Yard Sale Success Guide

snowflake5 (sxc.hu)

Holding a garage or yard sale can be a great way to clear out clutter and earn some cash. Here’s how to increase the odds that your sale will be a success…


The best time to hold your sale is on a weekend when a local church or civic group is staging a large rummage sale. These big sales draw bargain hunters from surrounding towns, and many of those shoppers will visit nearby garage sales as well. Post signs with arrows leading from the exit of the big sale to your own sale.

Otherwise, choose a weekend when a large number of garage sales are scheduled in your neighborhood… or ask your neighbors to join you in a multi-family or block-wide sale. The more sellers in the area, the more buyers who will visit.

Saturday morning usually is the best time of week for a garage sale because that is when the most garage sale shoppers are on the prowl. Other times are acceptable only if sales are commonly held at those times in your region. Also…

Start your sale 30 minutes earlier than other sales. This will encourage shoppers to begin their garage sale day with you.

Avoid scheduling your sale for a holiday weekend when people are away — unless your home is in a resort community or located on a heavily used route to, say, a local beach.

If there’s one big employer in your region, schedule your sale for a weekend that closely follows its payday. That’s when people are most likely to be in a spending mood. To find out when payday is, ask someone who works there or try calling the company.

If it rains on sale day, take down your signs and postpone your sale. You can proceed with your sale if your merchandise is protected by a garage roof, but expect business to be slow. Many garage sale shoppers make other plans when it rains.


Small, inexpensive items, including housewares… tools… costume jewelry… DVDs and CDs… books… and child-related products, sell well at garage sales. Large items, such as furniture, typically do not sell well because most shoppers cannot fit them into their cars. Items priced above $10 or $20 tend not to sell well either and are better sold through eBay, Craigslist or a newspaper classified ad.

Before holding your sale, visit a few garage sales in your area to determine appropriate prices. Relatively new, clean items can bring as much as one-third of their original prices, but most goods sell for much less.

Examples: Used hardcover books rarely sell for more than $1 or $2 apiece… used adult clothing rarely brings more than $2 or $3 per item. Used designer clothing is likely to fetch a better price in a consignment shop.
Shoppers do not like to have to ask the prices of merchandise. Attach a price sticker to each item… or post price signs when multiple items all cost the same amount.

Example: “Paperbacks 50 cents each.”

Goods bring better prices when they have been cleaned, but consider the value of your time before you start scrubbing. Cleaning a child’s toy might increase its sale price from $1 to $3 — but the 10 minutes you spend cleaning might be worth more to you than $2.
Other smart sales strategies…

Scan newspaper circulars for store ads offering the products that you are selling — particularly if you’re selling things that are relatively new or priced above $10. Clip out these ads, and attach them to your items so that shoppers can see what good deals you’re offering.

If you sell electrical items, have an outlet and extension cord handy so that you can show that they work.

Put in cheap batteries. Items powered by batteries bring much higher prices when they contain working batteries. If an item requires many batteries or large batteries, however, the cost of these batteries could eat up much or all of your profit. Buy cheap generic batteries at a dollar store… or pull used batteries near the end of their lives from electronics that you are not selling and buy new batteries for these.

Place all of your merchandise (except large items) on tables, even if this means borrowing folding tables from neighbors… or improvising tables from upturned boxes or boards placed across cinder blocks. Goods are less appealing when displayed on the ground, and many shoppers won’t bend down to examine merchandise.

Be sure to have a “man’s table.” Have at least one table of merchandise that’s likely to interest the stereotypical man, such as tools, DVDs, electronics and books. If possible, also position a lawn mower, barbecue grill or large tools near the front of your sale, where they can be seen from the road. Many garage sale shoppers are married couples, and these couples are more likely to stop at your sale — and remain longer — if there is something for the man to examine.


Spread the word about your sale through ads in your local newspaper classifieds… on the free classified ads Web site Craigslist.org… and on community bulletin boards in local stores. Emphasize the size of your sale in these ads. Use words such as “huge” or “multifamily” if appropriate.
On the morning of your sale, post signs on the roads around your home. Provide large, easy-to-follow arrows pointing toward your sale, along with the words “Garage Sale” (or “Yard Sale”) and your address in big, thick print so that it can be read from a moving vehicle.

Caution: Do not post your signs any earlier than the morning of your sale… and don’t leave them up after your sale ends. Many towns and neighborhood associations prohibit private signs along roadsides. Garage sale signs often are ignored by the authorities and accepted by neighbors, but the longer you leave your signs up, the greater the odds that you will face a fine. Ask your homeowners association or town about garage sale sign rules in your area.


Greet those who visit your sale, then give them space to shop undisturbed. Chat with customers only if they initiate conversations. Background music can make shoppers feel more comfortable. Garage sale cash boxes can get stolen, so carry the cash generated by your sale (along with plenty of $1 and $5 bills for change) in a carpenter’s apron or pouch worn around your waist. Be wary of accepting checks, which might bounce. Do not let strangers into your house to use your bathroom or make phone calls — they could be thieves.

Source:  Chris Heiska, who edits the Yard Sale Queen Web site (www.YardSaleQueen.com). She lives in Lusby, Maryland, and attends 10 to 15 yard sales most Saturdays from spring through autumn, and she holds three or four sales each year. She has been quoted about yard sales everywhere from The Wall Street Journal to CNN.


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