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How to Have a Successful Yard Sale or Garage Sale

Updated on July 23, 2013

Preparation: Never Too Soon

I am publishing this hub in February and perhaps that seems an odd month to write a hub on yard sales and garage sales. But since preparation is the first step in having a successful sale and the more you prepare the better your chance of success, it is never too soon to begin preparing for your upcoming sale.

You can start now by designating a spot to collect items you find throughout the year that you no longer need and would like to include in your next sale. Keep a supply of price stickers handy so you can price each item as you gather it. Sort items into groups of similar items as you store them. All of this will speed things along once it is time for your sale.

As soon as possible, decide on a date for your sale. But try to be flexible as the date approaches and make adjustments as needed. In particular pay attention to anything that will affect traffic in your area. Events that will bring people to your town can increase the number of potential buyers at your sale which will almost certainly translate into a increase in your sales. Even an event in another town can be beneficial if you live near a road that a lot of people will travel to get to and from the event.

Find a place to store items for where they can be sorted into similar groups.
Find a place to store items for where they can be sorted into similar groups.

Pricing: Maximizing Your Money

When having a sale, we all hope to get the most for our junk... er, I mean... precious treasures. But how can we do this in an atmosphere where everyone is seeking a bargain? The answer, of course, is compromise. And in order to compromise, or haggle in yard sale terminology, we must begin from a position of strength. Remember, despite my earlier weak attempt at humor, many items sold at yard and garage sales are very desirable items that buyers are very willing to pay a fair price for.

It is best to price items at the highest amount you hope to get. You need to allow room for negotiation. Many customers will come to the sale and, if your pricing is fair, just take the items for your asking price. But many will also want to haggle and you will find this is true whether the item was priced at your highest hoped for price or the lowest price you were willing to take. But how do you know if your pricing is fair?

A good way to judge is to research prices online at places like eBay and Craigslist. You may also want to check other sales in your area to see what others are asking for items. A lot of time you need to just go with your gut. If a prices "feels" too high, you should probably lower it. If you think you might regret letting something go so cheap, you should probably raise the price.

Price items to move but no so low that you have no room to haggle.
Price items to move but no so low that you have no room to haggle.

Advertising: Spread the Word

Your goal with advertising should be to get the largest crowd possible at your sale. This means spreading the word through as many outlets as possible. Begin at least two weeks before the sale by placing ads in local papers, particularly those that target shoppers. Many of these offer free ads for yard sales. But do not overlook the local newspaper as a few dollars spent here can mean many dollars in sales.

About this same time you should begin advertising on Craigslist as well as any local services similar to Craigslist. Be sure to honor any rules these sites might have as far as how frequently you may post your ad, remembering that you definitely want to post the day prior to the sale. If you are a member of any social networking sites, be sure to let your friends know, but be careful not to overdo it or cross the line into spam.

Check your local radio stations for swap shop type shows. Big John has been helping treasure hunters find the best sales for years in eastern North Carolina.
Check your local radio stations for swap shop type shows. Big John has been helping treasure hunters find the best sales for years in eastern North Carolina. | Source

You should also check to see if any local radio stations have any Saturday morning shows that you could call in to or send an announcement to. Many talk radio stations offer this type show and they are free to advertise on. Another method of free advertising is making fliers and posting in public places. It is a good idea to include a map on the flayer and tear off tabs with address and phone number to make it easier for those buyers trying to find you.

The evening before or morning of your sale you will need to put out adequate signage to direct traffic to your sale. Resist the urge to get fancy with signage or include too much info. Make the signs large and easy to read with clear arrows pointing toward your sale. If you have set hours for your sale, you can include those but be sure they are easy to read. Do not try to list everything you are offering for sale on your sign. If there is one thing you really have a lot of -- baby clothes, craft items, comic books, etc. -- it is okay to note that but remember people need to read everything on your sign in a matters of seconds.

Set Up: Everything in Its Place

you want to be able to get started selling as early as possible on the morning fo your sale, so if possible. try to set up the night before. With garage sales you may want to set up even earlier of you have the free space in your garage. If you cannot set up the night before, you should have everything organized and ready to be moved out and set up quickly.

Remember to keep similar items grouped together and items that may have crossover interest close to each other. In other words, you not only want to have all sports equipment together in one spot, you might want to have that spot be right next to NASCAR collectibles and that might be next to those old wrestling videos. think like a department store. You want to have things easily visible to anyone who might purchase it on impulse.

Also, be sure to keep any special needs items may have in mind when placing item,s out for your sale. For instance, do not put phonograph albums, compact discs, audio or video tapes, etc. in direct sunlight. Do not place books or other items that might be damage by water where there is even a remote chance of water dripping on them.

Finally, try to keep everything possible off the ground. Some large items like appliances and furniture are fine on the ground, but anything anyone will want to pick up and examine should be on some sort of table. Clothes should be on some sort of rack or makeshift clothesline if necessary. The goal is to have everything easily accessible to everyone. If you absolutely have to put some items on the ground, try to choose kids items or items younger people would be interested in. Believe me, us old folks appreciate it!

Accessibility is very important for making impulse sales.
Accessibility is very important for making impulse sales.

The Main Event: During the Sale

Once your sale begins, you will want to do whatever you can to encourage sales.Begin by greeting and welcoming everyone as they arrive.Ask if they are looking for anything in particular. Try to make eye contact with those who are responsive but understand that some people are not as outgoing and coming on too strong may be discouraging. Make sure everyone knows you are there to answer any questions they may have.

If someone buys an item that is related to other items you have, be sure they are aware those items are available. This is known as suggestive selling and, if done incorrectly, it can seem pushy or too aggressive. Try to get in the mindset that if you were the buyer you would not want to miss a good deal. If you think this way and keep in mind that you may be doing the buyer a favor, you should be able to suggest items without seeming too much like you are just out to make a sale.

Of course, you should be prepared to haggle with buyers. Hopefully you kept this in mind when pricing items and have some room to negotiate. You should decide early on how much you are willing to bend on prices and generally stick to this, but as the day progresses you may want to consider taking less for some items if it doesn't look like they will sell otherwise. Remember that while you are looking to maximize your income, the buyers are at a yard sale looking for bargains.

One thing I should mention is even though the vast majority of people visiting a sale will be honest, you should keep in mind that occasionally a dishonest person will come along. Therefore, you should keep any high priced items where you can easily keep an eye on them and any small items close by where you set up to take payments. Jewelry can be especially tempting to thieves. Also beware of anyone who might attempt to confuse you regarding money and when handling cash, keep watch for any suspicious bills that may be counterfeit.

Hopefully when your sale is over you will have a bundle of cash... but you probably still have a ton of jun... um, I mean... (say it with me) precious treasures!
Hopefully when your sale is over you will have a bundle of cash... but you probably still have a ton of jun... um, I mean... (say it with me) precious treasures!

After the Sale: Will This Ever End?

Once the sale is over, you will likely fiond you still have more stuff left than you had hoped. Your first instinct may be to dump theis stuff back in your garage or attic, but there are other options. For instance, you can consider giving the items to charity. In many cases you may be able to get a tax receipt and write this off as a charitable donation at tax time. Also consider if any items can be sold at local pawn shops or placed in local consignment stores. Once the leftover merchandise is taken care of, then you can sit back and enjoy the rewards of your successful sale!

A Few Last Minute Reminders...

  • If you have pets, it is generally a good idea that they do not attend the sale unless you have plenty of help and someone who can specifically watch them. While they may be entertaining to visitors, they can be a distraction as well.
  • If you have small children, toddlers or infants, you should definitely try to make arrangements for them to not be at the sale. Arrange for a sitter during the hours of the sale or have them stay with a relative. This will allow you to spend more time on buyers and keep buyers focused on the sale.
  • Be sure all items are priced so that buyers will know what you are asking for each item. When buyers have to ask for prices, they may feel sellers are adjusting prices depending on how much they feel a particular buyer is willing to pay. After all, an art collector may pay more for your lilies art than someone who just casually enjoys flower art!
  • Remember that presentation if part of selling any item. Try to avoid clutter. Spread items out so that everything can be seen at a glance. For instance, if you do not have space to display the face of a stack of videos, then at least turn them so that titles can be read without having to pick them up or even flip through them.
  • Friends and neighbors are often your best customers so be sure to let everyone know when you are planning to have a sale. Not only will they be likely to attend, but they may tell others about the sale as well.
  • Be absolutely certain everything you put out for sale you have no desire to keep. Seller's remorse at the point of sale is a real downer and ruins everybody's day.


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    • Solaras profile image

      Solaras 4 years ago

      Good advice for yard sales. I'll give some of these suggestions a try next time I decide to spend a day with my least loved household items! Voted thumbs up and Useful.