One of the simplest ways to turn clutter into cash is by having a garage sale. Whether you call it a yard sale, rummage sale, moving sale, tag sale, or any other regional name, inviting people onto your property to buy items you don’t want is an American tradition!
Depending on what you have to sell, you could turn a good profit for one or two days of work. But if you don’t know what you’re doing, it could end up being a bigger headache than you ever imagined! Some careful planning and a few tried-and-tested tips can help you have a successful garage sale.
1. Decide What to Sell
Some people are actually in the business of having yard sales. They purchase from discount warehouses, closeouts, and even the inventory from other yard sale operators to get their sale items. But if you’re planning your first garage sale, it’s probably because you already have some items that you no longer want or need. Fortunately, there’s virtually no limit to the types of items you can sell.
A good way to come up with a stash of items is to clean out your garage. That’s probably where you put all the things you don’t plan to use again very soon, if ever! Instead of donating clothes you or your family members can’t wear, mark them for sale. You can still donate anything that’s left over. If your garage sale is successful enough, you might even decide to save it for the next one.
2. Pick a Date
Most people have yard sales on the weekends, but you can extend yours to include Friday and/or Sunday if time permits. You need to plan at least two weeks in advance to get ahead of the advertisements. There are lots of people who shop yard sales regularly. They plot their route by looking at the various sales listed in their neighborhoods. Of course, planning that far ahead makes it more difficult to predict the weather. If you have access to tents, they can provide shelter from rain and from excess heat.
Placing an ad in a major newspaper can be expensive and less effective than a small, local flyer or trade magazine. The best way to find the best venue for advertising is to look for similar ads. Pros who have lots of experience know where to advertise to reach the greatest audience.
You don’t want to add too much detail if you’re paying per word, but you do want to call attention to your best items. Give detailed descriptions of a couple of your best items. For example, ‘girls size 10 and 12 clothes’ or ‘dining room furniture.’ Include your address and whether the sale will be cancelled if it rains or ‘rain or shine.’ If your customers show up expecting a yard sale only to be met by an empty yard, the probably won’t give you a second chance.
Also include the time you want the yard sale to start. Set it for an hour later than you really want people to show up. For example, if you want to get started by 7am, set the starting time at 8am. Why? Because there are always regulars who show up early to ‘get a look’ before anyone else can. It’s really hard to keep an eye on people who are going through your things while you try to get everything in place.
Consider putting out some fliers and advertise online too. There are multiple sites where you can post your sale for free including Craigslist, Yard Hopper, and Yard Sale Search. Don’t forget to advertise on social media, too. Your contacts might be some of your most enthusiastic customers.
Make your ad in Word or Notepad and save it on your computer. All you have to do is copy and paste on each site to save you time and avoid the risk of leaving something out.
4. Check Out the Local Garage Sale Laws
Some areas pretty much give you free reign on when you can and can’t have a yard sale. Others are not quite so generous. For example, Los Angeles residents aren’t permitted to have sales on Monday through Friday and, in some areas, only on the last full weekend of the month. You don’t have to get a permit unless you have more than two yard sales within a twelve month period. Find out about the city ordinances before you set your sale for a date that isn’t permitted.
5. Make or Buy Yard Sale Signs
If your local laws allow you to use signs, they also dictate when and where you can put them. If you can use them, put the address on them and use arrows to point visitors in the right direction. Don’t forget the signs at the end of your drive. Don’t leave drivers going by to guess whether it’s a garage sale or something else.
6. Recruit a Friend
For one thing, it makes your day go by much easier. For another, you need someone to help with security while you are helping with other customers. Most people who come to your garage sale are honest and just looking for a great find. It’s the occasional exception to the rule that could ruin your chances at success. There are people who know how easy it is to get away with stealing at a yard sale. They don’t have to contend with locked cases or security cameras. When they work in pairs, one will get your attention on something while the other one gets the goods. When there’s two of you, it’s harder for them to get away with stealing.
You’re also going to need restroom breaks, food, and drinks. You need someone else to hold down the fort when you have to leave.
7. Get Your Supplies
Hopefully, you already have a stash of empty bags you’ve saved from the grocery store. You’ll also need some boxes and newspaper to box up breakable items. Get a stack of one dollar bills from the bank, along with several fives. You’ll also need some quarters for small items that have a low price tag.
Get comfortable chairs for you and your helpers to sit in. Fold up chairs are great for this since they’re easy to move around. Buy a ‘belly bag’ to keep your money close to you. This makes it easy to make change and keeps potential thieves from getting hold of your money.
Think about the best way to display items you have for sale. Clothing usually does better when you hang it. If you don’t have any portable racks, consider running a ‘clothes line’ to hang them on. Do you have a table for any breakable items? Cinder blocks and a piece of plywood can do in a pinch.
Small, valuable items are more challenging. These are the easiest for shoplifters to stick in their pockets and walk away. If you have a glass case to put items like jewelry in, you can display it safely close to where you are sitting. If you don’t, consider putting a sign out that says you have those items for sale. This way, you can bring it out for those who are interested and keep it close.
8. Price Your Items
Buy colorful stickers to place on items that won’t easily peel off. Customers can remove them with water after they purchase them and take them home. If you aren’t sure what items are worth, look them up online. eBay is a good resource if you know how to use it. Don’t look at the price that sellers have on current items. Look at prices they’ve already sold for. This gives you a more realistic idea of how much people will pay.
Put the price you want for items. Everyone doesn’t like to haggle. If you over-price, you’re going to keep some customers from buying. And don’t accept the first offer you get on a higher priced item. If it hasn’t sold after several hours, then you can consider taking less. Although the first interested customer isn’t willing to pay your price, the next one might be.
Look items over carefully. Make sure they have all their parts and don’t have any damage. Clean items to make them look their best. Determine what looks new, what is gently worn, and those with obvious signs of wear. Pricing it before the sale will keep you from having to evaluate everything when a customer asks the price. It can also encourage some buyers who might not ask the price otherwise.
9. Set It Up
Start setting up at least an hour before your starting time. Group like items together to make it easier for interested customers to find what they’re looking for. Try to avoid leaving items in boxes. Everyone doesn’t like to dig for bargains. Most prefer to see it displayed, even if that means laying it across a table.
If you plan to sell electronics, have an extension cord where you can give items a try. No one wants to buy something that might not work when there’s no guarantee.
10. Keep It Safe
Garage sales aren’t typically thought of as dangerous, but it’s always a good idea to take some safety precautions. After all, you are inviting a bunch of strangers to your home. You might be tempted to leave the garage door open during the sale to provide yourself with a shady place to sit. Keep in mind that the garage is a point of entry into your home.
If your garage door isn’t working properly, have it repaired before the day of your sale. Keep the garage door closed at all times, starting the night before. Sometimes enthusiasts think your advertisements gives them carte blanche to come inside your garage whenever they want. During the sale, it’s even more important to keep your home secure. You might think you’d notice if someone tried to sneak in but it only takes a few seconds for someone to get inside.
The same is true for the rest of the doors. Lock every door and put the key in your pocket. Only go inside when there’s no one around and when you have someone else watching your items. Consider keeping a cooler with water outside to reduce the number of trips you make indoors. If it’s hot, you need to stay hydrated anyway. Again, the possibility of someone trying to get inside your home is very small. But any risk at all is too much to ignore.
Never let a customer go into your home to use the restroom, no matter how desperate they sound. It’s hard enough to keep everything outside safe from thieves. The last thing you want to do is give them access to what’s inside your home.
Keep your cell phone charged and with you at all times. If you run into any kind of trouble, you don’t have to go inside to make a call. You might need to call a neighbor for a restroom break, order a pizza, or get help with an unruly customer. It’s always better to be prepared.
Pay attention to any kids visiting your garage sale. Parents sometimes get distracted while looking for bargains, leaving kids to wander off and see what they can find. Politely ask kids to stay within close proximity to their parents and try not to let them get into trouble. Remember, if they get hurt on your property, you could be liable for their injuries. Something as simple as the garage door can be dangerous if it isn’t something they know how to use.
Your garage door is an important part of the security that keeps your home and your family safe from intruders. Contact Coastal Garage Doors for all of your garage door needs. We offer same-day service to help get your garage door in working order faster. Call us for a complimentary quote or set up a consultation in person. We have solutions for all of your garage door needs.