‘Tis the season for yard sales! With warmer temperatures, longer days and spring cleaning well under way, thousands of Americans will be having a garage sale this spring. Unfortunately, simple mistakes like mispricing merchandise or failing to “stage” your garage or yard sale can hold you back from receiving top dollar for your goods. Whether this is your first solo yard sale or you’re an experienced pro, follow these 12 garage/yard sale tips to ensure an easier, more profitable sale.
- Determine your goal.
Are you trying to make money? Or do you just need to get rid of old junk? Many first-time sellers are surprised to learn that they can often sell more items (and make more money) when pricing things lower.
- Get the word out for free.
The first step to a successful yard sale is advertising. List your sale on Craigslist, post professional-looking signs on community boards (your local coffee shop and the message board at your kid’s school are good starting places), and email your neighborhood, work and school list serves. You can also use your Facebook page to get the word out to your local social network. Advertisements in local papers can be expensive, and in today’s digital age, they generate little to no return on investment.
- Direct people to your sale.
Post signs along major roads near your home, at the entrance to your neighborhood and along your street. The signs should feature large, simple text that’s easy to read when driving – do your own drive-by with a sign to ensure the important information is legible. Be sure to check local signage ordinances to ensure you are not in violation for posting signs in public spaces.
- Timing matters: check the forecast and avoid holiday weekends.
Think Memorial Day weekend is a great time for a yard sale? Think again: turnout is traditionally much higher for non-holiday weekends. When everyone is on their way to the beach, the last thing families have time to do is spend their morning shopping. And check the forecast – it goes without saying that turnout will be poor on a rainy day.
- Decide what to sell far in advance.
Parting with your belongings can be one of the toughest parts of holding a successful yard sale. Even if you don’t want that dusty old stack of vinyl records, watching your collection disappear for $1 a record can turn stoics into sentimentalists. This year, do your spring cleaning early and place everything you plan to sell in boxes in the garage. Wait a few weeks before holding your sale. Did you need or miss anything in the boxes? Did you find yourself taking items out – or even remember what you put in? Mentally preparing to sell your belongings ensures that you’ll get top dollar for your treasures.
- Check for recalls.
In 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued new guidelines that hold sellers accountable for selling a defective or recalled product. While the agency doesn’t have the manpower to police yard sales, the rules are an important safety reminder. If you aren’t sure about a product’s safety (such as an old car seat, crib or plastic toy) take a few minutes to research the product online. It’s always better to be safe than sorry – and this way if your customer asks if the product is safe, you can answer with a definitive “Yes!”
- Organize and display your wares.
The night before your sale, take a little time to organize all your items into similar groups and apply price stickers. This will make the morning set up go much faster. In the morning, arrange books on a bookshelf and hang clothes on a wardrobe hanger. Just like at a store, your customers should be able to easily browse items, rather than digging through bags or bins. After all, if a customer can’t see an item, how can you sell it?
- Set a fair price.
A good rule of thumb is to price used items in good condition at a third of their original retail price. If you have a popular children’s toy or kitchen item, cut out an online listing of what the item sells for new, and then place this next to your discounted price. This helps potential buyers better see the value in your gently used items. Remember, it’s easy to negotiate down, but never up. If you want to sell an item for $5, price it for $7, and if it hasn’t sold by midday, drop the price.
- Sell old or damaged items for a flat rate.
If you have stacks of old clothes or cheap plastic toys, it can be a pain to price every item, especially if the prices are low, like 25 cents each. Instead, offer customers the option of fitting all the clothes or toys they want into a paper bag for one flat rate. You’ll sell more items because customers can’t resist the “bargain” of getting an entire bag of clothes for only $5!
- Make it easy for shoppers to test your items.
If your old Game Boy needs batteries to turn on, make sure it has them! If a microwave needs a plug, run an outdoor extension cord from your house to the electronics table. Buyers who can test an item before purchasing are more likely to pay top dollar.
- Sell more by attracting a crowd.
The longer people browse your sale, the more likely they are to make a purchase. Keep customers around by offering free ice water in plastic cups and inexpensive baked goods, like cookies. A sugar fix and a cool drink will put everyone in a good shopping mood! Plus, nothing attracts a crowd… like a crowd. Customers driving by a sale are far more likely to stop if they see a large group of people; this signals that there are bargains to be had!
- Keep your money in a fanny pack.
Yes, it’s not the most attractive fashion accessory, but a fanny pack or hip purse ensures that your money (including any spare change) stays with you at all times. Yard sales attract both honest bargain hunters and shady characters; never leave money in a cash box and never leave your possessions unattended.
And for the items you do plan to keep, protect them with personal property coverage.