Be aware of legal issues
Before you begin planning a garage sale, check to see if there are any city ordinances that will effect planning. You may need to apply for permits or keep in mind laws regarding advertising your sale. Also, the sale of food or used goods, like bedding, may be prohibited in your city.
Choose a date and time
There are a few things to keep in mind when planning your garage sale. Don’t schedule one for a holiday weekend, as most people are celebrating and not attending yard sales. You might want to plan your sale around common pay days. On the 1st and 15th people have just received their checks and will be more likely to spend than when they’re strapped for cash.
Another thing you may want to consider when planning your garage sale is your neighbors. Ask them if they would like to hold their sale at the same time. A huge block sale will draw large crowds and help everyone be more profitable. If they aren’t interested in holding their own garage sale, offer to sell some of their unwanted items for a small commission. The more you have, the more likely people will be to stop by and look.
Choose a firm starting time. Yard sales attract early birds, and no one wants angry “customers” at their door before 6 AM.
Select your items for sale
Once you’ve decided when your yard sale will take place, its time to gather items to sell. If you’ve been following our guides for sorting and packing for your move, you probably have boxes of things that can go. Don’t trash something that may be sold. Even if you see a flaw with an item, someone may be looking for that exact thing. When holding a sale, too many people simply throw things away they believe no one will buy. Remember, you can always donate or trash things after the sale, no reason to cheat yourself! The only things that shouldn’t be put up for sale are items that are broken, dangerous, or prohibited.
Set fair prices
It’s best to decide on the pricing of your items before the day of the sale. The best time to do this is when you are sorting your items for sale.
- Don’t mark prices directly on the items, use stickers or pin-on tags.
- Keep pricing simple. Usually, increments of 25 cents are best.
- Check out other garage sales or online auction sites like eBay for ideas.
- Price things 1/2 to 1/3 the retail value of a new item, depending on condition.
- If you have a group of items that are priced around the same price, group them together in a price-marked box and let people look through it.
- Be open minded and leave room for bartering and bargaining.
Advertise in your community
The most important factor when planning a profitable yard sale is advertising. Planning well in advance gives you the opportunity to advertise your sale in several venues. It’s usually worth it to place an ad in your local paper, especially if you have any unique or valuable items for sale. Most of your advertising, however, will be completely free (except for the supplies to make posters and flyers.)
Take advantage of all the free advertising space in your community. Schools, churches, and local businesses usually have bulletin boards where you can advertise you sale.
A day or two before your sale, post signs about your garage sale around your neighborhood. Check with your local government to make sure you know what the laws are regarding ads for your garage sale.
- Make your signs out of heavy poster board or cardboard with paper attached.
- Write in permanent marker that won’t bleed if there is rain.
- If you cannot print neatly have someone else write your signs or purchase sticker letters.
- Give your address plus clear directions from a major intersection nearby.
- A big arrow pointing the way should be on every sign you make.
When you are putting up your signs, take a map of your neighborhood with you so you can mark down where you put signs. Make sure you take down the signs as soon as your sale is over.
Create functional, attractive displays
You want to make your sale displays as appealing as possible.
- Place large, attractive items at the front of your lawn, where they are visible from the street. Large pieces of furniture, children’s play houses, and bicycles have great curbside appeal.
- Make sure that the items look like they are being sold, with big signs in front with the prices. If it looks like junk, people won’t come by.
- Protect your items from theft. If they’re close to the street, it will be easy for people to steal. Lock up any items that can be carried away.
- Clothing should be mended, cleaned, and hung neatly on racks. Group clothing by size, and have a place where people can try on your items. Anything that cannot be hung should be folded neatly on tables.
- If you are selling any electronics, make sure you have an electrical source where people can test out your items. If you can, put out a power strip and plug in all the items.
- If anything is broken or in any way damaged, make sure your customers know that the sale is “As Is.”
- Toys can be put in boxes on the ground. Put a picnic blanket out next to the toy section, so visitors’ kids can sit down and play with them.
Stay safe during your sale
You want to protect yourself, your items, and your visitors during the sale, so follow these tips to stay safe:
- Never hold a garage sale alone.
- Lock all the doors and windows to your house. The sale can be a distraction, and thieves will take advantage of this.
- Keep a cell phone with you to call for backup or if you need help.
- Don’t string extension cords across any walkways.
- Make sure sharp objects are kept separately from other things. You don’t want a customer rummaging through a box of kitchen utensils to cut themselves!
- Lock your pet in a separate area or be sure to keep them on a leash.
- Be careful when selling baby items. Things like cribs, car seats, and strollers can pose a potential safety hazard, and you do not want to sell any items that are dangerous or have been recalled.
- Make sure someone is watching the cash box at all times. Set up a point of sale and make sure someone is always there.
- Periodically take large sums of money inside and lock it up.
- Post an “All Sales Final” sign.