16 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Garage Sale (+11 Things You Really Shouldn't Sell)
Garage sale, yard sale - whatever you call it where you live, tis the season for cleaning out your basements and closets for a little extra cash.
Here's our list of the best tips and tricks we know to draw a crowd, negotiate the price you want, and land the sale. We've also included a list of things you're better off not selling at a garage sale.
Yard Sale Preparation
Do you need a permit? Check with your local government, HOA, etc. lest you wind up using your garage sale proceeds to pay off a fine.
Dealing with cash. You'll need to have cash on hand to give change, so go to the bank ahead of your sale to get an array of bills and quarters. If dealing with small change sounds like a headache, just make it a rule that all transactions are to be rounded to the nearest quarter. You may still collect nickels and dimes from your customers, but you won't be stuck with an unused roll of nickels at the end.
Accept electronic payments. If your shoppers don't have cash on hand, let them know you'll accept a payment through Venmo or Chase QuickPay. In fact, making it clear on your signage may actually bring in more traffic. I can't count the number of times I've walked by a yard sale by chance and didn't stop in because I didn't have any cash on me! Apps like these are a fast, easy way to pay on the spot using an app connected to your checking account. I actually used QuickPay at a flea market last month when the seller couldn't take a credit card, and she had transfer confirmation within seconds. Living in the future is pretty awesome.
To price or not to price? The experts are divided on whether or not you should put prices on everything. I'm in the camp that says it's probably not worth it. Labeling everything is a lot of time spent for what is literally sometimes just pennies earned, though a few well placed signs like "All books: 25¢" can be great guidance with a low level of effort. In my research I ran across the suggestion of not putting a price on anything you'd value at less than $15 and letting customers ask for a price or make an offer on anything below that threshold. I rather like that idea.
Know your bottom line. For any given item, you should know how low you're willing to go, well before your customer makes an offer. Don't be afraid to stand firm on your price early on, but consider accepting lower offers toward the end of the sale.
Dust, polish and repair. Take a little extra time as you set up to make everything you put on the tables look their best. Dust the figurines. Iron your wrinkled shirts. Polish your leather shoes. Break out the super glue for minor repairs. You'll get a better offer if the merchandise looks like it's in good condition.
Stage your sale. Not only is it harder to look through a table or a box of clothes, but they get messy fast and require constant maintenance to keep things tidy. If you don't have a rack handy, a broom laid across two tall chair backs will work just fine. If you've got dishes, glasses and flatware to sell, arrange a single table setting up next to the stack to show it off.
Getting the word out
Craigslist. Before you write your ad, look at the other yard sales being advertised. They probably list some of the big ticket items, general categories, and maybe even have a few pictures. And always include pictures - the higher the quality the better.
Facebook. If your community or neighborhood has an active Facebook page, ask the administrator if they'll post a notice for you. Also be sure to create a Facebook event for your sale and invite all of your local friends.
Newspapers. The effectiveness of placing an old-fashioned classified ad in your local newspaper is going to vary wildly by where you live. I have a feeling it would be a lot more effective in my parents' small town than it would be here in Chicago.
Posting signs around the neighborhood. Tossing up a few signs a day or two before your sale directing bargain hunters your way is a good idea, but be warned that it may technically be illegal to do so. Enforcement tends to be pretty lax, so proceed at your own risk. Additionally, be sure those signs are clearly legible. Go with dark, thick block letters and arrows on white or yellow cardstock - something both eyecatching and easy to read from a moving car.
Getting the sale
Plan around paydays. If people in your area tend to be paid on the 15th and 30th of the month, schedule your garage sale for the first weekend after that. Keep in mind that if payday falls on the weekend, checks are deposited the Friday before.
Negotiate like a pro. If your buyer wants to negotiate, make sure you're setting your counter offer above what you'd settle for. Expect that buyers will make an offer, then make a counter offer to your counter offer.
Incentivize shoppers to spend more with a raffle. Make a sign that announces that anyone who spends $10 or more can be entered in a drawing for a $20 Amazon gift card. Collect email addresses for entries. Why Amazon? Why email addresses? Because no one needs to stick around to see who won. Plus, since Amazon gift cards can be emailed, the winner doesn't need to return, either.
Go with the BOGO. Your favorite retailers all know that a BOGO can convince a customer to buy more, so why not take a page out of their book? BOGOs are certainly popular with the Brad's Deals audience, so I'm pretty sure they'll be popular with yours, too! Especially with smaller items you've got a lot of, a buy-one-get-one strategy can pay off. Remember, a garage sale is just as much about clearing out clutter as it is about pocketing some extra cash.
Keep a power strip and a measuring tape handy. Give your customers the opportunity to test electronics before they buy. Or if they're not sure something is the right size, offer up a measuring tape. Eliminating such uncertainty wherever you can can be the difference between selling an item and not.
Offer coffee and treats. If your kids want to help out, let them set up a table next to the cash box selling cookies, rice krispy treats, lemonade, etc. Set your not-for-sale Keurig up outside and offer a fresh-made cup to shoppers for $1 each. Even if they don't buy any of your sale items, it's hard to resist buying a cookie from a cute kid.
Things you should think twice about selling
Bike helmets. A helmet is only good for one crash, so you should only sell your old bike helmets if they've never met the pavement in a crash.
Car seats. The safety standards change on these so rapidly, and defective units are often subject to product recalls that you probably didn't know about. If you have a car seat to get rid of, wait for one of the periodic trade-in events at Babies R Us, where you can use it to level up to up-to-code, age-appropriate gear at a nice discount.
Coin and Stamp Collections. Run that dusty pile of coins by an appraiser first, one who specializes in currency, especially if you have no idea what any of it is worth. Some rare coins and stamps are worth millions. To say you'd be undervaluing your collection by selling it at a yard sale is a massive understatement.
Comic books. Particularly if they're old or inherited. A single Spiderman comic from the 1960s could put your kids through college.
Craftsman Tools. Especially if they're broken, you should never, ever sell Craftsman-brand tools at a garage sale. Sold by Sears, most have an unlimited lifetime warranty, which means you can take any broken Craftman tool back to the store for a free repair, no receipt or purchase date required. Bargain hunters scour garage sales just for this kind of opportunity - buy a broken tool, get it fixed for free, sell it at a profit.
Cribs. It's common to hand cribs down from one kid to the next, but again, safety standards change so often that it's likely yours isn't up to code anymore.
Heirlooms. Even if it's worth nothing, it's not worth the drama when your family finds out you sold your great grandma's coat rack. Because how dare you. If you no longer want it, just give it to someone in your family who actually cares about it.
Pyrex dishes. Your mom's brightly colored flower-patterned casserole dishes from the 1970s are super trendy right now and can be a small goldmine for anyone with a cache to sell. Heck, I recently bought a set for myself, a green pattern from 1972 that averaged out to about $10 per dish. Check around on eBay and Etsy to get a sense of what these are worth.
Running shoes. First of all, I don't know of any runners who would buy secondhand running shoes. Second, a worn down pair of running shoes should be tossed. If you've never worn them, that's a different story. Be sure to mark them as such.
Sports memorabilia. Much like the coin collections above, you simply may not know what you have. Get it appraised before you sell it.
Vinyl Records. Many years ago, I gave my vinyl collection to my mother to sell at a garage sale. That collection included the picture disc edition of Michael Jackson's Thriller. For years I thought it was gone and grieved for it... until Mom told me it had never sold and fished it out of a box in the basement. And there was much rejoicing. Though the pictures are a bit yellowed, the music is mint condition and the album regularly sells for $30-$40 on eBay (not that I'm selling). Vinyl is a hot commodity these days. Take yours to your local record shop to see if it's worth anything.