Ah, it's that time of year when we could all use a few garage sale tips for ultimate money-making! From pricing your items right to creating a fun atmosphere that’ll entice folks to buy, our pros share the easy ways to make your yard sale one for the record books.
The more the merrier. “Avoid the common mistake of underestimating how much stuff you have to sell,” advises Bruce Littlefield (BruceLittlefield.com), author of Garage Sale America. “Pull out the old exercise equipment from under your bed, get out anything in the closet you haven’t worn in a year—and ask yourself what’s in those dusty boxes in the attic. Even broken electronics and appliances like coffee makers are often valued for their parts.” Next: “Tell your neighbors that you’re planning a yard sale. They might want to have one, too, and a multi-family or street-wide sale always entices more shoppers.”
“Rent” space. Think you can’t have a yard sale if you don't have a yard? Think again. “If you live in an apartment, just ask a nearby house of worship if you can rent a few of their parking spaces for, say, $10 each—I have my sales at my church, and that’s what I do,” reveals Lynda Hammond (GarageSaleGal.com), author of The Garage Sale Gal’s Guide to Making Money Off Your Stuff. Or scout out schools, other churches, and similar places that regularly rent their outdoor space to folks selling their stuff, advises yard sale expert Christine Hieska (YardSaleQueen.com). You can join for a day—or each week, depending on how much you have to sell. Hieska’s top tip: “Make sure to bring tons of extra plastic grocery bags. That’s the type of thing other yard sale vendors often forget—I think I score brownie points with shoppers when they walk up to my table with their hands full, and I’m able to offer them a free bag.”
Bait ads with buzzwords. List your sale on Craiglist.org and on GarageSaleFinder.com, “where buyers can plug in a zip code and see every sale in the area,” notes Littlefield. And “definitely highlight the sought-after items you have in a few words like ‘mid-century modern,’ ‘Grandma’s heirlooms,’ ‘antiques,’ or ‘kids’ toys & clothes,’” he says. Another great enticement, he says, is the phrase "early birds welcome.”
Don’t start on Saturday. While Saturday may be the most convenient day of the week to hold your sale, it’s not necessarily the most profitable. “If you start your sale on a Thursday or Friday, for example, you won't be competing with everyone else’s sales on Saturday,” says Hammond. “And you’ll often get more serious buyers on a weekday. Plus, if you don’t like someone’s offer on, say, Friday, you can always say, 'I think I’m going to wait till tomorrow to see if I get a better offer.'"
Think pink. The most eye-catching color for your signs? Neon pink. Studies show the vibrant hue captures drivers’ attention the fastest. Another bit of sign wisdom: Stick with the same color. “I see this all the time: People run out of a single color for their signs, so they have, say, pink signs, green signs, and blue ones for the same sale.” says Hammond. “That just confuses drivers. Stick to one consistent color for your signs, and keep them simple by writing, ‘Garage Sale’ and drawing arrows for people to follow.”
Price things right—or not at all. As a general rule of thumb, price items about a quarter or third of what they would cost new, advises Heiska. Or don’t price your items at all. “I never price anything,” admits Hammond. “You tend to get a better offer, if you let people name a price. But if you’re reluctant to go that route, just price up by five to 10 dollars. For example, if you want to sell a cookie jar for $15, price it at $25 to give you negotiating room to go down.” Also savvy: “People will always buy things in quantity,” says Littlefield. “If you have a lot of books, CDs, DVDs, etc., make them cheaper the more you buy, say, $2 each or three for $5.”
Laugh off flaws. Whether you’re selling an incomplete set of dishware or a piece of furniture with a few bumps and bruises, instead of shying away from flaws, address them with a “tongue-in-cheek” tag.“A sense of humor goes a long way and often makes people more willing to buy,” reveals Littlefield. “For example, label items that might need fixing or a little extra TLC with fun tags like, ‘My arm is broken, but my bones are good!’” In other words, honesty is the best-selling policy. “When I wanted to sell a junky lawnmower at my last yard sale, I took a 3" x 5" card and wrote: ‘Lawnmower $5: has fuel leak but starts’—it sold,” laughs Heiska.
Sell more with stories. “Telling people the stories behind your stuff can inspire them to buy,” says Hammond. “I love to know the history of items when I go to garage sales. Once, I went to a yard sale where a woman was selling her grandmother’s white leather chair from the 1970’s. It was in such good condition, she told me, because her grandmother only let her dolls sit on it. I loved that—and I think I ended up paying a little more for the chair because the story behind it was so charming.”
Stage your sale. Set up your sale like a department store. “Make similar items easy to see by grouping, say, place kitchen things together, and have a children’s section or a handyman’s corner for tools,” says Littlefield. “And make suggestions for how people might use your items. For example, a few old dresses might be ‘Halloween costumes’ or yarn and paints might be ‘Crafter’s delight.’”
Create a party atmosphere. Think of your garage sale as a kind of party, so fun and welcoming that it’ll inspire folks to open their wallets. “I know a couple who dress in themed costumes every time they hold a garage sale,” say Hammond. “One year they were a jailer and a prisoner, and another time, for a wintertime garage sale, they dressed up as Santa and an elf. It makes people smile and stokes their curiosity, so they’re more likely to stop if they drive by.” The takeaway isn’t that you have to wear a costume; it’s that you should have fun by, say, playing music, letting the kids sell lemonade, and attracting passersby with a bunch of bright balloons tied to your mailbox.
Make “goody bags."
Got a bunch of odds and ends that defy easy categorizing? Use them to create goody bags for your “guests,” says Littlefield. “People love surprise bags. Just throw some miscellaneous items into small bags, label them ‘grab bags’ and sell them for a dollar or two—people can’t resist.” Also smart: “At the end of your garage sale, have a few bags handy, and give them out, telling folks to ‘fill a bag for $5’”.