Our annual neighborhood garage sale was held this past weekend. During last year’s sale I offered ten garage sale tips:

  1. A group sale is better then selling alone. More stuff draws more traffic.
  2. Be prepared. Be ready to go the night before so that you don’t have to rush around in the morning.
  3. Plan your sale layout with customers in mind. Use marketing tricks to make your customers more likely to purchase your stuff!
  4. Price things carefully.
  5. Label things well.
  6. Be friendly. Greet people as they arrive — chat if they’re chatty.
  7. Do not bad-mouth your items.
  8. Be willing to bargain, but be less flexible at the start.
  9. Keep a ledger. Jot down a description of each item and how much you sold it for.
  10. Do not use a cash box. Keep your money on you at all times.

Here are ten new tips, with a focus on prepping for the day of the sale:

  1. Be clear on the purpose of your sale. Are you selling things to make money or to get rid of them? This question affects everything you do, from how you price things to how willing you are be to negotiate. Surprisingly, you can often make more money (and get rid of more junk) by pricing things low. (If your goal is to get top dollar, you should really be selling on eBay or Craigslist.)
  2. Advertise. Stick an ad in the newspaper. Put up a notice on Craigslist. Post simple, effective signs around the neighborhood. It’s best to use big bold text like “HUGE SALE” with an arrow pointing the right direction. Make sure your sign is readable. (The Yard Sale Queen has a great page highlighting the difference between good and bad yard sale signs. I think the one I’ve posted here is just about perfect. I could write an entire article on proper garage sale signage — I feel strongly about it. )
  3. Get cash. Get a roll of quarters, a stack of twenty-five $1 bills, and a few $5 bills. Do this two days before the sale, so that if you forget, you can still get the change on the day before.
  4. Prepare your staging area. People will be more inclined to stop if you set up shop in your yard or driveway. Some people are reluctant to enter a dark and dreary garage. Make your sale inviting and easy to browse. You can lure customers by placing highly-desirable items near the road.
  5. Go over ground rules. Make sure that everybody working the sale is in agreement. Be clear on your bargaining policy. (You don’t want your wife to be angry when you sell her rabbit-shaped jewelry box for $2 when she wanted at least $5 for it.) Make sure that everyone understands the importance of never parting from the money. Agree that nobody will bad-mouth the merchandise.
  6. Think like a customer. As soon as you’ve opened and fielded the initial flood of shoppers, walk through your sale as if you were there to buy something. How does it feel? Are things clearly marked? Is it easy to move around? Are your books on the ground in boxes? Or are they placed neatly on shelves or tables? Would you pay $10 for that porcelain cat?
  7. Display items to their advantage. This weekend, Kris noticed that a couple of nice lawn chairs weren’t selling. They were folded up and leaning against the wall of the garage, so she unfolded them and set them on the lawn. They sold within ten minutes. In the past, I’ve had trouble selling books. This year I carried a pair of bookshelves out to the garage. It took more work, but I sold over $100 of books, books that to me were simply junk. (Powell’s had refused to buy them back on multiple occasions.)
  8. Play background music. I find it a little uncomfortable to visit a garage sale (or to host one) when there’s complete silence in the yard or driveway. But don’t play offensive music either — play something appropriate for your audience. For the past couple years, I’ve made a point of playing The Essential Johnny Cash over and over and over again. Sure, I’m sick of it by the end of the weekend, but the customers love it.
  9. Promote expensive items. Big-ticket items can be tough to sell, but you can do it with a little extra effort. For example, I have a digital camera I wanted to sell. I gathered all the bits and pieces and placed them together on a table along with a printout of the Amazon page for the camera. If I’d thought to do this on Thursday or Friday, the camera might have sold. I didn’t get it out til Saturday morning, though, so I’m still stuck with it!
  10. Make it easy for shoppers to test electronic items. If you’re selling electrical items, make sure you have an extension cord handy so that people can test them. No smart person is going to just take your word that your television “works great”. They’re going to want to see it in operation. Also, have some batteries on hand so that a prospective buyer can test that old Nintendo Gameboy for himself.

Running a yard sale is not rocket science. But if you put a little effort into creating an environment where it is pleasant to browse and easy to find junk treasures, you’ll make a lot more money.


photo by cleverswine

Our sale this year was less profitable than in past years, but it wasn’t because of lousy preparations on our part. The first two days went quite well. We sold $464 of stuff, of which $290 was mine. But on Saturday, the rain set in. Plus we were competing with Portland’s Grand Floral Parade. We made $11.25 before we closed up shop at 2 p.m. Pitiful!

For more garage sale tips, check out the Yard Sale Queen.

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