The Yard Sale – Tips For Success

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The Yard Sale Garage SaleThis is the time of the year where garage and yard sales signs proliferate on the sides of the roads. The yard sale is a great opportunity to get rid of “stuff” and make some good side cash at the same time. Spring and early summer are the ideal time to hold a yard sale.The warm weather makes  it easier to be outside with your goods while shoppers do their thing.  I usually accumulate a lot of junk “stuff” I no longer use or need. A yard sale fits in quite nicely with spring cleaning and it beats hauling the stuff to a charity or the dump. There’s a bit more to have a successful yard sale than just putting your stuff out it in the driveway. Here’s a collection of tips that have helped us rake in more than just pocket change over the last few years.

The Yard Sale Inventory

Get your sale inventory together. Collect the items you want to sell and put them in a place where you can easily get to them. A large open space in the garage (if you have one) is perfect. Putting all your items together in a common area makes it easy to price them and put them out in the yard or driveway. It also gives you a good sense of how much stuff you’ll be selling. the more stuff you have to sell, the better. A yard sale with a lot of items will draw more buyers than a yard sale with just a few.

Think through all of the stuff you have that you don’t use. Clothes, appliances (large and small) exercise equipment, furniture and tools are just some of the things that you might want to sell. Don’t be timid about what you try to sell, cars, boats and motorcycles are all fair game. I once sold a small boat at a yard sale!

There are two things you want to make sure you have on display. Clothes are essential. Having a good variety of clothes will draw shoppers in. You also want to have a table with “man” toys. Tools, electronics, appliances and other similar items will draw men in like moths to a flame. The point is to have items that appeal to a wide variety of potential customers. Make sure they are readily visible from the street.

Price your items. Be realistic, you’re talking sub craigslist pricing for most items in a yard sale. People go to yard sales to get stuff for cheap, not to pay close to retail for someone else’s junk. If you have high end luxury items, don’t expect to get what they are worth for them. You might be better off advertising them on craigslist or eBay for a higher price. You should still display them in your yard sale, but expect to be low balled on the price.

Mark your items with a price. If you have tags, use them. If you don’t, use small sticky notes or some other method to mark your items with a price. You might even want to have table where everything is a certain price. A $1.00 dollar table (or any other price, depending on the items) can be a nice way to display items you are selling,

You’ll want to decide if you want to have some negotiating room depending on what kind of item it is. Leave some wiggle room on larger more expensive items. I don’t think anyone will give you the asking price on larger items so expect low offers and be prepared to counter offer with a price. Set a price mentally for the larger ticket items so you’ll have a target to work with. The lower priced items can be tagged with what you want. It’s up to you as to whether you accept any lower price offers on those items. It might be worth your while to take a lower price just so you don’t have to haul it away or back into the garage!

Free Stuff

Give some stuff away. Have a box of free stuff that folks can take. Face it, we all own stuff that we probably couldn’t sell if our life depended on it. Stick it all in a box, mark it as FREE in large bold letters (visible from the street) and hopefully someone will take it away for you. It makes for good marketing and might draw some drive by customers to actually stop at the yard sale. Besides, it will save you the effort of disposing of those items after the sale!

Advertise the Yard Sale

Having a Yard sale that no one knows about is pretty much a waste of time. The most obvious method of advertising your yard sale is with signs. Large neon bright (green or orange) are the best. Invest in a nice fat (at least a half inch) marker so people can actually read what you put on the sign. I find it extremely annoying to drive by a sign written in thin, unreadable letters. I’ll slow down but won’t go back to try and read the sign. Make sure your yard sale signs are legible!

Where you place your signs are an important factor. Yard sale shoppers drive around late Friday evening or early Saturday morning looking for these signs. Post signs in front the your house, at the corner(s) of your street and at the closest major intersections. Make sure your signs have arrows pointing towards the next sign or towards your house.

One last note on signs, don’t staple them to a single stick running down the middle of the sign. Invariably, the sign will wrap around the stick and be unreadable. (another annoying yard sale sign fact). Use two sticks or a wire frame of some kind to hold it flat so it remains visible.

You’ll also want to place some free ads for your Yard Sale. Craigslist is perfect for this. Craigslist even has a “Garage Sale” section specifically for yard and garage sales. There are also other venues to advertise your yard sale.Ebay classifieds (formerly Kijiji) is a good place to advertise. You should also look at local or regional free sites where you can advertise a yard sale. Take advantage of them, especially if they are free! If you have some large pieces that you are selling in your yard sale, advertise them individually. Put them in an ad by themselves with a reference that they will be available at the yard sale.

One other venue that works well is the community or neighborhood yard sale. If you have a neighbor that is organizing one you may want to go along for the ride. Neighborhood yard sales seem to draw a lot more visitors than single family sales. There’s also the added benefit of sharing the workload of advertising and signs with others. It makes the whole effort a lot easier! A WORD OF CAUTION ON NEIGHBORHOOD YARD SALES. I FIND MYSELF BUYING MY NEIGHBORS JUNK. Doing that somewhat defeats the purpose of holding the yard sale in the first place. So if possible, try to avoid falling into that trap! I have been able to make some cash on yard sale purchase by flipping them, but that’s another story for another post.

Display your Goods

Make it easy for your prospective customers to find what your selling. Folding tables are a great tool to have for a yard sale. If you don’t have enough of them you can always rig some up. I’ve used leftover pieces of plywood and sawhorses to set up some tables for our yard sales. Bigger pieces can sit right on the driveway. I try to avoid putting stuff I want to sell under the table. Most people seem to ignore or don’t pay attention to things that are under the table.

Clothes that can be should be displayed on hangers. A garment rack is an awesome way to display clothes, unfortunately most of us don’t have access to one. You can jury rig one with lengths of PVC pipe, but those have a tendency to sag. Worse, they can come apart and spill your carefully hung clothes all over your driveway. What I’ve been doing lately is lowering the garage door to around head height and hanging the clothes we are selling on the bottom ridge of the door. That seems to have worked out well, as long as you don’t forget and try to open or close the garage door!

Visibility from the street is key. If you were to compare two yard sales side by side. One with lots of goods, big pieces of furniture and appliances, a lot of clothes, and a “man gadget table” against one with just a few items or items that aren’t visible from the street, I bet you’ll find that the house with many, well displayed items has much more shoppers browsing than the other.

Hours for the Yard Sale

As distasteful as it is for me, when we have a yard sale, we open up early. It’s not unusual to see serious yard sale aficionados roaming the streets as early as six in the morning. The really serious ones are hitting the upcoming yard sales Friday afternoon! If you have the time it would be worth it to open up Friday evening. You’ll be surprised how much of your stuff will move. In my experience you’ll sell a lot of your larger, more expensive pieces on Friday. Those folks are out there on Friday so they don’t miss a good buy and are usually more willing to buy something than the casual Saturday yard sale customer.

After the Yard Sale

You’ll want to have a plan on what to do after the yard sale. By noon of your yard sale day your sales will have diminished if not stopped altogether. You’ll want to have a plan on what to do with what hasn’t sold. My preference is to load everything into a trailer and take it to a charity. If that isn’t possible then a dump is the next stop. I’ve seen some folks put everything out with a “take it for free” sign. I’m not too big on that option but it is worth considering (and taking advantage of, which I have). What you don’t want to do is hold on to all that stuff you decided you didn’t need anymore!

One last thing, Please take the signs down after the yard sale! there’s nothing as irksome as seeing “Yard Sale” signs that are ragged, bleached out and just plain ugly.

Good luck on your yard sale. Let us know how you’ve done with yard sales you have had and please share some of your yard sale strategies that have been successful!

Photo Courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker

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27 comments

  1. Like my mother always used to say, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure! I’ve never considered giving away free stuff to draw in the crowds though, great tip.
    Money Rebound recently posted…Speed up your Climb from DebtMy Profile

  2. Great tips and I love yard sales. However, I never found that actually running a yard sale was worth my time or something I wanted to do. I do enjoy going to to them and searching for deals.
    Free Money Minute recently posted…Are We Broke?My Profile

  3. I just blogged a post on this the other day all about garage sale pricing. Garage sales are a great way to get rid of items hanging around the house. One of the biggest mistakes homeowners do is not price items realistically and at the end they are dragging in all the stuff that should have been sold. Taking down the signs is a good tip many forget.
    Canadian Budget Binder recently posted…Crispy Fresh Spring RollsMy Profile

    • Thanks Mr CBB, I’ve been meaning to write this one for a bit now, especially considering that it’s spring and “Yard Sale” season. I’ll have to admit that seeing your post spurred mo on to get with mine :)

  4. All great tips here, Jose. We usually partner with one or two other families so we can advertise “multi-family” sale too. But the rule we have to have there, like you with the neighborhood sales, is “We’re here to sell, not buy.” :-)
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…Recipe of the Week: Mr. CBB’s Sloppy JoesMy Profile

  5. I like the idea of having a “free” bin, hadn’t thought of that one before. Partnering with other families is a great idea as no one wants to stop by the tiny yard sale with one table. having tons of stuff displayed gets people to stop. Also, be prepared to haggle. If you are easily insulted by people throwing out low ball offers, you’ll need to get thicker skin. In the same vein, like you said put your valuable stuff for sale on ebay or craigslist, you’ll most likely get more money for it.
    thepotatohead recently posted…Money Mistakes : Should I Have Retired From the Military?My Profile

  6. For your more expensive items I would definitely put them on craigslist or ebay, as your more likely to get more cash for them. Yardsales are a great way to get rid of clothes and other knick knacks that you’ve collected and might not be a big draw on their own.

    • I agree, I prefer craigslist since it’s free and you don’t have to mess with shipping. The downside is you have to meet people who may be a bit sketchy.

  7. I really dislike garage sales and the inevitable haggling that comes with them. Gotta love it when someone asks you for a 50% discount on a $2 item!
    Paul @ The Frugal Toad recently posted…Towards Living a More Sustainable Life – Bucket List ChallengeMy Profile

  8. I find I get more for my money if I just put them on Craigslist. I guess you can get more sold in a short time but even if I did I would only want to have the sale on Saturday morning and be done my noon. It gets crazy hot and more people don’t want to be out. Nice tips on how to be successful with it though.
    Thomas recently posted…The Best 12 Money Saving Tips To FollowMy Profile

    • I tend to advertise the high dollar stuff on craigslist but will drag it out if we are doing a yard sale. I agree with being done by noon though. I don’t want to spend an entire Saturday hauling stuff around and dickering on price, plus the heat does get oppressive.

  9. These are awesome tips. I haven’t been a part of a yard sale for quite a few years now, but I remember doing many of the thing mentioned above. As a buyer at a yard sale, I like to see large items and electronics. If a sale has either of these, I’m more likely to stop by than if it’s all small stuff.
    Jake @ Common Cents Wealth recently posted…The Rule of 72 and Impact of Compound InterestMy Profile

    • Lol, I’m the same way. If I see electronics or tools I’m more likely to stop. That’s more likely to drive my wife away, racks of clothes will draw her attention.

  10. It’s amazing how that “stuff” accumulates isn’t it? We haven’t tried a yard sale yet, but have had a lot of luck with Craigslist. It seems that everything sells. Even our old touchtone phone for $5!
    GamingYourFinances recently posted…Tips for college graduates: Avoid lifestyle inflation!My Profile

    • Stuff accumulates faster than I can get rid of it. It’s almost like it multiplies. I use craigslist for a lot of things, typically more expensive items. I might have to try it for less expensive stuff.

  11. Never had a yard sale but this is our first home so we may try it this time. Usually I give things to Goodwill or sell them on Ebay/Craigslist. I agree with marketing your yard sale and having free stuff helps. People always like free stuff. They could be coming for the free stuff and pick up something along the way. Timing is everything and usually the shoppers like to come out before it gets too hot. Check the weather to make sure its not expected to rain.
    Thomas | Your Daily Finance recently posted…June Stats, Updates, Goals, and Future PlansMy Profile

  12. Great tips for a successful yard sale. I’ve never really had a yard sale before as I tend to just sell things as I go on eBay or Craigslist. I do have a couple big boxes of items I tried to sell online but wasn’t able to. Maybe I should do a big spring cleaning and add a bunch of items to these two boxes for a big yard sale in the spring.

    I have liquidated the furniture from a house I was living in before I moved out of the city and my brother’s apartment when he was moving to a new city as well. Both times I was successful in selling everything for “top dollar”. Meaning, we got reasonable prices considering used furniture maxes out at 50% of retail the second it leaves the showroom floor.

    The most important thing was having good pictures of each item online. I actually set up a very simple website with the complete inventory and added the web address to the craigslist listings. The second most important thing was to strategically upsell people so they left with more items then they planned to come for. Even if I had to slash the price of a 2nd or 3rd item I was happier increasing my average customer value and sell the stuff faster with less transaction then I would have been to hold out for a few extra dollars here and there.

    Thanks for the good roundup on conducting a yard sale!
    Brent recently posted…How I’ve Lost 14 Pounds Through Habit & Gamification and How This Relates To Personal FinanceMy Profile

  13. Great tips! Never done any yard sale by myself. However, I love yard sale. I will keep the tips in my mind. Thanks mate.

  14. Thanks for the link, I had to modify it so that it would work but it looks like a great resource.

  15. WordPress, self hosted.

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