly good are things that have fairly stable supply but spiky demand. This list isn't be any means comprehensive, but it's a good place to get started.
- Raiding consumables like flasks, potions, stat food and buff consumables
- Gear enhancements like leg armor, meta gems, belt buckles
- Enchanting mats
- Anything that converts well (crystallized to eternals, etc)
- Things that are hard to turn around like epic gear
- Things that are constantly going down in value like primordial saronite and epic gear
- Things that can be mass farmed by gold sellers like herbs, ore, and leather
One way you can take advantage of this is by identifying things that have intrinsic value that they're farming for. For example, Saronite Ore can be smelted and vendored for 12.5g a stack. When you see it at 9g a stack, you know that you are safe buying as much as you are willing to smelt with no risk. Don't make that assumption for herbs, though. They have little to no vendor value, and when a botter crashes the market, unless you're one of those masochistic glyph sellers who have the ability to actually mill and use thousands of stacks of herbs, you don't want to buy the herbs for resale.
Behind the scenes
Why are these prices fluctuating so wildly? Several reasons. The biggest one is that the people who usually sell these often don't plan ahead, and make as much for a Monday as they do on a Tuesday. Monday, having considerably less demand than Tuesday nights, will force them to undercut each other more heavily to get any sales.
Additionally, there can be demand spikes. The number of people looking for a new meta gem will depend on the RNG of all the raids that night. Overall it will be pretty well averaged out, however there certainly are nights where more people got helms than usual.
In real life
This is not cheating, nor is it a bad thing. People who say that you're controlling the markets fail to notice that you're also helping level out supply. You take a risk by buying product for resale. In the real world, this function is somewhat similar to a "market maker." Market timing price speculators are contributing to market liquidity -- there's more demand on off nights, and more supply on busy nights. This is a good thing for your average player, not a bad thing.
Of course, back before the market was as mature as it is now, people used to try to monopolize markets. I've said this before, and I'll say it again. This is stupid, and won't work. Market timing is effective because it doesn't try to go around the natural balance of demand and supply. Trying to force a price up to a certain level by buying out all your competition is an effort that's doomed to fail.
Being an auctioneer is like being able to print money (or gold, as it were). Wait, that doesn't make sense ... You can print on gold, but you can't print gold. That would be closer to transmutation? I can transmute titanium, but that's only worth it if the price of saronite is low enough to justify the time spent making it. I need some sort of analogy here. ... Whatever, I'll figure it out later. Making gold? Every week, Gold Capped will teach you the tricks of the trade, from setting up your auction addons and user interface, to cross-faction arbitrage, to learning how to use your trade skills.