10 Simple Steps To A Successful Garage Sale

by Parenting Squad on 16 May 2011 2 comments
Photo: paalia

A garage sale can be a great way to clean out your closets and make some extra cash. But if paying customers can't find you or aren't interested in what you have to offer, your hard work can quickly turn into a wasted Saturday morning.

Garage sales aren't complicated, but they can be intimidating if you've never had one before. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can follow to ensure that your garage sale is a huge success.

1. Sell The Right Stuff

Don't have a garage sale if you don't have stuff that other people want. Sure, one man's junk is another man's treasure and all that, but if you only have junk, your sale won't be very successful. Big ticket items like baby furniture and appliances, as well as useful items like tools, household accessories, and children's toys, are almost always popular.

You can certainly sell your trinkets too, but you're less likely to attract customers or make a decent profit if that's all you have. Consider designating a spot in your home to collect items you want to sell, and then, once you've accumulated enough quantity and variety, you can begin planning your sale.

2. Make Your Sale Visually Appealing

The same principles of retail apply to your garage sale — the more visually appealing your display, the more likely people are to make purchases. Everything at your sale should be clean and well-organized. Borrow tables and clothing racks if you can. Sort clothes by size to make shopping easier for your customers.

Don't just throw things in boxes, either. If you're selling books or movies, stack them neatly or line them up so that the titles can be read easily. Also, consider playing some background music to keep the mood pleasant, and if it's going to be a hot day, try to have a fan handy.

3. Curb Appeal Matters

People will drive by your sale to determine if a stop is worth their time. Be sure they can tell where the sale is, particularly if you have a rear-entry garage. Tie some colorful balloons to the mailbox or make a sign for the yard. And display some of your merchandise on the driveway, so they can catch a glimpse of what they'll be missing if they decide to keep driving.

4. Advertise

The more people who know about your sale, the more money you have the potential to make. Place an ad in your local paper. Make fliers and hang them on community bulletin boards. Post the date, time, and location of your sale on Craigslist, and don't forget to include the types of things you're selling, and pictures if you have them.

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are also good options for spreading the word. And, on the night before your sale, put up signs at the entrance to your subdivision and the end of your street with arrows and your address.

5. Bundle Small Items

Things that won't sell on their own are often more likely to sell if you package them together. Fill Ziploc bags with a variety of tiny children's toys that you're looking to dump (think Happy Meal toys, bouncy balls, etc.). Bundle leftover rolls of wrapping paper with any extra ribbon and bows. If you have baskets or containers to sell, consider filling them up with goodies and then selling them for a higher price.

Also, instead of selling children's clothes for fifty cents or a dollar a piece, you might make more money (and get rid of stuff faster) if you sell an entire container of clothes in one size or season for a flat rate.

6. Sell Snacks and/or Beverages

People are more likely to take their time and browse if they're not hungry or thirsty. Keep a cooler filled with water bottles and soda, and sell them at cost (or make yourself a little extra profit). Or let the kids run a lemonade stand. Cookies, whether store bought or homemade, are also a big hit.

7. Appeal To Both Sexes

Typically, women shop at garage sales more than men. But a woman will spend a lot less time shopping if there's an anxious man waiting in the car. Men gravitate toward appliances, electronics, tools, and any kind of home repair items. (Yes, I know that's sexist, but in my experience it's also true.)

Do you have extra nuts and bolts or screws lying around your home? Maybe you just finished a home improvement project, and you have some items left that you won't be using to add to your sale.

8. Join Forces

Multi-family garage sales are always well-received because customers expect to find more choices and variety. Ask some of your neighbors if they're interested in having a garage sale on the same day as you do, or organize or participate in a subdivision sale. You'll get a lot more traffic this way, because potential customers are more likely to visit these sales.

If possible, though, encourage each family to host their own sale in their own garage. Dividing items and figuring out who made how much money can be tricky if you sell all your things together.

9. Price It Right

According to some sources, garage sale items should be priced at roughly 1/3 of what the item cost new. However...your customers don't care what you paid for it, and it's only worth what somebody is willing to pay. When you're pricing your items, think about how seriously you want to get rid of them. The cheaper the price, the more likely it is to sell.

Also, make your life easier and keep your prices simple. There's no reason to be stuck calculating sums like $1.35 plus $3.75 when you could just as easily be adding 1 plus 4. And make sure that everything has a price on it. Yes, it's hard work, but if you buy the color-coded stickers that already have the prices on them, it's not that hard.

10. Be Willing To Bargain

Most garage sale shoppers are looking for steals and deals. Price your items so that you have a little wiggle room when they ask if you're willing to "go lower." Be friendly, and be available to answer questions. Customers are more likely to buy if you seem trustworthy, and not like someone who's just trying to pawn off stuff that's going to break as soon as they get it home.

Another great tactic is to only bargain at the checkout. See what they've collected, and then instead of negotiating each item individually, tell them what you're willing to take for the whole pile. (If you offer to throw in something extra, they're very likely to take you up on your offer, and you're more likely to have an empty garage at the end of the day!)

Extra Garage Sale Tips

  • Be prepared with plenty of change and small bills.
  • Keep your money in your sight at all times.
  • Stockpile plastic grocery bags so you can offer bags with purchases.
  • Check local laws about placement of yard sale signs.
  • Don't hold your sale on a holiday weekend.
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Guest's picture

Thanks for the tips! Mrs. SPF and I are going to try our first every garage sale this summer and we hope to get the street involved!

Guest's picture

My best tip is to look ahead as to when the bigger sales such as those hosted by churches or senior centers, or an estate sale, or an official neighborhood association sale is taking place in your part of town. Southeast Michigan also has a garage sale genre called Mom 2 Mom that is only "kids stuff." If that's common in your community, look for those announcements.

Then schedule your sale the same day that a bigger sale will be in your neighborhood.

Reason: Some of us aim our time and attention to the multi-family or church sales. But if there is a single family sale near the big sale, then I may stop by to see what they are selling.