Yard Sale Tips

Tips on how to run your yard sale like a business to cash in on your cast-offs.

Garage sales, yard sales, patio sales or porch sales - whatever you call them -- you can be sure they are a uniquely American way to cash in on your cast-offs. "Yard sales are one place I find merchandise for resale," says Judy Calamia, a part-time collectible's dealer and yard sale professional. "Although they trail in popularity behind estate sales, rummage sales, auctions and flea markets as the dealer's choice to find goods, I never discount them."

Many enterprising people host annual sales - gathering bargain merchandise all year round from other sources. "It's a quick way to make anywhere from $500 to $1000 in one day," advises Calamia.

Treat your yard sale like a business for the most profit. Do this by being acquainted with the market, advertising, offering competitive prices and quality merchandise.

Here are thirteen tips to ensure your sale is profitable.

1. Take stock. Gather all your merchandise to make sure you should be hosting a sale in the first place. Garage sales take a lot of work and planning and if you only have a few items to sell, it may not be worth it. Clean out the basement, closets, drawers, garage, bookshelves and toy boxes. Sort through all your family's clothing. If no one has worn an item in a year, chances are it will never be worn. Go through kitchen cupboards and junk drawers - don't discount anything as saleable - people buy just about anything if the price is right. If you come up short on goods, you may want to ask friends and family if they'd like to donate or sell their useless items to increase your inventory. Try to gather an interesting mix of items to appeal to all yard sale aficionados.

2. Contact your municipal government to learn if you need a permit in order to have a garage sale. Ask about any ordinances regarding posting signs.

3. Select the date at least two to three weeks in advance to allow time to prepare. Saturday is the most popular day for sales followed by Sunday. Avoid dates that conflict with holiday weekends or special events. If possible, hold a two-day sale with Friday as the first day. Encourage return shoppers by posting a sign stating prices will be reduced the second day.

4. Advertise wisely and well. Place an ad in your local newspapers and post flyers on community bulletin boards, utility poles, church bulletins and anywhere else your imagination allows. Multiple ads equal increased traffic. Make your ad honest and highly descriptive. The costlier detailed ad will more than pay for itself. "I don't attend sales that merely state "˜yard sale' or "something for everyone," says Calamia. "I find ads that are short on description are also short on merchandise." Review other garage sale ads in your newspaper to see which ones you'd attend based on the description. An ad that says "Huge Yard Sale -- antiques, collectibles, book worm's treasure trove, colorful pottery collection, gently used infant clothing, maple crib, vintage toys, new toys, funky costume jewelry, gourmet kitchen gadgets, dishes, pots and pans" will draw more customers than the one that economizes on words. Be specific - if selling clothing, state the sizes. Don't forget to include the date, time and address. If your sale is hidden off the beaten track, help customers find it by including directions.

5. Consider asking neighbors to participate in their own garage sale on the same day. "Multi-family sales are a big draw for the dealer and consumers," advises Calamia. "The more goods a buyer has to choose from, the more attractive attending the sale will be."

6. Price your goods fairly. A general rule of thumb is to ask one-half of the retail cost of the item. But, if you really want your excess do-dads to stream out the door, price them cheap. Remember that your goal is to get rid of things you no longer want or need. If they don't sell them, you'll end up carting them off to the local thrift shop. Instead of pricing a myriad of twenty-five cent or fifty-cent goods, place these items in boxes with a sign stating the price. Ditto for books. Most people charge $1 for hardbacks and 50 cents for paperbacks. It may be helpful to attend other garage sales in your neighborhood before hosting yours to get a feel for pricing. Visit both early in the morning and later in the day to find out what sold and what didn't.

7. Place price stickers on all your merchandise. "I often go to sales where sellers are too lazy to price the goods. They lose customers because many people don't want to ask about the price," says Calamia.

8. Make it easy for customer to find your sale. Place large signs with arrows at local road intersections directing people to your house. Make sure the signs are clearly readable by people in passing cars. Many people fail to read the newspaper and only attend sales when they spot a "Yard Sale" sign. These "drive-by" customers can increase your sale's bottom line.

9. Prepare for "early birds." If your ad states the sale begins at 8 a.m., you'll have people arriving at seven or even the night before. They're usually dealers and they may be your biggest buyers. Don't discourage them.

10. Spread your cleaned, repaired goods out on cloth covered tables, blankets, and furniture organized in a comfortable traffic pattern so people won't be falling all over one another when viewing your merchandise. Hang clothing and linens on clothes racks or a clothesline. Group like goods together and make your displays attractive. Ladders are great for displaying pretty pottery, vases and glassware. Have electrical outlets available to test appliances and other electrical gadgets. If you use an extension cord, make sure it is sturdy and in excellent condition.

11. Have plenty of change (especially silver and small bills) on hand to break the large bills that customer will pay with. You may want to set up a card table with a locking cash box where you'll finalize sales or wear an apron with deep pockets. Have a supply of bags and boxes to wrap purchases.

12. Ask a friend or family member to help you during the first few hours of the sale when traffic will be heavy. Someone should act as a "spotter," watching closely for thieves - almost every sale attracts pilferers.

13. Relax and have fun. You'll meet many interesting people and make a huge chunk of change by selling your junk.

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