by Christina Heiska
First and foremost, make sure you find out if there are any restrictions your neighborhood or local government may have on giving yard sales.
Prior to having your yard sale, make sure you check out the Wanted to Buy website, there may be a collector looking for exactly what you are selling!
Advertise it in the local newspaper, especially if where you live doesn't get a lot of traffic. If you are unsure of what to say in your ad, read some other ads and copy bits and pieces from them. I did something very cheap for my last yard sale. I waited until someone else in my neighborhood placed an ad in the paper, then held my own yard sale the same day. I just put up my own signs in the neighborhood. So the people going to the first yard sale came to mine as well.
Advertise your yard sale on the web for free!! There are two great places that I know of that have free yard sale ads. One is at Garage Sale Near U and the other is at Free Garage Sale I recommend putting your ad on BOTH places!! Although both places offer free garage sale ads, the second place also has free classifieds for everything else you can imagine.
You can also put up advertisements on bulletin boards in your community (grocery stores, community center, etc). Youíll also want to put up signs in your neighborhood the evening before your sale (or very early in the morning the day of your sale) directing them to your house. Drawing arrows on the signs helps. Use sturdy cardboard and make the sign legible. At one yard sale I went to, the woman had cut the signs in the shape of arrows - it was very easy to find her yard sale considering there were many turns involved. Using regular construction paper for signs is too flimsy, and trying to read magic marker from the road is hard. When I made signs, I saved up the lids of pizza boxes and used a Q-tip dipped in dark paint. It was very easy and quick to do (and no mess to clean up). After the signs are up, drive past them and see if you can read them easily, because if you canít, nobody else can either. And most importantly, after your sale is over, TAKE THE SIGNS DOWN.
Avoid putting your signs on utility poles. The staples and nails used to affix signs to the poles can pose a safety hazard to the linemen who have to climb the poles. Nails and staples can tear safety equipment such as gloves, harnesses and clothing (and hands, arms and legs too). Depending on where you live, you could even be breaking the law by attaching signs to utility poles. If your area allows it, affix signs to street signs or buy some inexpensive stakes and put your signs on those. Some communities have rules about affixing yard sale signs to street signs so make sure you follow the rules. I guess I should tell you that I think nailing signs to trees are a big no-no too! One suggestion I got was to buy the cheap wire landscaping fencing, cut sections apart, draw your sign on a paper bag and put the paper bag over the fence and staple bag closed at bottom.
Months before your yard sale, start accumulating the items you want to sell. Put all the items in a box in some out-of-the-way place. If you donít have to retrieve an item out of the box before the sale, it's probably safe to assume you donít need it and can sell it. If you still have the original boxes and instruction manuals for an item, you can probably charge a little bit more for it.
As you accumulate stuff for your sale, make sure you do not sell something that you'll regret later. Do not sell anything without the owner's approval. (Example: your grown children's old toys, baseball card collections, etc.) I hate reading the ads in the yard sale section of the newspaper that say "will the person who bought the widget this past Saturday on Maple Street, please call ...., it was sold by mistake, has sentimental value."
I like yard sales where people have put prices on everything. The price should be on top of an item, not on the bottom. I know itís a lot of work, but worth it because you wonít have people asking every two minutes, "how much do you want for this?" As a general rule of thumb, price items about a third of what they would cost new. There are exceptions. Clothes are generally very poor sellers, unless itís baby/kids clothes. But if you price adult-sized clothes cheap enough, it will sell regardless. I recommend taking some of your "nicer" clothes to consignment stores, rather than trying to sell them at a yard sale. A rule on price: you can always go down on a price, but you can never go back up. If you donít have time to price everything individually, signs are helpful, such as "all books .25 each" or "any piece of clothes $1.00", or "anything on this table .50". You also can offer the customers a deal, example: paperbacks .25 each or 5 for $1.
Display some of your more interesting items at the end of your driveway to act as a magnet to lure people in (see next tip). Some people will just drive by slowly and take a quick look to determine if it looks worthwhile to stop.
A tip from a reader: ever notice how hard a woman has to work to convince a man to stop at a yard sale? To solve this, set out an old lawn mower or power tools out front in plain view of the road, and you'll get more business! It's also smart to set up a small table with nothing but "man-things" (jars full of screws and nails, electronic parts, tools and parts of tools, etc.). This gives the men something to immerse themselves in while the women find all the real treasures.
I've been to so many yard sales where items are not marked. When Iíve asked the seller how much they want for a particular item, many times they respond, "I donít know, how about .50 or .25?" No buyer in their right mind will say, "yeah, I want to pay the higher price.& The better way would be for the seller to answer, "How about .50?" Then if the customer puts the item back, then say "or how about .25?"
One of my pet peeves....I hate it when I'm looking at something and the person will say "Oh that is new" and its obviously not.
Your yard sale will be more successful if you take the time and make sure everything is clean and shiny and displayed nicely. Ask friends/neighbors to loan you portable tables if necessary. Nothing worse than going to a yard sale and just seeing boxes of dirty, unorganized cobwebbed junk on the ground expecting people to fish through it. Sometimes the sellers are just sitting there having their coffee doing nothing. These people probably wonder why they never have successful yard sales.
If you are trying to sell a bunch of old kitchen utensils, rubber-band the knives up so people don't get cut.
Another safety hazard, this is a little weird, but I saw it happen. If it's a hot sunny day and you are trying to sell a mirror - be careful what the mirror gets reflected on. At one yard sale I was at, the reflection caused a nearby cardboard box to catch on fire!
Make sure any item you donít want to sell is put away. If you donít, that will be the one item the buyer wants. At one of my yard sales, a customer was adamant about wanting to buy my kitchen table which was not for sale. I was just using it as a table to display items. I had even placed a tablecloth over it. Then someone else wanted to buy the tablecloth. Sometimes you just canít win!
During your sale, keep busy by filling in the empty spots on your tables by rearranging your stuff. It's a good idea to keep your eyes on your customers, but don't STARE at them and make them uncomfortable. If nothing else, pretend to read a magazine or something.
GUARD YOUR MONEY! Have lots of coins and small bills available to make change. If you don't, your first customer will be a little old lady trying to buy .50 worth of stuff with a $20 bill. Do not leave your money laying around in a box. I recommend wearing a fanny pack because you'll always have your money with you. If you are running out of change, and someone is trying to haggle a price down, be willing to negotiate if the buyer has the exact change.
Here's a tip about making change: if someone hands you a large bill, and you need to give them change, leave the bill out until after you have given them their change. Otherwise, a dishonest person could say afterwards "I gave you a $20, not a $10". And it would be your word against theirs. I learned to do this when I was a cashier.
Have plastic grocery bags available to put sold items in. Its also a good idea to have some newspaper available to wrap breakable items. Having a calculator handy is helpful in totaling up purchases.
If you have children, keep them busy by setting up a lemonade or Koolaid stand. If it's a hot day, and Iíve been yardsaling all morning, I know I am always thirsty. They can also have a table of their own selling their old toys. Explain to them if they get rid of their old toys, theyíll make space to put the new toys that they buy themselves with the money they earn. If they agree to parting with their old toys, help them with the prices. At one yard sale, an 8 year old boy wanted $1 for a cheap little plastic dinosaur. No way!
If you are selling electrical appliances, have an electrical outlet handy or a long extension cord. I donít allow strangers in my house, either to try out appliances or try on clothes, etc. If they need to use a restroom, give them directions to the nearest fast-food restaurant.
If you have a ton of kids's clothes or small toys you are dying to get rid of, consider having a "fill a bag for a set price" kind of deal. Yardsailors love getting a good deal. I went to one yard sale that had a "fill a bag of clothes for $2" and another one that had "fill a lunchbag of small toys" for a nickel. If you do something like this, just make sure you have enough bags handy. (Just a comment, but WHY do parents continue to take their kids to McDonald's for a toy that they are only going to play with for two seconds??? I see tons of McDonald toys at yard sales. Ok, back to business....)
Don't assume everyone going to yard sales are fun and happy people. Just like in the real world, shop-lifters and shady characters go to yard sales too. My friend recently had some small items stolen at a yard sale. Nothing too valuable, just a book tucked into a purse, so she wasn't going to confront the person. But it could have been worse if she had left other more expensive small items like jewelry unattended. I donít want to scare you, I'm just trying to inform you. These people are few and far between so it shouldnít deter you from having a fun day having your own yard sale.
If possible, invite a neighbor or friend to join you in your yard sale. Its also cheaper to split the cost of the newspaper ad with someone. And the more stuff you have available to sell the better! Good luck and e-mail me if any of this helped you have a great yard sale (and of course give me the directions to yours if you live in Southern Maryland! :)
This article was reprinted with permission of the author.
Visit her website, Cheap Thrills: Garage Sale, Yard Sale Tips and Freebies
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