By Jacqueline G. Goodwin, Ed.D.
Your house is full of all sorts of items you’ve collected over the years. Many of them you haven’t used in decades. Your attic contains more stuff and so does your basement, not to mention the storage area you rent monthly. Perhaps it’s time to purge the items you don’t want that no longer “spark joy.” How about holding a yard sale? Spring is the perfect time of the year to hold one.
Preparing for Your Sale
Start by sorting through items that you no longer want. Be realistic and discard items that are chipped, broken, and don’t work. Remember the rule: Don’t sell anything that you wouldn’t buy yourself.
“Clean your stuff up. No one wants to buy dirty stuff,” says Susan Neibich. “Display DVDs, books, and games with titles displayed.”
Be realistic about what you’ll charge for each item. Yard sale shoppers are looking for cheap items. They usually have a set budget and probably won’t spend more than $25 total as they go from yard sale to yard sale. For them, going to yard sales is a cheap form of entertainment.
“You should lower your price so you can get rid of everything that you want to sell so you don’t have to haul it back into your home. You’re trying to get rid of items, and at the same time make money, but you have to make your prices reasonable so people will take your items off your hands,” says Erica White.
Aleta Romeo McCormick agrees. “Don’t charge too much for items!” she says. However, Fred Farris says he prices items a little higher so shoppers can negotiate. “I think they enjoy the haggling,” he says.
“The object of a yard sale is to unload things you don’t need,” says Tom Lange. “Be ready to drop the price to sell. If someone shows interest and you let them get away, shame on you.”
“Start out knowing that money isn’t an important part of the experience. Might as well charge one price per bag full. If you’re selling, consider your ‘stuff’ already gone and get over its value,” says Marty Miller. “The only reason for a yard sale is to eliminate having to stuff your stuff in your car for a trip to a non-profit second-hand store where they might turn you away.”
If you’re selling antiques or collectibles, remember that your customers have already checked eBay and other internet sites to find out what an item is worth. And remember that antique dealers use yard sales to find new inventory. They aren’t going to pay what an item is worth because they need to double the amount to make a profit. Make it worth their effort to buy.
“Be careful that you know the value of everything you have to sell,” says Debbie Mason, a veteran yard sale shopper. “I know a woman that picked up a box of costume jewelry at a yard sale and found a 14k necklace with semi-precious stones. She bought it and later found out it was worth about $500.”
You will sell more items if shoppers know what the asking price is. Use removable stickers and tags so as not to damage what you’re selling and use index cards to write out explanations or information about items that have a history.
“I bought a tag holder for clothes and it has made it so much easier on anything that is cloth,” says Linda Salek.
If you have lots of little miscellaneous items, consider creating box “lots” by filling various sized boxes with similar items. For example, put a bunch of small kitchen utensils in a box and sell it for one price. You can also fill boxes with books-hardbacks in one, paperbacks in another-and sell them for one box price. Create signs for like items, such as “Shoes-$3″ or “All Stuffed Animals – 50 cents each.”
“I also have a box of $1 items near the front of the yard sale where shoppers enter to get them in the mood,” adds Salek.
The best day for a yard sale is Saturday.
Advertising Your Sale
It used to be that newspaper classified ads were your best promotional device. Today, social media is where it’s at. Promote your sale on your Facebook Page and check the Internet for sites where you can post a free ad. Many towns and cities have calendars on their sites. Make sure you give clear directions, especially if your house is hard to find. Give a rain date or specify “rain or shine” if you can sell from a porch or garage. Add “no early birds” and “cash only” if you really mean it.
Don’t forget to put directional signs in your neighborhood at the intersections of the nearest main road. But check with your town or township to make sure it isn’t against the law to do so. Use bold lettering that can easily be read by people in passing cars, and don’t forget to put an arrow pointing toward your home.
Your items will look and sell better if they look nice. Even older items look and sell better if they’ve been cleaned up. Dust or wash everything. Dusty furniture, sticky glassware, and stinky, stained clothing scream of neglect. Clean, well-tended pieces appear more valuable. Spritz old coats, draperies and curtains, and upholstered furniture with something to get rid of the musty smell if they’ve been in storage. Make antique wood furniture shine with a fresh coat of wax.
The better your items look the more money you can get. Put like items together in tabletop “vignettes” to encourage multiple purchases. For instance, place garden tools with flowerpots, kitchen utensils with cookbooks and kids’ toys with kids’ furniture.
Attractive displays sell items. Place covers over your tables. Use old sheets or tablecloths. If you have a lot of glassware and light-colored china, use dark fabrics to show them off.
Use your tables for breakables and higher-priced items. Avoid placing items on a blanket or tarp on the ground. They’re hard for customers to access. Make it as easy for your customers as possible. If you’re selling clothing, buy or borrow a rolling clothes rack and put garments on hangers. They’ll be neater and sell better.
Have a mirror propped nearby if you’re selling wearables, as well as a yardstick and tape measure for measuring things. It’s a good idea to have a plugged-in extension cord or power strip for testing appliances. Have plastic bags available and a few sturdy boxes and old newspapers for wrapping breakables.
Mark chipped or broken items “as is,” and don’t try to hide flaws with price tags. And don’t say something works when it doesn’t.
If a buyer asks that for an item to be held due to lack of cash or need for a larger vehicle, offer to hold it for no longer than an hour, or request payment up front.
“Make sure you have lots of change,” says Susan Neibich. “Ones, fives and tens plus a roll of quarters, because buyers often come with $20 bills from ATM machines and often times you’ll have to make change.”
To Each His Own
Keep in mind that not all folks are looking for the same items. Some shoppers are looking for antiques, others for vintage items and still others are after modern items that they can use at the moment.
“I will near wreck my car swerving in for what looks to me like a good yard sale,” says Valerie Hubbard. “Vintage items catch my eye. If I see any baby stuff or toys I drive by.”
Don’t be discouraged if all of your items don’t sell. But don’t take any item back into your house at the end of the sale.
“When your sale is over, immediately take unsold items to a donation center,” says Judith Razvillas. “Take your leftover yard sale items to the charity of your choice and donate them.”
Wanda Swanson agrees. “I price to sell,” Swanson says. “Then after a few hours I practically give it away. End of day what doesn’t sell goes to the curb. A guy drives by with a big truck and takes it away. For me it’s not about making money. It’s about hoping my stuff goes to people who can use it.”
Finally, be sure to take down all signs and any promotional flyers.
While some folks relish getting up early on Saturday mornings to look for a bargain, others are turning to more innovative ways to find bargains from the comfort of their own homes.
“If you don’t have a lot to sell or a location that isn’t well traveled you can do the new online “yard or garage sale,” says JoAnn Hunt Salyer.
Facebook makes it easy to find their online yard or garage sales, by putting all listings on Facebook Marketplace. When you visit, you’ll automatically see a bunch of listings based on your location. And it’s just as easy to host a Facebook garage sale as it is to shop at one.
Nextdoor.com is a similarly simple way to show your neighborhood what you’re selling. Of course, Craigslist is the old standby that still produces results.
There’s also a variety of apps used in conjunction with your smartphone.
No matter which app, site, or virtual marketplace you end up using, the rules for exchanging your stuff for cash are always the same: Always insist on meeting in a public place, for safety, and never take checks. Seasoned local sellers will tell you that the parking lot of your local police station is a great place to make a sale. And if you don’t feel like messing with paper money, an app like Square Cash can take payments directly, with an added layer of security and peace of mind. 7