Seller

What Is a Seller?

The term seller refers to a party that offers a good, service, or asset in return for payment. A seller can be an individual, corporation, government, or any other entity. In financial markets, a seller is a party that offers an asset they own or hold for purchase by someone else. In options markets, a seller is also called a writer. The writer is the counterparty of the contract and receives a premium for selling the option. Sellers are contrasted with buyers, and the two make up the key elements of any transaction or exchange.

Key Takeaways

  • A seller is any individual or entity that offers any product, service, or financial asset for purchase.
  • Short selling involves borrowing securities not owned to sell, with the aim of buying them back at a lower price.
  • A seller of options is known as a "writer," who collects the premium from the buyer.
  • Sell-to-close refers to a sell order that closes out an existing long position in the option.
  • Common ways to sell or exit a position include the use of a stop loss, trailing stop, and/or profit target.

Understanding Sellers

Sellers are the producers or owners of products or skills that are available for sale to a purchaser. They can be individuals or businesses. Selling can be done in a variety of ways, whether that's face-to-face at a brick-and-mortar location like a storefront. Or it can be done online in a virtual marketplace like Amazon.

Businesses, for instance, sell their wares and are critical for the production economy. Likewise, workers may be said to sell their labor to employers in return for wages. Private individuals may also become sellers if they offer used or unwanted household items, for instance via a garage sale or online through sites like eBay.

In financial markets, a seller is any individual or entity, such as a broker or hedge fund, that engages in offering any asset or security (stocks, options, commodities, currencies, or others) for purchase. This could involve instruments traded in marketplaces outside the regulated exchanges. The securities offered for sale might include the selling of derivatives contracts, fine art, precious jewels, and many other over-the-counter (OTC) assets.

Types of Sellers

As noted above, a seller is any party that has a good or service that they give to others for a profit. There are many different types of sellers depending on the entity and the goods and services they sell. They can be individuals or corporations, and some may even be investors. Some of the most common sellers that operate on the market are:

  • Wholesalers: These sellers deal with large quantities and sell en masse or in bulk. They sell their wares to retailers who then decide on a final price that is paid by the consumer.
  • Retailers: These entities sell directly to the consumer. The goal of retailers is to make a profit between what they pay to wholesalers and what they receive from their customers.
  • Online Sellers: Also called online vendors, these sellers work exclusively online without any brick-and-mortar locations. Many of these are large virtual marketplaces where smaller entities can sell their goods and services, such as Amazon, Etsy, and AliExpress.

Short Selling

The seller is someone who already owns the asset or security and wishes to get rid of it. Someone else will purchase it. Short selling, on the other hand, is the act of selling something that is not owned. It is selling first and buying later (to close the position), hopefully at a lower price. Short sellers try to take advantage of falling prices.

In short selling, a position is opened by borrowing shares of a stock or other asset that the investor believes will decrease in value. The investor then sells these borrowed shares to buyers who are willing to pay the market price. Before the borrowed shares must be returned, the trader bets that the price will continue to decline and they can purchase them at a lower cost.

The risk of loss on a short sale is theoretically unlimited since the price of any asset can climb to infinity. To open a short position, a trader must have a margin account and will usually have to pay interest on the value of the borrowed shares while the position is open. 

Options Writers

In the options market, a seller is known as the writer of the options contract and collects the premium from the buyer in return for having sold the option. The seller also takes the risk of having the option exercised. This could result in losses greater than the premium received if the option is naked or not covered at all. Selling an option, shorting an option, and writing an option are all equivalent terms.

Being the writer of an option is relatively risky when compared to other types of investment activity. The writer of a call option, for example, is obligated to sell a specific number of shares of an underlying stock if the price moves above the strike price before the option expires. Theoretically, the risk to the option writer is unlimited as there is no limit to how high a stock can move.

Selling an option is associated with writing an option, but a buyer of an option may also want to sell the option at some point before expiration. When an owned option is sold, it is called a sell to close. The act of selling, in this case, doesn't result in another option being written, rather, it simply closes out an existing position.

Reducing Option Seller Risk

The simple sale of an options contract is called a naked put or naked call, depending on the option type. It means that the seller takes the full risk of adverse moves in the underlying security. If the buyer exercises the option, the seller must go into the open market to sell or buy the underlying security at the current market price.

However, with a covered call or covered put, the seller of the option already has a long or short position in the underlying asset. If the underlying asset is purchased or sold short at the same time as writing the covered options, the loss would be minimal. The seller of the option still gets to keep the premium received from the buyer.

There are many strategies involving the sale of options. As an example, in a bull put spread, the investor sells a put option and at the same time buys a put option with a slightly lower strike price. The premium received from the sale of the higher strike option covers the cost of the premium paid for purchasing the lower strike option. While the strategy reduces the risk to the investor, it also reduces the potential profit.

Determining When to Sell

Experienced investors determine when to sell a stock, currency, futures contract, commodity, or any other asset, by following a trading plan. A trading plan lays out their strategy, including when traders will exit positions so they don't get caught up in emotion and make rash decisions that could hurt their portfolio.

Exit strategies vary greatly, but should always include two considerations:

  • Where and when to sell if the position is showing a loss
  • Where and when to sell if the position is showing a profit

Before taking a trade, a prudent investor or trader determines when they will cut their losses, and also formulate a plan for when they will take profits if the price moves in their expected direction.

A stop-loss order or a trailing stop is a common way to limit losses. A trailing stop and a profit target are common ways to take profits off the table.

Example of a Seller in the Stock Market

Here's a hypothetical example to show how sellers operate in the stock market. Let's assume that an investor saw a significant decline in the price of Apple (AAPL) as a buying opportunity. They decided that if the price fell to support, or below it, they would buy when the price started to bounce higher off it again.

The investor decides that if the price drops to $150, or below, they will buy when the price starts rising above $150 again. They set a stop loss at $135, which exposes them to a 10% downside risk. They plan to exit at $200 if the price goes up. This is their profit target. The trade offers a 10% downside with a 33% upside potential; a favorable risk/reward ratio.

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A stop-loss sell order is placed at $135. A sell limit order is placed at $200. The investor becomes a seller at these prices, and whichever one is hit first will close the position.

How Do You Become an Amazon Seller?

Follow these steps to start selling on Amazon:

  1. If you don't have one, create an Amazon account.
  2. Before you start selling, choose a selling plan. With the Individual plan, you’ll pay $0.99 every time you sell an item. The Professional plan costs $39.99 per month, regardless of how many items you sell.
  3. Visit Amazon's seller center and create an Amazon seller account. You can use your customer account or create a new Amazon seller account with your business info.
    You'll be prompted to provide some details like your email address, phone number, ID, and bank account to receive the proceeds from your sales.
  4. Add the products you want to sell. You'll have to select a designated category.



Who Pays a Home's Closing Costs, the Buyer or the Seller?

Closing costs are split up between buyer and seller. The buyer typically pays for a larger portion of the closing costs, whereas the seller usually has to pay for local taxes and municipal fees. Although closing costs can't be avoided altogether, they can be negotiated.

What Are Seller Concessions?

In the home buying process, seller concessions refer to the closing costs that the seller has agreed to pay. This can be a specific amount or a percentage of the total closing costs.

What Is a Seller’s Market?

A seller's market is a market condition characterized by a shortage of goods available for sale, resulting in pricing power for the seller. The term is mostly used in real estate to refer to a situation where demand exceeds supply: there are a lot of potential buyers while the inventory of homes available is low. This puts sellers are at an advantage to raise the prices, and buyers must compete with each other to get a property.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Amazon. "How to Start Selling on Amazon."

  2. Rocket Mortgage. "What Are Seller Concessions?"

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