My Best Garage Sale Tips

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After taking my grandmother around to hundreds of garage sales when I was a teen, I began having sales when I was married. Here are some of my tips:

Setting Up

Great signage is one of the single most important factors that can make a sale a success! Not just a good sign, but lots of good and accurate signs with arrows at all possible points. Write them on bright colored poster board or glue this onto weighted boxes at the most strategic points; corners, intersections, and medians (if not illegal where you live). Without breaking the law, there are ways to get around it if you cannot "attach" to a telephone or public utility pole, or if a land owner thinks they own past a sidewalk to the street. Get permission from an owner before placing a box at their corner, home or retail location. Have the garage sale on the weekend, Friday to Saturday, then possibly Sun, 1:00 PM to dark, is a good way to avoid problems.

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  1. Make the sign with a wide tip permanent marker in dark large lettering.

  2. Cover the lettering/sign with clear plastic and tape in case of rain.

  3. Well in advance of the sale, drive the area and study where the traffic flow/reasonable eye-sight and distance from stopped traffic and from the ongoing traffic view is. Giving the potential buyer about three car lengths to see and assimilate the sign info is critical. The good thing about using a mid sized box with a large rock to weight it down is that it is not likely to blow over, nor is a disgruntled buyer as likely to knock down your sign or steal it outright, as was my experience one year.

  4. The morning of the sale, put your cash box and signs in your car and drive to put them out, before your sale begins. I find that hours complicate things, so I recommend describing exactly where it will be in the title: use, yard sale, garage sale, driveway sale, patio sale, lawn sale, sidewalk sale, or neighborhood, church, or private sale, helps the buyer to prepare and to look for the location without such stress. You may know where you live, but they do not. You are trying to draw them in, not keep them away, right? Use correct arrows to help them. Do not use a sign with the arrow in the wrong direction. Take a hammer if using a sign, and plenty of medium rocks, if using boxes. Plan no more than you can carry in one or two trips.

Dress well when you place them out, because some buyers will see you right away as you are placing the boxes. Have some adult at your home while you are gone, because you cannot beat the first buyers from the first box/directions, back to your home. Have your cars placed in front of your home, out of the way in your driveway, and if necessary, use the car to place a "Sale Here" box on top of the car, for those to see from a distance who are near and driving up wondering where your sale is. I will not shop a sale that has no prices on the items. I use a roll of narrow masking tape and write the price/short description on every single item the week/day/night before. I will not shop a messy, dirty sale, with things thrown all over the grass with no care. Take the time to use whatever you have to display items in some reasonable order to make your sale, "buyer friendly". I tend to think a seller is sizing me up in order to judge what I might be able to pay, and am offended and not likely to buy anything at all. Remember that your sale is not the only one in the city. Your things may not be as important to others as they are/were to you. You're not a retail store, nor are your things always another man's treasures. In fact, most things are truly junk, not treasures, I believe. In the heat of the summer, place the sale under the shade of a tree or set up patio umbrellas, or an inexpensive canopy. If cold, have it inside a warm garage, or defer to spring/summer/fall.

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Pricing And Selling

The rule of thumb is to price about 10% of the original value of the item, unless new, then you can double it, or take "offers" and the chance on whether they want it or not. When using masking tape or labels for prices, attach them to the inside of lapels, underside of collars, and not on any outside area, because the sun can melt some of the adhesive to fabrics or plastic. Another way to price is to have a large well placed/written poster near the cashier area with summaries: dresses $____, blouses/shirts $_____, shoes/bags/hats $ _____, furniture as marked. Remembering that in most cities, there are limits to the number of days one can have a sale in their home. Ours is three days, three times a year, I believe. I forget from year to year, and suggest that you check. Regardless, keep in mind that you only have a few days to make the sale and move your things out of your way for some price. Put enough thought into it that you decide in advance, not at the sale, what is your minimum price, because most want to "bargain" for the lowest price, usually asking, "Will you take $________for this and this?" Choose found/used doors covered in table cloths for sale tables on top of lawn chairs, smaller tables, TV trays, tire stacks, boxes, etc. Try not to sell too much at a time. It's confusing and messy. If it is your first sale, be very careful because you may not know the value of your belongings passed down to you from relatives. I lost precious items this way, only regretting it later. Get books from the library about what is more valuable at a sale. Remember that collectors buy one at a time, usually, and go to other sales to get familiar with pricing in your area. Do not keep a cash box in full sight, but rather use a fanny pack around your tummy and keep it zipped up and in front of you, keeping a sharp eye and feel on it at all times. I have had two cash boxes stolen off a table next to me at sales. Keep a calculator handy inside your fanny pack rather than to rely upon your scrambled memory at the moment. Keep whatever large bill an individual has given you in between three fingers of one hand, while you give/count change with the other, so there is no misunderstanding about the correct change. Remember that you cannot deplete your only change (starting with about $25 at the beginning of the sale, in mixed bills/change of quarters only). Also, in this day and time, with so much crime/poverty rampant, watch children who walk out with things in their hands, watch adults who wear jackets/hats, and groups where one tries to keep you engaged in questions while the others steal. This happened to me several times. Do not have two cashiers. Thieves will get a price for something or two from you, pick up a third or fourth and walk to the other cashier saying that you said, $____. The second cashier will shout the price out to you and you will not realize it was not just for the items you quoted, and cannot see the extra items in the buyer's hand(s). Save and use every possible bag you have so that everything gets bagged as they leave the sale. This way, if someone carries something out in their hand, you can more easily see it. Always have at least one other adult as a helper/substitute for when you need to take a short break for any reason. Two more helpers is even better, so that one can always watch for thieves.

Organization

I like a sale that divides men/women/children/ family/infant areas, to make my shopping easier, friendlier. Also, do not set your prices too high, and do not reduce your asking price too much, to avoid those who want something for nothing. Save that for the very last hour of your sale, and you will have to bargain, often time for the whole remaining lot, at a price. When selling clothes, wash, fold, stack/hang them, to get the best prices. Good toys need to be near the check out table and off the ground. Tough, more used child-proof toys can go on the ground for testing by a child. If selling hats/shoes, become totally familiar with them and have helpers to watch buyers head, feet, hands, arms, purses and signaling to one another. There are many scams and opportunists today that frequent all sorts of sales to rip folks off. There are also some very kind, honest buyers, but a few only appear to be when, in fact, are "dealers in disguise" who are buying your item as cheap as they can talk you down for, only to sell it for a huge profit. These often buy a lot of merchandise and use the excuse "since I am buying so much, will you take $____ for them all?" Seldom is it a bargain for you, unless it's the end of the sale and you really want to move the merchandise and not have to store it. I have "given away" items rather than have to store them, so the bottom line is yours. Once you make a decision, don't look back with regret, let it go and relax, you've got a garage sale to clean up. Another kind of garage sale that I benefitted from was one with all "giveaway prices". This was a Christian family who would have just donated good items to charity, but decided to ask a little something and enjoy seeing who got what. It was a god-send for me when I needed clothing for cheap, because I had almost no money. I got whole outfits for $.50/1.00. The elderly need and appreciate low low prices, as well. If you have sales regularly, as some in our area do, all rules are different, prices are usually fixed, and there's less negotiations. But when you see lots of dust and rusty junk, you can know that it's not a true garage sale, but is likely just someone who perhaps has sales for a living.

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Be Honest

Don't sell anything that's booby-trapped, damaged, broken beyond repair, rotten, or contaminated without telling the buyer about it. Do unto them as you would have them to do unto you: the Golden Rule. Be honest with yourself, asking, "are my things out of style, coming back into style, or all worn out?" Price accordingly. Listen to what a buyer is saying, especially if more than one says something. If no one is buying, either your prices are too high, your products too bad, your signs are gone/moved, or you may have something negative in the sale area, such as wrong music, eating during the sale in front of the buyers, your animals/children under foot, some unpleasant odor in the air, or something broken and obviously not worth the price. I prefer electronic items to be together, tools to be together, and toys to be together. Have as little as possible out that is not for sale. Sold" signs on items is OK, but not too many. I like having a table from which to buy a good cold canned drink for $1.00, And perhaps a packaged healthy snack. Watch the ground on which you have your sale. Keep it clean, clear, and safe, so that buyers are welcomed, not soiled or sorry.

Smile And Welcome Everyone

You have taken the time to sell on little sleep and short patience with the disarray of your belongings or someone elses. Be patient. Take a multivitamin for your nerves, or have a cup of coffee before the buyers arrive. Don't chit-chat on the phone while you have buyers. Be interested in them, but give them plenty of time/space to think and shop. They'll be able to buy more, if they want what you have. Walk around, sit little. Keep your eyes open. Act kind but firm. Wear a bright colored shirt/blouse so that helpers can tell inquirers who to pay. I play gentle Christian music at my sales, because I believe it draws honest folks, disarms/discourages thieves, and blesses all who hear. I watch the weather and plan accordingly, with plastic ready and available, plans for moving items in case of downpour/high wind/night time. I never leave my items outside for the next day, unless there is too much junk i'd just as soon someone steal. With every purchase, I appreciate getting a "thank you, i hope you enjoy that!", it helps in case the person might tell someone else about your sale. Also, should you have address labels to spare, keep them handy for anyone who might need to return or send another there. Don't give them out for no good reason. Have a sign that says, "all sales final" or "we cannot guarantee used items. Choose wisely and please handle carefully. If you buy or break it, you own it." One of my most favorite signs is just outside of the buying area/fence. On a child's art easel, "Thanks for coming. God bless you." seen as the buyer leaves, and "Welcome. Come on in!" on the side seen as they come in.

Helpful Hints

Never talk to others or your helpers about how much you have made in your sale. Never lie about something. If you don't know, just say that. If you do, tell the truth, the buyer might want it anyway. Take the condition of an item into consideration as you price/bargain, and remember how much time you have left in the sale, unless you like storing leftover items for the next sale. During one of your breaks, empty your cash/fanny pack into a private place in your locked home. If you are robbed or held up, the loss will not be as great. Keep only the bare minimum and accept no very large bills for small purchases, suggesting that there is a store nearby where they can get change for it. Do not deplete your change, unless the sale of the century for a big profit. Do not try to babysit during the sale. Pick up your boxes every single PM To assure yourself of having them for morning. Good luck and God bless you! I believe the most important things to remember are: good signage, greatest locations, price all items fairly, keep it clean, stay alert, and have pleasing music playing. By Lynda from TX

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June 28, 20070 found this helpful

thank you for the tips I am holding my first yard sale this weekend. So these came at just the right time Thanx

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July 16, 20070 found this helpful

This was excellent. The only thing I would add is to take all the signs down afterward. It is so horrible to drive around looking and never find the sale. You give excellent advice.

great tips for all.

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July 20, 20070 found this helpful

wow this info was very useful

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August 17, 20070 found this helpful

Once I started reading I couldn't stop. It was great info, filled with great advice and extremely entertaining. It made me laugh, and I even had a mental picture of what was being described. You should write a paperback filled with details and even some amusing stories. Like, I found a Lois Vutton (I'm not sure that's the proper spelling). In any event, as I picked it up a lady snatched it from my hand! She yelled "excuse me as she snatched it", I replied EXCUSAME! I ended up buying it for $10, it is my lunchbag and I can't tell you how many compliments I receive on that bag everytime I come to work!

With regards,

Julia

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September 21, 20070 found this helpful

Thank You for your article. In frustration I was about to quit-until I found your tips. I am upset now only because I spent too much time researching other sites, instead of yours. This is our first flea market/block party-the wrong chose of words! Again,thank you very much!

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October 18, 20070 found this helpful

this is the first time doing a garage sale for me. Thankyou for the helpful tips!! do you think you can make more on garage sales, or ebay??

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November 8, 20070 found this helpful

Excellent (and timely, we're having a sale Sat., lol) tips!

Thanks!

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November 8, 20070 found this helpful

try putting your signs for directions to your yard sale in reverse order. that way they do not see it and beat you there, because they do not know yet where they lead to. i did that way ours that was about 2 miles away from the main road with lots of intersections that needed marked. it worked great.

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May 7, 20080 found this helpful

Just wanted to say thanks for the great tips. We are having our first garage/estate sale this weekend and are short handed. Some of the tips will get us organized enough to pull it off. Thanks again!

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May 21, 20080 found this helpful

I hope everyone who has a yard sale takes your advice. I love going to sales and appreciate the people who take time with their signs. Don't you love the signs wrote on notebook paper (in pencil) or the curled up poster board, and my personal favorite....the signs left out since last summer! Thanks again

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June 26, 20080 found this helpful

I think your tips are great. We get many compliments on our yard sales, because everything is clean and organized.

Our signs are large and readable from a distance. Our prices are great. Always a success!

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June 30, 20080 found this helpful

My husband works for a sign company and we were able to get beautiful white corrugated plastic signs, with black lettering saying "Yard sale today" and red arrows, double sided. They use those metal stands that political signs use. They are great, weather proof, and easy to read. We can put them away each time for the next year. You can buy the plastic anf use stick on vinyl letters for the same effect.

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September 1, 20080 found this helpful

I have 2 garage sales a year and we go to lots of garage sales ourselves. It is such a good way to get rid of unwanted clothes, furniture, etc. But my pet peave is garage sale signs. People put up a sign on the main street with an arrow and that is all or the address is so small or so light you can't read it. we drive around and drive around sometimes never finding the sale or the sale ended and they haven't taken down the sign. That just isn't right!! Do your self and your customers a favor--make good signs that are readable-get back and see if you can read it-and please don't let your kids do it!! Then put arrows to direct customers to your house-I use sturdy boxes weighted with a brick because in my city you can't use poles. I have never had a problem with a lack of customers.

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November 19, 20080 found this helpful

This is my very first time posting anything on ThriftyFun; and I hope I receive some feedback.

All of the viewers tips are great ideas; but there's one suggestion that I did not see. Therefore, I will share a really, really handy hint with you. You will be amazed!

Here goes!!!!!

Instead of using a rope or clothesline for hanging your clothes that have been hung on hangers, I always use a DOG CHAIN!! You can then hang individual hangers into each link, which prevents them from all sliding together; and also, the chain will not sag, which prevents the clothes from dragging the ground, and becoming soiled. I have received so many compliments by using the dog chain!!

Another little tip is...Place a "NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ACCIDENTS" sign where it can be easily noticed. You'd be surprised the people out there who might like to come into some money by filing a lawsuit!! It takes all kinds to make the world spin (as bad as we hate to admit it)!

I've had so many yard sales myself, I honestly think I know just about every trick-of-the-trade, so to speak.

I always look forward to Spring and Summer months; but during the winter season, I become very depressed with no yard sales.

Happy Gallivanting, Selling and Purchasing!!! God bless.

~Earthly Angel Mom in KY

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November 16, 20090 found this helpful

Hi

Yup signs are always an issue. People put one sign up at the busy intersection and that's it. Well I can't stop to read all the writing on the sign right there on the busy street. More signs or arrows color coded, because there might be another sale near by and your sale might be missed because they followed the wrong sign. And if your having a neighborhood sale. Make sure everyone in the sale has a sign out front. Sometimes, I will miss one because there isn't a crowd at that sale or they don't have items in the driveway. Sometimes it's just hard to tell if they having a sale or not. Totally agree about pricing. I won't buy anything at a sale if things aren't priced. I won't even stay. If your having a sale, when you have a slow time, go around and check to see if all price tags are still on the items and straighten up. Neatness and clearly priced items adds up to more sales.

Here's big problem that drives me crazy. Take down your signs when the sale is over! If I see a sign I will turn to try to find it. However I might be wasting time and gas on a wild goose chase because the sale was over the weekend before!! So please take down your signs. Here's another one that I started seeing in the last few years. People putting up signs the week before why? As we are driving down the road we can't read address, start time and the date it might start!

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March 18, 20120 found this helpful

This advice is still timely and relevant. In fact, it's timeless. I couldn't have said anything better. If you follow most of the advice you will make twice as much as you would have trying to blindly host your first or second sale. Why not appear to be an expert? People appreciate good signage and professional behavior. Thieves will be less inclined to steal at your sale if you are vigilant, they will move on to those who are less informed. I didn't see it mentioned but a child selling baked goods and coffee will make an additional $40-$50 because treasure hunters get hungry.

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March 19, 20120 found this helpful

Great article. In addition to signs, it is a good idea to advertise the sale on Craigslist. Many buyers check craigslist before they leave the house to see where the garage sales will be that day. You can mention some of the better items that you have for sale in your ad. This will bring out buyers who are interested in that item.

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March 19, 20120 found this helpful

I have a few more tips. The past couple of years I have noticed 3 trends @ sales. The first is what we refer to as "the ebayers" These are the folks who have professional signs, a dozen of each item, brand new clothes with tags (obviously an overstock lot), tons of beanie babies and Mcdonald's toys and high price tags!

These are the folks who hold quarterly sales (sometimes more) to get rid of the items they can't sell on ebay, the auction house, etc. The storage bidders fall into this category too. No disrespect to these guys but they need to understand that Garage Sales are for bargains! That's the whole purpose! Most will not budge on the prices because they will just try again on ebay.

I don't care if its brand new, used, 19th century, etc...if the price isn't reasonable I'm not buying it! We can usually tell these sellers as we drive by, and we just keep going. Either lower your prices to Garage Sale standards or sell elsewhere.

A word of advice when negotiating... don't think aloud, ask your partner, etc if you could make more $ selling the item on ebay or that its worth $_ on ebay. I stop all bargaining and walk when a seller says that. Why are you selling it @ a garage sale then?

Trend #2 dealers. She mentioned this in the article, but I think it needs to be stated again. Watch out for dealers. They will not only low ball you, but they also will wipe you out! I don't know how many times I've pulled up to sale as truck packed full is leaving, and the seller remarks that the man or woman just bought half of their lot! These ppl will turn around and ebay or retail for huge profits. I've seen a few ads specifically stating No Dealers/Re Sellers Please. Trend

#3 Selling for acCause. I don't want to sound cruel here, so please don't take this the wrong way. A lot of people have started to have sales to fund certain charities, causes, mission trips, etc. There's nothing wrong with that. Its a great way to raise money and awareness. My issue is with the pressure @ some of these sales.

As a buyer, sometimes I feel obligated into buying. Its an uncomfortable feeling. Perhaps tone it down a notch. Sell baked goods or handmade items for said cause. Have a giving jar. And unfortunately, in these times, how do you know the $ is really going to said cause? Its sad to even write that, but it's the truth.

My other tip would be to try to organize clothes. There is nothing worse than having to squat it in the summer heat, going through piles of clothes, checking sizes and then having to find out how much they cost. Well...the box full of random clothes is worse. I walk right by.

Hope this helps both sellers and buyers! Happy hunting!

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