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How to Have a Successful and GREAT Yard Sale: Tips to Increase Your Earning Potential

Updated on July 14, 2012

Having a yard sale can be both a rewarding and a satisfying experience if done properly. Just like everything else in life, you can only get out of it what you put into it. Whether your intentions are to rid yourself of those old dusty antiques or to make some extra spending money, the key to a successful yard sale is proper prior planning (PPP). When planning a yard sale, you are like a manager running a business; it will take a significant amount of time and effort to be successful. The tips presented below can mean the difference between an okay yard sale and a GREAT yard sale. If you want to learn how to have a successful yard sale, then this article is for you.

Step 1: Check Your Local Laws

I know this probably sounds silly, but it would be wise to look into your local zoning codes to see if yard sales are prohibited. If you live in a community with a Home Owner's Association, it would also be a good idea to check with them if it is allowed.  In most cases there probably won't be any issue with having a yard sale, but nothing would ruin your day more than an expensive ticket issued by your friendly neighborhood code compliance officer. If yard sales are prohibited, ask if a permit this type of activity can be acquired and what specific restrictions apply to your area. Sometimes the only choice is to sell your items at a community sale or a local church or school sale instead.

Step 2: Set a Date

The next step in planning a yard sale is selecting a date to have the big event.  It's a pretty good idea to plan your sale for a Saturday and Sunday morning. Saturday is the day most shoppers venture out to peruse the area for good deals and neat stuff. You should also plan to run your sale from about sunrise to about mid day.  There are a lot of early risers out there who will miss your yard sale if it isn't set up in time. It's also a good idea to select a time of year where the weather permits this kind of early morning activity.

Step 3: Advertise Your Yard Sale

To greatly increase the volume of visitors coming to your sale, you should consider advertising it to the public. There are many great resources available for this such as: Craigslist and YardSaleSearch. Depending on cost and local readership, a well placed ad in the newspaper will also be worth it. Your local library or church may also allow you to place an ad on the cork board in their lobby for free. A good rule of thumb is to advertise your yard sale at least two weeks in advance. This will allow customers to clear their schedules or call in sick to come to your house to buy stuff.

Create signs that are simple and highly visible
Create signs that are simple and highly visible | Source

Step 4: Create Your Signage

The main thing to consider here is how you will get shoppers from the main roadways to your home. Use Google Maps or another mapping platform to determine the layout of the roads in your neighborhood. You will want at least two signs at every intersection. It's also important to be able to capture traffic arriving from multiple directions. Plan for the placement of up to 20 signs. Make sure that your signage easily can lead a driver from the main roadway in your area to your home. Drive the pathways to your home while paying special attention to sign locations. Choose areas that are clearly visible but don't cause a traffic safety issue. I've had the most success with the placement of several large signs at the main road, followed by arrows at every intersection after that. My signs are always created with a huge black sharpie and lime green poster boards.

Another tip: The faster the speed limit is on a roadway, the bigger your sign will need to be to ensure that a driver can read and recognize it quickly. The key with signage is simplicity (so a driver can quickly discern its meaning) and visibility (so they can see it in time to slow down to make the necessary turn).

Step 5: Gather Your Things

I am assuming that by this point in time you already have several piles of old toys and clothes in your garage just begging to be sold. But if you don't, now is the time to get started gathering your stuff. If you're going to have a sale, you might as well have a SALE . Use this opportunity to go through your closets, your attics, your basements, and under the stairwell. You want to get as much stuff as possible out of your home and onto the lawn. This will increase your revenues as well as your curb appeal (thus preventing the infamous drive-by shopper) while cleaning up your crammed home.

There are some items at yard sales that tend to sell very well, and some items that don't. Some things that people won't typically buy are: dirty laundry, glassware such as vases and mugs, candle holders, and children's car seats. Items that sell well include tools, electronics, cheap T-shirts and towels, toys, and small furniture items. If you are selling clothes, make sure they are clean and smell fresh.

Another tip: If you are selling tools or electronics, make sure you've testing them all prior to putting them up for sale. Better yet, have an extension cord or batteries available for the shopper to use and try out the items. If its power tools you're selling, feel free to set up a saw-horse with some scrap wood so the shopper can test it out. And finally, make sure you know as much as you can about each item that you have for sale. You will get a lot of people asking you questions such as: Why are you selling this? Where did you get this? or Does this thing really work?

Pricing Tips

  • Keep it simple: utilize the quarter and dollar bill
  • Use pre-priced labels
  • Place a label on every unique item
  • Similar items should be priced using a sign stating what each item costs

Step 6: Put a Price Everything

This is a very important step. Many people these days are too shy to ask you how much something is.  Price is probably the most important factor when deciding whether to buy something or not at a yard sale.  Pricing an item ensures that you and the customer are on the same page with what you think it is worth (or rather how much you want in exchange for the item). You also don't want to be caught trying decide how much you will accept for something in the middle of a large wave of shoppers.  I recommend investing in the pre-labeled yard sale price stickers.  These are available at most large  retail outlets and office supply stores. You will be happy you bought these, as it will simplify things and make pricing your items go a lot faster.  Another tip is to place similar items in a box and write "$1.00 each" (or something equivalent) on it. This is easier than placing a label on every old white T-shirt and orphan sock that you want to sell. 

Pricing values should be simple as well. Don't price items with odd values such as 45 cents or $1.35.  This will only serve delay the process of making the sale and irritate the shopper. Besides, you don't want have to give out pennies and nickels all day for change. A good rule of thumb is to price items in the following amounts: $0.25, $0.50, $1.00, $2.00, $3.00, & $5.00. Skip prices of $0.75 and $4.00 as these almost always get negotiated down to the previous increment anyways (that's three quarters or four one dollar bills).  Items worth more than $5.00 should be priced on a case by case basis.

Step 7: Make Sure You Have Display Equipment

You need to ensure that your items for sale will have table to be placed on.  If you have a lot of things for sale, you may consider renting some tables for the big day. Makeshift tables can also serve your needs (such as a sheet of plywood and two saw-horses). This is important because A)People don't want to bend over to look at your stuff, B) People don't want to buy stuff that's been sitting on the ground, C) it allows for better curb appeal, and D) you will have more room to fit stuff in your front yard.

Step 8: Get Change

On the night before the sale you should consider raiding the big red crayon that your son has in his room. You need to have some cash on hand to make change for customers when they want to buy something. If you've priced according to the recommendations in step six, you won't need pennies, nickels, or dimes. I always start my yard sales with 5 dollars in quarters, 10 dollars in ones, 10 dollars in fives, a ten dollar bill. That is usually enough to capture the few early customers that show up with $20 bills.

Step 9: Prepare Refreshments

If you have kids, this is a great opportunity to involve them.  Tell little Johnny or little Susie that they can have a lemonade stand at the yard sale.  Bake some cookies as well.  Better yet, have the cookies baking in a toaster oven on the front lawn during the sale. No one can resist a delicious ooey-gooey fresh cookie or a couple of cute kids selling homemade lemonade.

Step 10: The Big Day

Plan on getting up 1 to 2 hours prior to the start of your sale. This may very likely mean that you are up before the sun rises.  Get ready for the day as your normally would and make sure to dress yourself nicely.  Customers are more likely to buy something from a well dressed individual then some guy in a bath rope. Be sure to have your morning coffee and red bulls as well (you will need them).

After you have gotten ready, it's time to set up the yard. First set up the tables.  Try to arrange the tables in such a way that allows for the best curb appeal while still maintaining enough room to allow the crowd to rummage through everything. The key here is beckon people to pull over and get out of their cars with the shear amount and arrangement of the stuff you have for sale.. There is nothing worse than a drive-by customer that wants something you have, but didn't take the time to stop because they assumed you didn't have it.  It's also wise to place your hot-ticket items out first in the most visible locations.  Save the vases and old candles for a box in the corner.

While you are setting up, it would be good idea to have your helper (you aren't doing this by yourself are you?) put up the signs. Signs should be placed starting at your home and working outward to the main road.

Step 11: Managing the Yard Sale

Once the customers start arriving, you won't have much time to relax. Your job will be to ensure that the customer's questions are answered without invading their privacy. You will also need to watch the lemonade stand and make sure the cookies don't burn.  Any breaks in customer traffic should be used to maintain the curb appeal.  You should also consider re-pricing items that have had many 'looks' but haven't sold yet.  When negotiating with customers it is a good idea to keep in mind what your goals are. Is your reason for having the yard sale to A)Make lots of cash, B)To rid rid of junk, or C)Accomplish both? Be sure to keep an eye on your money and watch out for the fake bills.

Step 12: Closing Down

Around mid-day, when the time between customer visits reaches 5-10 minutes, it will be time to close up shop.  Start by taking down the signs first.  Remove the signs in the reverse order that they were installed. After those are taken down, bring everything inside. Now you can use this time to reflect on the day's events. Look over any items that didn't sell and consider re-pricing them. Repeat Steps 8-12 for the next day's yard sale.

Step 13: After the Yard Sale

Now that you are done raking in the dough, it's time to pay it forward a little bit. Start by putting some money back in your son's big red crayon (and don't forget a little something extra to go in there too). Next, take all of the vases, mugs, and old clothing to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army. They will be very happy to accept your donation.

Step 14: Celebrate

Now that you done you can relax.  Have yourself a nice dinner and thank all of the people that helped you run the yard sale. Having a great and successful yard sale is easy to do with proper prior planning (PPP). With these tips and techniques, there is no doubt in my mind that you will be just as successful with your yard sales as I have been with mine. Remember, you will only get out of it what you put in to it.


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