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How to Have a Great Yard Sale or Garage Sale
By Julia Gaynor
Yard sales and garage sales are the perfect way to clear out the clutter you no longer need, as well as a great way to enjoy the outdoors and mingle with your neighbors.
Before you start dragging your unwanted items out to the front lawn though, read our step-by-step guide to holding a successful yard or garage sale.
Permit Yourself: Check with your local government to see if you need a permit to hold your yard sale. Some communities have limits on how many yard sales or garage sales can be held in a month, or how many one person can have per year, so make sure you’re in the clear before you start planning yours.
Do Your Research: Before you have a yard sale or garage sale, visit some local yard sales in your area to get a feel for what others are doing and how they’re pricing. You want to be in line with the competition, so do your homework (and you might just find some great bargains while you’re at it!)
Advertise: Definitely use online resources like www.craigslist.org as well as any online community listings sites that you’re aware of. Your local paper is another fantastic place to put an ad because yard-salers always look there when planning their yard sale route for the day!
Sineage: Try posting signs wherever you’re able to make them stick, but be warned that different communities have different rules- and different levels of enforcement. You can’t post on utility poles or trees, but some cities let you post on traffic signs. Poster board is the best material for yard sale signs, and black permanent marker should be your writing tool. Hot pink or bright orange signs are real attention-grabbers, and some people even cut their signs into the shape of arrows to help direct people to your house. Post signs at as many intersections near your house as possible, and obviously, post plenty of signs on your own house along with balloons, to attract drive-by and foot traffic. If you have items that you know will be popular (such as furniture) list those on your signs and put them out front to attract attention too.
Don’t Go it Alone: Solo yard sales are a lot of work without much of the fun, so if you can’t get someone to host a yard sale with you (multi-family yard sales are always much more effective), ask a few friends to stop by periodically to help out as your temporary sales force. That way, you won’t be the only one fielding customers during a sales rush and you’ll have someone to talk to and drink coffee with when you hit a slow period. If you can get a friend or neighbor to do a multi-family sale with you, that’s fantastic because you can also split the cost of things like advertising and the sweat equity of making and hanging signs, setup, etc.
Start With Plenty of Change: As a general rule, if you have a lot of small, low priced items, $80 or $100 is a good amount to start with. Here’s a good breakdown of what denominations to start with: Two $10 bill, four $5 bills, 25 $1 bills, 1 roll of quarters ($10), and $5 in nickels and dimes. If you have a lot of higher priced stuff, start with more money and different denominations. For instance, if you have a lot of $10 items, most people will probably give you a $20 bill and expect change, so beef up on your supply of $10 bills.
Give your Stuff a Once-Over: Go through the pockets of all clothing you plan to sell, as well as inside of books and any containers. You never know what you might find inside! Jewelry, $20 bills, credit card receipts. You don’t want to lose those!
It’s All in the Presentation: No one wants to crouch down on the ground to look at every yard sale item, so put out some folding tables with old sheets over them to display some of your items. Moving boxes placed upside-down can also work for displaying lighter items. If you’re selling battery-operate items, put batteries in them (they can be old, half-used batteries.) Get an inexpensive clothing rack for your clothes (or find one for free on freecycle.com) and use cheap metal dry cleaner hangers to avoid losing your nice hangers. Many people assume that the hangers come with the clothes – if they’re dry cleaner hangers, you can happily add them in as an “extra” item.
Sell like you Mean It: Sure, it’s not your full-time job, but if you’re excited, friendly and enthusiastic, your customers will have a much better time and just might buy a few more things and/or tell their friends to stop by later. Yard sales can be a great opportunity to get to know your neighbors or just to socialize. And the more fun you make it, the more fun you’ll have.
Bags and Newspapers: Have plastic grocery bags available to put sold items in. If selling breakables, have newspaper available to wrap fragile items. Having a calculator handy is helpful in totaling up purchases.
What’s the Right Price? A rule of thumb is to price things a third of what it cost new, within reason. If you’re trying to offload a pair of rollerblades from 10 years ago that are missing ball bearings, you’ll be lucky to give them away. Junk is junk and if you want to get rid of your junk, put it all in a box labeled “free.”
Label Everything: It might seem tedious, but it will be much more tedious in heat of the moment to have to come up with prices for everything on the spot. Also, if you sit with your possessions and rationally assign prices rather than throw out numbers in the heat of the moment, you’re more likely to come up wth fair and reasonable prices. It’s really not too difficult to do. Just get those round sticky labels and quicky label things and you’ll save yourself headaches later.
Show Full Retail Price: If you’ve got a popular item that’s fairly new, show an ad from a catalog or store flier with the item in it and it’s price and tape it to your item. It shows the buyer that spending $10 for an item that normally sells for $40 new is a good deal. Don’t overuse this trick, though. It’ll lose its effectiveness if you use it on everything.
Learn Local Pay Schedules: Learn when the major companies in your area have their paydays and schedule your yard sale for the next day. Similarly, look for when Social Security checks are mailed in your area.
Bonus Haggle Tactic: Some buyers will expect you to bargain with them. If it's early in the day and you don't want to bargain yet, say "I think it's worth that price. I may lower the price later in the day if it doesn't sell."
Celebrate! After a long, hard day of yard-saling (at 2pm, you’ll feel like it’s 6pm, we promise!) treat yourself and your team to pizza or another cheap but delicious dinner you can have delivered. Chances are, no one will want to get dressed up to go anywhere, but everyone will appreciate some hot slices of pizza to celebrate a day well spent – or saved!