I love garage sales. I love going to them, and I love having them.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a warm climate garage sales are possible all year long. PaidTwice has told me before that she’s jealous that I can take advantage of garage sales all year long. I can understand that. The garage sale season for the rest of the country is starting soon, so it’s time to start preparing!
Our little community only allows one per year, but it’s a doozy. Ours was today, and I was ill-prepared due to illness and procrastination. That said, I made $130 on stuff I would have donated or Freecycled anyway, so it’s all good.
Here are my tips for a successful garage sale:
1. Gather goods all year. Keep a box on each floor of your house, or even in each closet. When you run across something that no longer fits, or you no longer want or need, toss it in the box. Clean or repair things first; it’s much easier to do this as you go than to try to spend the night before the sale doing it for everything! When the box is full close it up, mark it “garage sale” and store it away.
2. If it’s of value, try Craigslisting it first. Garage sale shoppers are looking for real bargains. I try Craigslist first. If I’m unsuccessful then it goes in a garage sale box.
3. Don’t assume no one will buy it. Husband had a nasty, moldy shower shelf thingy in his old house. He was sure no one would buy it and wanted to toss it. I got $2 for that sucker. I’ve sold half-burned candles, wagons with broken wheels, games missing parts, single earrings… Never underestimate the garage sale buyer.
4. Choose a date and time. Not too cold, not too hot. Make it just right. And understand that people will start coming about 1/2 hour before the time you advertise to start it, so plan accordingly.
5. Recruit friends and neighbors to join you. Being able to put multi-family or community-wide in an ad or on a sign will absolutely get more people to your location. When I’m planning my garage sale route I always choose these before I visit any single-family sales.
6. Call your city to find out if you need a permit. Getting a citation would sure eat into those profits. Also ask if there are any special ordinances or rules about putting up signs. Some municipalities dictate where/when you can and cannot post them.
7. Advertise. Placing an ad in the newspaper brings people, and if you are doing a multi-family sale and splitting the cost it’s a good investment. That said, I’ve had plenty of successful garage sales just placing signs at major intersections and placing free ads on Craigslist and other garage sale forums.
8. Put up signs, and lots of them. Put some up the week before, if possible, at least in front of your house. Use black ink on a bright background. Make sure the letters are large and thick enough to be easily read from a car. Put as little info as possible while still getting the point across. I usually just put “Garage Sale”, Sat 8-12 and a large arrow pointing the way. Put up enough signs on the route to your house so people don’t wonder if they are lost. I can’t stand it when I can’t read a sign, or all it includes is the address. Often times I’m not familiar enough with a neighborhood to find it just by the address, so I don’t go. If you like, attach balloons to the signs, but make sure they don’t block drivers’ views.
9. Get change, plastic bags and newspaper. Nothing is more frustrating than having a customer with cash in hand and not being able to make the sale because you don’t have change. I usually get $30 in singles and $20 in fives plus a roll of quarters. I don’t bother with smaller change. Also save your grocery or other shopping bags, and have newspaper on hand to wrap breakables.
10. Don’t price anything. I know, this goes against popular wisdom. Every garage sale how-to article I’ve ever read tells people to price everything. I never do. First, I don’t want to work that hard. Second, I like to be able to change my prices on a whim. Sure, it gets hectic at the sale sometimes, but they’re hectic anyway. Besides, no one pays the price marked; everyone wants to haggle. At least here in Florida. Seriously, I can count on one hand the number of times people paid the first price I quoted, and then I think I asked too little.
11. Organize your stuff. Put like things together by category; tools, toys, clothing, home decor. You can do this in advance to save time the day of the sale.
12. Have plenty of tables. People don’t like to bend. If you have everything at table height people will buy more.
13. Merchandising counts. Make your stuff look nice. Wipe off any dust and arrange as prettily as possible. If you hang clothing you’ll get more for it. Place premium items (brand new items, large tools, baby items, nice furniture, etc) close to the street so people can see them from their cars. Put most clothing on hangers and hang them from a clothesline strung from trees or from your garage ceiling near the door (or on a clothes rack if you have one). You’ll get more money for them. They’re also easier to look through, and you won’t have to worry about refolding them on the table.
14. Have giveaways. I always have little trinkets to give the children of shoppers, and I’ll often toss in some little thing for free for customers who buy a lot. I get lots of good feedback from that.
15. Set up a refreshment table. Because ours is a community sale I always sell coffee, water, sodas and some type of homemade baked goods. My banana bread is always a big hit. I’ve made a nice profit on these items. If you like you can also offer coffee and cookies free – it’s a nice touch.
16. Be an active seller. Running a garage sale is a lot like working at a retail establishment, so bring out the salesman (or saleswoman) in you. Greet your customers with a friendly smile as they arrive. You want people to feel comfortable at your sale, so greet them as you would if you were a business owner. Tout your wares proudly. Offer package deals (if a person buys a blender, for example, why shouldn’t they buy those margarita glasses as well?), and reward big buyers with bulk discounts. Don’t just hope things sell themselves.
17. Negotiate with hagglers. When asked the price of something I always say it’s more than I’m willing to sell it for. Play along; haggling can be a fun experience, and you’ll likely make a lot more sales if you’re willing to reward these bargain hunters. Don’t be afraid to decline an offer, but consider all offers. After all, you’re trying to get rid of this stuff.
18. Offer last-minute deals. If you’ve still got things left over during the final scheduled hours of your sale, go ahead and slash prices. Offer buy-one-get-one deals or bulk discounts. Do everything you can to make the sale, especially if you plan on throwing away or giving away the items anyway.
19. Don’t bring anything back into the house. Donate or give away whatever is left. If you donate the items you can get a tax deduction. If you don’t want to schlep everything somewhere put an ad on Craigslist of Freecycle telling people that everything at your curb is free, first come, first served. I have to admit that I occasionally break this rule, like today. My sister-in-law is having a garage sale in two weeks, so I’ll take what I didn’t sell today over there. But it’s still a good rule.
20. Take down your signs and clean up. Your neighbors will appreciate it.
Now you can count your money in your less-cluttered home.