1. Get the word out
Craigslist may be a go-to, but you should check out some different sites to spread the news, including GarageSaleHunter, YardSaleSearch, and GarageSaleFinder. As a reminder, repost your sale a week ahead and the day before.
Going the old-fashioned sign route? It pays to invest in a sturdy oak tag rather than lightweight construction paper for your sale signs—they’ll stand up better to the elements (wind, drizzle). But don’t post them to telephone poles or trees, as some city ordinances prohibit signage without a permit, warns Chris Heiska, creator of YardSaleQueen.com, in Lusby, MD. Instead, attach signs to wooden stakes and poke them into the ground the day before or early in the morning of the event.
2. Arrange for change
You need money to make money! Gather plenty of singles, five-dollar bills, and quarters—and don’t forget a calculator. If you’re selling big-ticket items like lawn equipment or sporting goods, have some larger bills on hand, too. Set up your till in an old lunch box, or wear an apron with a deep front pocket. Be ready to start selling on time—or even early. If your sale is slated to begin at 9 a.m., you might get a few early birds at 8:30 a.m., hoping for first pick.
3. Lure ’em in
Got a weed whacker, almost-new bike, or a full set of patio furniture? Place it right up front, either at the end of your driveway or on the lawn’s edge. This way, passers-by can easily see these larger things and may decide to pull over. Then set up the rest of your wares in an organized fashion. Arrange dishes and small items on folding tables, line up books with spines in the same direction, and hang clothes on a collapsible coat rack or clothesline strung between two trees.
4. Price it right
You’ll drive yourself bonkers if you try to slap a tiny sticker on every single thing you own. Instead, save time by grouping similar items together and then pricing the whole section, suggests Los Angeles–based expert organizer Jamie Novak, author of “Keep This Toss That.”
“For example, a table with books can have one sign that says hardcovers $1, paperbacks 50 cents,” she says. Clothes can go for $1 per piece, and so on.
Everything needs a price, however, so that you don’t end up fielding questions all day. But how much should you charge? Typically, items sold at garage and yard sales are set at a third up to a half of the price you paid for it new. You can also price items by the bundle (3 for $1, say) in order to get rid of multiples in one fell swoop.
5. Negotiate nicely
You want the stuff to disappear, so be reasonable when it comes to lowering prices. If you’re asking $5 and the offer is $3, it’s easy to say $4 and be done with it. Of course, there are times to stick to your guns. For example, if you know your practically new wheelbarrow is $65 at Home Depot, don’t be swayed by hagglers trying to offer you less when you’re already giving them a deal.
“If I’m hosting a sale and I know my prices are fair, I don’t like to haggle first thing in the morning,” Heiska says. Most of the time, very early buyers could be dealers (antiques store owners, eBay sellers) looking for bargains to mark up and sell for a profit, she notes. “So if someone wants to haggle right away, you could just say the prices are firm, but you may lower them later in the day.”
6. Offer drinks
It’s not a cocktail party, but if it’s a nice warm day, a cooler of sodas or water is a nice touch. At $1 a can, you might make a small profit on the beverages and you’ll entice people to hang around a little longer. And if your kids are in the right age range, let them sell cookies or brownies alongside the drinks. Putting out a trash can is a good idea, too, for cups, napkins, and other debris that tend to collect around sales.
7. Mark it down, or make it free
Remember, you don’t want to haul any of your stuff back into the house, so think about filling a big box labeled “free.” (We’re looking at you, mountain of stuffed animals—the same goes for those stacks of romance novels and piles of CDs.) Or spur sales by creating a “gift with purchase” table, suggests Novak.
“For every $25 spent, let the buyer pick an item for free, or wrap some up as ‘surprise gifts’ with purchase and let the buyer choose one,” Novak says. And as with the early birds you’ll have before your sale, you can probably expect folks toward the end of the event looking for last-minute bargains. Be prepared for this by slashing prices in the last hour or two.