Wednesday, April 12, 2017

17 Tips For A Successful Garage Sale

I live in a gated community that is governed by a home owners association. The rules of the HOA prohibit garage sales except for one day a year. This is actually pretty nice, as a community-wide garage sale attracts many more people than a single family garage sale. It is also a nice opportunity to talk to your neighbors and generally hang out in your front yard and shoot the breeze with people.

Our yearly garage sale took place last Saturday, which was pretty convenient because we will be moving soon and we've got some stuff we'd like to get rid of. Here are some of the tips I’ve discovered running garage sales over the years.

  1. People show up early. Like, really early. Technically, our garage sale starts at 8 AM. We got people showing up as early as 6:30 AM.
  2. Treat garage sales as an opportunity to simplify and declutter your life, not make money. Your goal should be to unload all the crap you no longer want. Any money you make in the process is icing on the cake.
  3. People expect great deals at garage sales, so be prepared for them to negotiate prices on virtually everything you have for sale. Your main goal should be getting rid of stuff, not obtaining top dollar. If that’s what you want, use eBay or craigslist. I don’t think I’ve ever turned down a sale from someone who wanted a lower price (but I have negotiated a price between my original price and their initial offer).
  4. Don't lay stuff on the ground. No one wants to bend over to look at something. Use tables and display your stuff in a non-cluttered fashion. Don’t pile everything on one table and expect people to shift stuff around to see everything. Use several tables (borrow them, if you don’t have enough) and spread out your goods. Make it easy for people to see everything you have for sale.
  5. Set up the night before. Park your cars on the street the night before and set up your tables and displays in the garage. Then, the morning of the sale, just open your garage door and, if you want, move the tables out into your driveway. Leave plenty of room for people to walk around the tables.
  6. Be prepared to make change. The day before, visit the bank and get a bunch of one and five dollar bills and quarters. I try to price items in increments of a dollar or a quarter, just to make it easy to give change.
  7. Put a price tag on everything. The exception might be if you have a bunch of small items. Put these in a box and put a sign on the box saying “$0.25 each” or whatever your price is.
  8. If you don’t want it and were planning to throw it away, put it out for sale, even if you think it’s something no one would buy. People will buy anything and you never know what someone is looking for. If you put it out for sale and it sells, great! If it doesn’t, throw it out. There’s no loss to you since you were planning to throw it out anyway.
  9. Get one or two dozen donuts and put up a sign saying if someone buys X dollars worth of stuff, they can have a free donut. My grocery store sells fresh donuts for $0.30 each, so this is a cheap incentive for people to buy more.
  10. Don’t be afraid to break up sets. One time I was selling a twin mattress and box spring. Someone only wanted the mattress. I was hesitant to break up the set, but I decided to (mainly because mattresses are a pain to get rid of). I left the box spring up for sale and an hour later, someone bought it.
  11. If you are selling furniture or large items, some people may ask for you to hold it until they return with a vehicle to transport it. In this case, I require the buyer to pay at least 50%. I provide a receipt and on the receipt I write that I will hold the item until a certain time (later that day, usually). If they don’t pick it up by then, they lose their deposit and I can sell the item to someone else.
  12. You will get some strange requests from people. Every year, there is one guy that comes to my garage sale and hands me a business card  and says “You selling anything like this?” The business card says he is a gun collector. Not sure why he asks that way because it makes it seem like he’s doing something illegal. I don’t own any guns and I’m not knowledgeable about the laws for selling them, so maybe he is.
  13. Prepare for traffic, especially if there are multiple houses participating. Cars will cruise the street, trying to see what you have for sale. It’s probably best to keep small kids and pets inside the house or in an area where they can’t wander into traffic.
  14. Post details of your garage sale on one or two days before it happens. This is free advertising. If you have a lot of one type of item to sell, mention that. For example, if you have a lot of furniture or clothing for sale, be sure to say so. People looking for those items will make a point to visit your sale.
  15. Drop your prices near the end of the sale. When it gets down the last hour or so of your sale, cut the prices in half. You don’t need to re-label everything, but just tell people walking up that everything is half price.  Remember, your goal should be to get rid of stuff, not make top dollar.
  16. It helps to have two people manning the sale, but have one person be in charge of holding the money and making change. The other person can answer questions and keep an eye on things.
  17. Keep an eye out for people trying to steal things. I’ve never had this happen (to my knowledge), but if your sale is busy with a lot of people milling around, it might be tempting for someone to pocket an item or two.

Our garage sale went well this year. We made $407 and sold 70 of 95 items we put out. Not as good as last year, when we made just over $500, but we had a lot more stuff for sale then too.

I'm interested in hearing other people's experiences with running a garage sale. What are some tips you have?


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