Liz Weston, CFP®
A successful garage sale takes hours of preparation and a lot of hard work. The same thing happens with a failed sale. I have owned both types and can confidently say that the version that makes money is better.
If you’re ready to take advantage of warmer weather and the opportunity to declutter, consider these expertly curated tips (and bitter experience) for having a hot sale.
Determine your goals
First, consider whether a garage sale is the right method for your goals. Garage sales and their premiums (garage, estate, moving, and tag sales) can help you get rid of stuff and raise some cash. But you can’t expect to get the best price.
If making money is your priority and you have time to wait for buyers, consider offering your most valuable items elsewhere. Check out auction sites like eBay; apps including Letgo and OfferUp; platforms like Craigslist, Nextdoor or Facebook Marketplace; and consignment stores or even pawn shops.
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If you just want to get things out of your house, donating your unwanted goods is often the quickest and easiest option. (You’ll get a tax break for your donation only if you’re one of the few to itemize deductions.)
If your goals are relatively balanced (you want more space and more money, for several hours of work), a garage sale may be the best option.
Consider recruiting at least one other household who can contribute helpers and other items for your sale. Shoppers want to see a wide variety of products; There’s a reason so many garage sale ads use the title “Multi-Family Sale!” — and the whole experience is so much more fun with friends.
Tools, cookware, sporting goods and camping gear are often the biggest draws, says Chris Heiska, who has operated the yardsalequeen.com site since 1996. What doesn’t usually sell: Anything torn or badly stained . Outdated technology can be unpredictable. Our friends couldn’t find any buyers for his videotapes or his Princess phone. But vinyl records can be big sellers.
Expect to spend several hours collecting, sorting, and quoting your items. Price is essential: Many people won’t ask how much something costs, so you’ll lose sales if there’s no label, says Heiska. You can find suggested yard sale price lists online or check other sales in your area. When in doubt, Heiska suggests setting a price between a quarter and a third of what the new item costs. In some areas, the norm is usually 10% to 20% of the original cost.
“You have to think about your buyers,” says professional organizer Cyndi Seidler of Los Angeles, who manages property sales and moves for clients. “They don’t go into these things to pay retail prices.”
Pro Tip: Price as you go, so you’re not trying to get everything right before the crowd arrives. You can use tape and a Sharpie marker, but I spent $8 on a large package of pre-marked price stickers that I ordered online. Each of the three salespeople wore a different color, which made it easy to keep track of the day of the sale. We also got some change: quarters, singles, and some larger bills. How much we start with is a matter of dispute; I’ll get to that later.
Spread the word
Craigslist is a good place to list your sale for free, but it shouldn’t be the only place. That’s the mistake I made with the garage sale that flopped a few years ago, with few attendees and even fewer sales. One of those attendees explained that veteran buyers check out sites dedicated to yard and garage sales. (Search for “garage sales near me” to see which ones come up and offer free listings.)
This time, we advertise on some of those sites in addition to Craigslist, Nextdoor, and Facebook Marketplace. We also use some of our social media accounts to let local friends know about our sale. We also employ old-school signs: bright yellow yard sale signs tagged at a dollar store and duct-taped at various local intersections with the address, date, and time drawn large enough for you to see. they are easily seen by passing drivers.
We also made our sale “a shopping experience,” in Seidler’s words. That meant borrowing tables and coat racks from friends to keep things off the floor, grouping similar items together, and toward the end, creating item bundles and cutting prices. For example, we collected all the leftover craft supplies in a box and sold the lot for $5. (By this time of day, I no longer cared whose items were whose; I just wanted it all out of my driveway.)
Our five hour sale was amazing and raised over $600. As mentioned above, we don’t keep careful track of how much money we brought in at the sale, so how much we cleared is up for debate. We’ll pay more attention next time, because there will definitely be a next time.
This article was written by NerdWallet and originally published by The Associated Press.