How To

6 Tips for Hosting a Successful Garage Sale

Your clothes are literally bursting out of your closet, you’ve bought more pots and pans over the past few years than your mother owned in her entire lifetime, and, well, we’re not even going to get into what’s happening in that garage of yours.  Bottom line: You’ve got too much stuff — and a garage sale might be just what you need to finally get rid of it – and earn hundreds of bucks while you’re at it. (Just don’t use that cash to buy more stuff, or we’ll be talking again next year.)

Here are six things you can do to run a profitable yard sale:

Time it right

Weekends, particularly Saturdays (since many people attend church on Sundays), are usually the best day to host a yard sale, says Dallas-based marketing consultant and yard-sale expert, Jeremy Gregg. However,  if there are a lot of homes for sale in your neighborhood, Sunday may work just as well, since many “open houses” happen then, he says. Pick a day when it’s likely to be warm out — people don’t want to come to a yard sale when it’s freezing or sweltering — and consider scheduling the sale right after the first of the month, as that’s when people tend to get paid. Start the sale early in the morning since serious buyers (who know they’ll get the best selection when others are likely still in bed) tend to shop then, says Austin-based designer Pablo Solomon, who has been hosting and shopping at yard sales for decades now.  
 

Get the word out

In addition to putting fliers up at local coffeeshops, churches and other popular spots, you should announce your sale on YardSaleSearch.com, one of the largest garage sale listing sites in the country, and Craigslist, both of which allow you to post yard sale ads free. Then, “encourage people to share a picture of the sale with your address on Facebook and Twitter in return for a discount of 5%,” Gregg says. “You’ll get free advertising.” In the ads, mention the types of items you’ll offer and some of the great finds. “Be enthusiastic as well as accurate,” says yard-sale guru Bill Horne of Sharon, Mass, who has attended hundreds of sales.  “Nobody wants a ‘wood stove,’ but they’ll travel fifty miles to buy a ‘Franklin stove from my man cave.’” And “try to leave the impression that you don’t quite know how valuable it is,” he says. “It’s better to write ‘my grandmother gave me some glass bowls from the her collection’ than to just say ‘old glassware.’”

Collaborate with friends and neighbors

“Invite your neighbors to participate and sell their things,” says Gregg. “Bigger sales attract drivers more than small ones.” To attract even more customers, sellers should work together to make the sale seem fun (consider playing music) and bustling. “No one wants to walk up to a sale with only one sad seller there,” Gregg says, so make sure that most of the sellers attend and maybe even bring a friend or two. Finally, have everyone chip in a few dollars to offer a freebie, like coffee or lemonade, to lure shoppers. “Make your signs say ‘free donuts!’ or “free Starbucks coffee served!’ to attract attention,” Gregg says. 

Price items smartly

As a rough rule of thumb, you should price most items at about 75% off the original price, with the exception of nice furniture or fine or rare things like antiques or collectibles, says Gregg.  Ask for a little more than you’ll accept, since many buyers will haggle over the price. To figure out more precise pricing, “get comparable info from eBay or Craigslist,” says Houston resident Jane Huey, who makes her living buying and reselling items she gets from garage and estate sales. “Even print out what items are going for and attach it to each item.” This will give buyers less reason to haggle, she says. Finally, be sure to have a lot of change on hand, says Solomon — you don’t want customers walking away because you can’t make change for their $20 bill.

Hand out bags

Have your friends, neighbors and fellow sellers save grocery bags in the weeks leading up to the sale so you can give every customer a bag when they arrive at the sale, says Gregg. The reason: Research shows that when consumers are given a basket, bag or cart when they enter a store, they tend to buy more items — and the same applies to a yard sale. The bag makes it easier for customers to accumulate a bunch of items, and that, of course, makes it easier for you to quickly rake in the dough. “This is the single best way to drive up sales, especially if you have a lot of small items,” Gregg says.   

Don’t sell everything

Sure, garage sales are an easy way to earn cash for your clutter, but they aren’t the right vehicle for selling everything. If you have things like artwork, jewelry, clothes and furniture that your parents or grandparents gave you, or items that you think might be rare or valuable,  do some online research — or even bring them to an appraiser — to find out what they’re worth. “Don’t sell anything that you don’t know the value of,” says Horne. “If you want to get rid of the old bottles in the cellar, check out collector’s sites and eBay before you give them away for a song.” You’ll usually make far more money selling collectibles, antiques and fairly rare items online or through a store that specializes in such things, than you would through a yard sale. The lesson: Stick with selling mass-produced, factory-made items like books, tools, clothes, household goods, sporting equipment and electronics at the yard sale and hawk the more valuable items elsewhere.