As the weather grows warmer, many people start thinking about unloading those assorted, needless items they’ve accumulated over the last year by holding a garage sale. How many wicker baskets and bud vases does one family need, after all?
Most garage sales fail to produce the windfall the proprietors are seeking however, because they just wing the stuff out there in the lawn and hope for the best. Beat the odds by implementing some of these tips. Do things right and your garage sale will be the shopping destination of the day!
1. Planning pays off
No, don’t try to have a garage sale tomorrow if you just thought of it today! You’ll do much better if you think about your garage sale months in advance. That way you can start setting aside likely sale items — doing that is a lot easier than rummaging through the house the day before the sale, and you’ll be much more likely to have good, saleable items.
This raises another point: Don’t sell stuff that really belongs in the garbage can. Flat basketballs, clothing with holes, broken small appliances, etc. will not sell, and having them in your sale will sully the good stuff that you do have.
2. Band together
A neighborhood or church rummage sale attracts a lot more attention than a solo garage sale. If you can advertise a ten-family sale, for example, many more buyers will make the trip. Don’t worry about competition — everyone will have enough unique stuff that you won’t be losing sales to your neighbors. The big group sale allows you to spread the cost of advertising, too.
3. Location matters
You want people to see your sale, so set it up for maximum visibility from the street. Put good, interesting stuff up front to attract attention. If you’re doing a neighborhood sale, consider asking for permission to close the street. This may seem counterproductive, but you’ll find that buyers love the festival atmosphere of a big sale on a closed street with no auto traffic (obviously this only works if there’s enough parking on the cross streets).
4. Timing matters
Saturday is the day, and one day is usually enough. You’ll be sick of the sale by the end of the first day, and most buyers will assume the good stuff is gone if you try to stretch into a second day. Skip the holiday weekends, unless you live in a resort town that attracts lots of tourists on holidays. Start early in the morning — definitely by 8 a.m. — because serious shoppers like to roam the sales before the crowds arrive, and they’re usually prepared to buy.
5. Price it right
Everyone expects a deal at a garage sale, so put yourself in your buyers’ shoes when you’re pricing. No one cares that you paid $1,000 for that PC five years ago — it’s only worth a few bucks today, so price it that way. Obviously buyers will want to haggle — that’s part of the fun! — but that doesn’t mean you need to give your stuff away.
One strategy is to put up a sign that says everything is priced as marked (no haggling) from 8 a.m. to noon, but that offers will be entertained (or prices will be cut in half) later in the day. That way if someone really wants something, she’ll pay full price before noon rather than risk losing it altogether.
One more pricing tip: Put prices on everything. It makes it much easier on the buyer, and some people simply don’t want to get into conversations with sellers (especially if there’s a potential language barrier). If you have lots of similar items, such as books or CDs, you don’t need to price each one, but at least put a sign that says, “All Books $1″ or something.
6. Promote, promote, promote
The more people know about your sale, the more people will show up. If you can afford it, run a small ad in your local newspaper, and be sure to name a few of the choice items in the ad. Definitely take advantage of free advertising such as Craigslist and Mom Mail (or the like).
Signage is essential, too — put up lots of big, bold signs with clear directions to your sale location. Your kids can help make the signs, but make sure the results are readable! To test your signs drive past each one and imagine that you don’t know where you’re going — will the sign tell you what you need to know?
7. Refreshments make shoppers happy
You’ll be amazed how many people will cheerfully pay 50 cents for a cold drink but will haggle over the 50-cent price tag on that $25 Monopoly game still in its cellophane wrapper! Homemade cookies, lemonade, and soft drinks sell well and will keep your shoppers refreshed (meaning they may hang around longer and buy more).
You’re probably not going to get rich at your garage sale, but these tips should help make your sale worthwhile. And don’t overlook the non-financial benefits of a successful sale — you might meet some interesting people, and you’ll surely clear some of that clutter out of your basement!