Let’s Have a Garage Sale!

Keys to a Successful Garage Sale

izzi73 (sxc.hu)

A successful garage sale can convert your clutter into cash. An unsuccessful garage sale, on the other hand, can be a frustrating waste of a weekend. How to increase the odds that your sale will go well…


These missteps could doom your garage sale…

 Picking the wrong weekend. Don’t plan your sale for a holiday weekend. Most potential shoppers will have other plans.

Ignoring local regulations about signs and sales. Confirm with your town offices that it is legal in your area to attach signs to street lamps and telephone poles.

Making signs that are illegible from the road. Use a thick black marker and large print and arrows to steer drivers toward your sale. Make sure that your address and the sale hours are written large enough to be read from a moving car.

Failing to provide clear prices. Many shoppers will walk away rather than ask for a price on an item.

Selling junk. No one wants broken, unusable garbage.

Overpricing. Garage sale prices must be low enough that bargain hunters cannot pass them up.

Not having enough change. Get a stack of singles and a roll of quarters before the sale.


Some items sell much better than others at garage sales. Top sellers typically include…

Decorative items for the home in good condition.

Framed prints.


Kitchen appliances that work.

Needlework, such as embroidered or crocheted items.


Fishing gear.

Houseplants, including rooted cuttings.

Items in good condition that evoke past decades are always popular, particularly if they date to the 1960s or earlier. These might include vintage decorative items, fashion items or even ordinary household items.

Caution: If your older items are potentially valuable antiques or collectibles, a garage sale is not the best place to sell them. Few garage sale shoppers are willing to spend more than $10 to $20 on a single item, particularly in rural regions. Look up your items in a price guide or see what similar items have fetched on eBay. If something is worth significantly more than $20, you probably would be better off selling it on eBay or through a local antique shop.

Clothing does not sell well at garage sales. Most shoppers will not share your size or taste in clothing, and even those who do are likely to think twice before buying used clothes at a garage sale where they cannot first try them on. If clothing is in good shape and in style, it is likely to bring a better price at a consignment store.

Exception: Children’s clothing sells well at garage sales if it is priced well — parents know that their children will grow into these clothes.

Strategy: Consider combining a bake sale with your garage sale. Baked goods are very popular with garage sale shoppers hungry from a morning spent driving around.


Place classified ads in local newspapers starting at least a few days prior to your sale as well as on sale day. Your ad should include the hours and location of your sale and a few of the categories of merchandise that your sale will feature.

Example: “Garage Sale. Saturday. 8 am–1 pm… 789 Smith Lane, Jonesville… collectible glassware, quilts, houseplants, kitchen appliances, women’s clothing sizes 8 to 12, more.”

Hang flyers advertising your sale on community bulletin boards, such as those found in the entrances of supermarkets. On the morning of your sale, also hang signs along busy roads near your home to attract drive-by customers.

If you live in or near a city, you also can advertise your sale for free on Internet classified ad Web site Craigslist (www.craigslist.com).


The best time to hold your garage sale is a weekend when there are several other sales advertised in your neighborhood. A concentration of sales encourages garage sale shoppers to come to your part of town and visit them all.

Helpful: One large sale can attract crowds just as well as many small ones. Invite your neighbors to join you in a multifamily or block-wide garage sale.

The majority of garage sale purchases are made within the first three hours that the sale is open, typically on Saturday morning. By Saturday afternoon, most garage sale shoppers are heading home — they assume that anything worth buying has been bought.

Best: Schedule your sale for Saturday between 8 am and noon or 1 pm, and you still will have most of the weekend to do other things. Or, consider starting your garage sale Friday evening between 5 pm and dusk, then continuing it Saturday morning. You will have far less competition from other garage sales on Friday evening, and you may attract shoppers on their way home from work.

Watch the weather reports during the week, and delay your sale to a future weekend if rain seems likely for sale day.


Your merchandise will sell better if it is placed on tables rather than on the ground. Clothes sell best if they are hung on hangers, not folded or piled.

Place larger items, such as furniture or lawn mowers, out front where they can be seen from the street. Someone driving by might stop if he/she sees something of interest even if he had no intention of visiting your garage sale. Small items will not attract drive-by customers because they are not visible from passing cars.


How much you charge for your merchandise depends on the item, its condition, your region and — most important — your goal for the sale. If your main priority is to clean the clutter out of your attic, set your prices so low that any visitor will think, “How can I afford not to buy?”

If your main priority is to make money and you do not mind hauling unsold items back into your home, price merchandise at what you might pay for it yourself if these were things that you needed or wanted. Garage sale shoppers like to haggle, so do not price your goods at the lowest amounts that you are willing to take.

Write prices on small pieces of masking tape and stick them to the merchandise, or purchase small colored stickers and make up a sign explaining what price each color represents.

If you know something about the condition or history of the item, include this on a sign or tag as well.

Examples: “Works fine” on an appliance…. “Only worn once” on an item of clothing…or “circa 1950” on a vintage item.

Don’t be too chatty with shoppers unless they seem interested in speaking with you. Some garage sale shoppers do not wish to be slowed down by small talk. Do say, “Good morning,” and answer shoppers’ questions. If an item seems to be of particular interest to a shopper, provide more information about it. Offer to plug in electric items so that the shopper can see that they work.

Source:  Sharon Huxford, coeditor of Garage Sale & Flea Market Annual (Collector Books). Based in Covington, Indiana, she has been writing and editing books on garage sales, antiques and collectibles since 1974.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Wish I had read this earlier!


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