Mid-spring to mid-fall is the best time to have a yard sale
, so if you haven't had one already -- and you need some extra money -- you still have time. Go through your closets, garages, and junk drawers to see what you can sell. Maybe (like my father), you've collected too many old antique hooks and need to get rid of a few. Whatever you find; it's time to add some spare change to that empty coffee can by getting back to the basic art of selling your own things.
I'd always thought yard sales weren't worth the trouble -- especially with the introduction of ebay -- until I held one last summer and made more than $500. But to be successful, you will need to do some work. These are the three simple steps that work for me. They are, what I call, the three P's of a profitable yard sale!
Publicity, Presentation, and Pricing!
This is the most over looked, but most important part. You could have the best stuff in the world, but if no one knows about it, no one will come.
- Distribute pre-sale flyers featuring key items; post them on bulletin boards at locations like the grocery store, the local library, and your post office ... and stick them on mailboxes. You might find that one of your neighbors will buy something even before the sale.
- Place ads in local newspapers and circulars – If you have not written an ad before, here are some tips: Write quick-read, concise ads. Write when, where and what. Note key items such as antiques, toys or furniture. I did, and my unique children's furniture sold first thing ... with more than a few interested customers coming to check on those particular items.
- Online classified sites are great for pulling in buyers from outside your area. Mention as many items as you can to attract collectors and post two or three days before the when serious shoppers map out their shopping routes. Ads are free on Craigslist.com and Garagesalehunter.com; Garagesalegal.com charges a small fee of $4.99.
- Post "For Sale" signs and "Yard Sale" signs. Make large signs for your front yard and street corners. Keep your signage bold and bright, but readable, making letters at least 2-3" tall at a minimum. Black ink works well for information and colored markers for gaining general attention to signs. Also do not put too much information on a sign. Just include all pertinent information about the sale including: address, dates, times, and items sold (if it can fit.)
- Don't forget to invite friends, neighbors, family members, church members, sports teams, or parents of your childrens' playmates.
I can't tell you how many times I've been to a yard sale or garage sale and left not buying something simply because it was thrown in a box like it was going out in the trash. Make sure everything is clean.
- Start off by setting the scene: Have music playing, something fun and upbeat can set the tone for your customers. Included, I let my kids have a lemonade stand at the yard sale too. Not only did it make people feel more welcome, if they had a drink in their hand it made them stick around longer looking at items and my kids go to walk away with a few dollars too.
- As silly as it may seem, you should group your items by category, remember most shoppers come with particular items in mind. This also allows for an easy shopping experience and adds to the perceived value of the items.
- Place furniture near the entrance to the sale - items of scale seem to draw people in.
- If you are selling clothing, please have a rack or if you don't have one available stack clothes by size and type on tables. Placing items on the ground or mixed in a box forces customers to squat and discourages browsing. And, once a box filled with clothing is mixed and mingled you can be sure that no one will continue to go through it. I had my boys clothing marked by size and displayed nicely and found that people would take almost all the items in the size they needed. Also, if you are selling clothing , make sure it's stain free ... do yourself (and the shopper) a favor and throw out those items.
- Kids toys should be separated from the other items so that adults can shop without a bunch of little ones crowding in to see the toys. You might want to put the toys as far from the street as possible too, so that moms needn't worry about their kids safety while they shop.
- Have plastic bags (from the grocery store) handy for anyone clutching onto more than one item ... this will free them up to continue foraging through.
- Be prepared to do demonstrations. In terms of electronics, have batteries on-hand and electrical sockets nearby to show how things work. Also, include manuals if available. If you don't have the instructions, check the Internet, which may have some manuals for the bigger name-brands' products.
- Try to keep damaged items to a minimum. That said, there are shoppers who look to find items that they can get for a steal and fix up on their own. Just clearly mark any damaged items and label "as is," if you're unsure of how well an item works.
Once the item is out of the house, price it so that it does not come back in - and expect buyers to bargain.
- Mark all items clearly and try to use tags, it seems to add to the perceived value of each item and It also makes collecting the money easier. Use tags that will not damage sale item and try not to put stickers or labels on the item that leave a residue.
- Charging in dollar increments keeps making change from being such a pain. I usually price kids' clothing at $1 per item, $2 to $5 for jackets, and things like jewelry at three or four pieces for $1 or $2. Keep in mind you can really sell a lot of small items that are priced to sell. I easily sold 20 items at $1 a piece to someone who wouldn't pay $50 for a piece of furniture ... so your small priced items may really bring in the big bucks.
- For big ticket items, like a dining room table or a sofa, try to find the original cost of the item in a catalog and tape the photo with price to the item. This often confirms to the buyer they indeed are getting a very good deal, which will close the sale.
- For yard sale shoppers who haggle, let them make the offer. You might be surprised that they are willing to pay even more than you would have suggested.
- Keep your money in a cash box, not in your pocket. And, keep it in a safe location and remove money throughout the day. Don't forget to start the day with small denominations and coins.
- When you only half an hour before you close, you might want to decide to cut prices by 50 percent. Remember the idea is to price your items so they do not come back into your house.
Keep in mind that anything can be sold - from clothing and toys to old doors, kitchen hardware, furniture and even old tools. And what you think is junk could be worth some money. When your sale is over, don't forget to take down the signs ... all of them, even the ones on the corner down the road!