How to throw a yard sale when you’re an apartment dweller

For someone who hates accumulating stuff, I sure have a lot of it. There’s the skirt suit that I haven’t worn in four years, for example. Or the ALF lunchbox that I just can’t part with. Oh, and my indispensable collection of PEZ dispensers.

I could go on, but this is a money blog, not a humble brag about all the cool toys I have.

At any rate, lots of this stuff has got to go, and the good news is: it’s yard sale season! The bad news is: I don’t have a yard.

So what’s an apartment dweller to do in order to get rid of some old speakers and a decent coat that hasn’t been worn since 2008? I have a few options.

Take It to the Streets

When I lived in Hollywood, it was common to see my street overwhelmed with yard sales every Saturday morning. It was an apartment-lined street, and tenants in the process of moving out would often dump their stuff on the sidewalk and sell it.

But before assuming I can set up camp on the busy street in front of my apartment, I should check on a couple of things. First, is this permitted? I mean, even aside from acquiring a yard sale permit, which you should definitely look into, are you allowed to just sell stuff on the sidewalk? One Yahoo! writer had some simple, but good, advice:

“If you have noticed people selling things on a specific corner in your town or city, contact the town or city hall for advice. They will let you know where you can have a yard sale, especially if your apartment complex will not allow it. In any case, do not attempt to publicly sell anything without a permit, even on private property.”

Secondly, even if you are permitted to have a yard sale in front of your complex, you should probably check with your apartment manager to make sure it’s okay.

Take It to the Internet

If you have a few valuable things you want to get rid of, sites like eBay, Amazon and Craigslist are great old standbys. I’ve also sold and swapped furniture via Facebook status updates — it’s easier and you don’t have to deal with crazies, flakes or Paypal fees.

If you’ve accumulated cellphones over the years,this site seems to have a cool program that gives you a modest amount for them.

Community Garage Sales

I’m jealous that Seattle has West Seattle Community Garage Sale Day. In Los Angeles, I encounter multi-family garage sales, but I can only imagine a whole day of garage sale-ing that involves an entire community!

If you’ve got friendly apartment neighbors, though, you can initiate the idea of holding a complex-wide yard sale. Again, permits and manager permission should be taken into consideration. If your neighborhood is planning an event on a particular Saturday morning, that morning might be a good time to organize the sale.

I used to live in a quadplex, and my neighbor and I once held our own combined garage sale. Thinking back on it, it would’ve been really fun to let the other quadplexes in the neighborhood know — maybe we could have made a fun,money-making neighborhood day of it.

Donate for a Tax Deduction

Your time is valuable. Sometimes, maybe it’s just not worth it to spend two hours on a hot Saturday morning peddling your old collection of Garbage Pail Kids cards. That’s understandable.

Also, sometimes I’ve accumulated enough stuff to get rid of, but not quite enough to host a yard sale, and that’s when I just donate it. I’d rather not see it piling up in my living space, and, of course, the tax deduction is always nice. Just remember, tax law “requires that all household items given to charity must be in good or better condition,” according to tax pro Kay Bell.

Borrow a Yard from a Friend

I’ve been an apartment dweller for a while now, and back in Houston, my friend’s mom would always encourage me to participate in her semi-annual garage sale. Oh, how Mrs. V loved her garage sales. And she made them so much fun. There’d usually be four or five of us ridding our junk together on a Saturday morning. Lemonade or coffee was usually involved, and she lightheartedly competed with us to see who was making the most money.

If you’ve got a homeowner friend, they might not be opposed to letting you borrow their lawn for your sale. To repay them, you can offer to take care of selling any stuff they’re looking to unload.

Flea Markets/Swap Meets

Okay, I don’t have quite enough stuff to rent space at flea market, but I thought I’d toss in the option. There’s the cost of renting the space to consider, however. For example, while some SoCal markets charge as low as $7/day, others are as high as $70! Also, you may need to consider permits, registration and taxes, according to the Small Business Administration. They advise:

“Fairs, flea markets, and craft shows tend to require more paperwork and permits, since they are usually occupied by vendors or businesses, whereas garage sales tend to be run by individuals… Whenever you sign up to sell at a fair, flea market, or craft show, ask whoever is in charge of the event what paperwork or permits are needed. They can serve as a good resource since they should be familiar with the state and local procedures.”

For more information, check out the SBA’s page on the legalities of selling your stuff at flea markets. They also have some important advice on hosting yard sales — namely, checking with your city to see what the permit requirements are.

So there you have it — a few alternatives for all you apartment dwellers out there. We may not have yards, but we still have options.For my fellow renters, what other routes have you taken to sell your stuff? Any words of wisdom from seasoned yard sellers? Do share.

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There are 13 comments to "How to throw a yard sale when you’re an apartment dweller".

  1. Michael @ The Student Loan Sherpa says 20 June 2013 at 04:37

    When I lived in an apartment, I always went the eBay route. Won’t you almost always make more money by selling your stuff on ebay?

    • El Nerdo says 20 June 2013 at 08:29

      If you have good shippable items and the time to photograph, list, auction, pack, ship, and are willing to pay a cut to ebay and another to paypal (same company, they just hit you multiple times), and worry about reviews, maybe it’s worth it.

      But nobody is going to buy a bag of old socks on ebay. For things like that you need to hit the streets or (best of all) a flea market where people are walking around with cash burning a hole in their pockets as they look for some great bargain. And for things like couches, etc., Craigslist can do the trick.

    • Juli says 20 June 2013 at 14:19

      Unless you have really high end stuff, I have found ebay is really not worth the hassle. When I buy from ebay, I am looking for a super steal. And apparently everyone else is too. I have listed things several times, and either it doesn’t sell at all or if it does sell I maybe break even after paying shipping, Paypal, and ebay fees. A time or two I have actually lost money.

  2. Elizabeth says 20 June 2013 at 04:45

    Great tips, Kristin! I’m an apartment dweller but I also know condo dwellers who would appreciate these tips too.

    One thing I would add is to look into local consignment shops. My area has some good ones for clothing, furniture, kids stuff, etc. The commission rate can be 40-50%, but it can save the time and hassle of selling things yourself. (You do need to be aware of their policies and what items they’ll take.)

  3. Kyle @ Debt Free Diaries says 20 June 2013 at 06:50

    I mostly use Craigslist or donate items to Goodwill. Very rarely do I have an item (that’s not an electronic) that is in good enough condition to give to someone else, so I admit I throw a lot out when I’m done using them.

  4. Beth says 20 June 2013 at 07:31

    When I do a yard sale, I try to hold one that’s for no more than about four or five hours on one day. That’s about how long I can take standing on asphalt and hearing questions and comments like “How old is this thing?” and “I want to pay you $1 for this brand-new kitchen table. Deal?” At the end of the sale, what doesn’t sell is donated.

    It’s plenty of time for me to liquidate some items and have enough cash to pay for an upcoming outing for my family.

  5. Matt @ Your Living Body says 20 June 2013 at 08:29

    Ebay is a great route to go. So is Craigslist. Sometimes we would just donate things to our local church.

  6. Jake @ Common Cents Wealth says 20 June 2013 at 09:20

    These are great tips. Even though I own a home, some of these tips can help out there as well.

  7. Carla says 20 June 2013 at 09:26

    Great tips! I am an apartment dweller with no street space (there is a restaurant on the ground floor of my building) so consignment, Craigslist and eBay for me. Fortunately most of the clothes I try to get rid of is good enough for consignment and the rest are donated.

  8. EMH says 20 June 2013 at 12:51

    If you do hold a yard/sidewalk sale, then I would recommend contacting Salvation Army, Purple Heart or whatever resale shop you frequent and arrange a pick-up of all items that aren’t sold. I do this and it is much easier than lugging everything to the store (or back inside). Another bonus is that all the items are already on display so it is easy to take a photo of everything that Salvation Army is picking up for tax records.

  9. Juli says 20 June 2013 at 14:23

    I finally decided to let go of all my old maternity clothes and baby stuff that I have been holding onto “just in case.” If God has a surprise for us, then we can make do with a whole lot less than the massive amount of baby gear we’ve been storing! I thought about doing a yard sale, but the time commitment just wasn’t going to happen. We have been extremely blessed — between 3 baby showers and a ton of hand-me-downs, we hardly had to buy any baby stuff for our kiddos. So I decided to bless someone else, and take a tax deduction for us. The maternity clothes and baby gear went to the local crisis pregnancy center, and everything else went to Goodwill. So glad to have that out of my house!

  10. betsy22 says 21 June 2013 at 07:12

    I just had a yardsale and invited several of my apartment dwelling friends. It was kind of a pain for them to lug all of their stuff over to my house, but I was happy to have some company on this one, and they sold a couple of things at least.

  11. Mike@WeOnlyDoThisOnce says 21 June 2013 at 08:20

    The streets of any city work well, if you don’t run into any permit issues. They can be fun, too!

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