Help me rock out this yard sale
May 9, 2012 7:18 AM   Subscribe

Tell me all you know about throwing a successful yard sale! I am having a yard sale the first weekend of June and I am ready to get rid of some stuff and make a little scratch.

I have been a part of successful yard sales as part of a larger group, but the one that I staged on my own was a disaster, I maybe made $25 bucks and only really suceeded in getting my stuff sorted and out into the yard, expediting donation later.I just got married and will be moving soon and I have a lot of stuff to unload, all kinds of vinyl, nice clothes, thirft store t-shirts, knick-knacks, silverware, the list goes on and on.

I live in a hipster/trendy downtown neighborhood (veering on the gritty rather than twee side) where there are a lot of young people on foot, bike, and scooter going by. My next door neighbor and an across the street neighbor may be interested in setting up on the same day. There is lots of street parking, but a rather small actual front yard to display on, so the sidewalk and retaining wall will have to be incorporated as well.

So what are your yard sale secrets? How do you price? Display? Advertise? Collaborate? Do you incorporate craigslist/social media etc? Any specific strategies that have worked amazingly for you?
posted by stormygrey to Grab Bag (23 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I always enjoy a yard sale that has refreshments, particularly if it's little kids selling lemonade & donuts.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:19 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Be realistic about prices. Thrift store t-shirts should be $1 or less. Price everything. Put the good stuff out front. Have large signs at the major intersection near you with the address large and readable (rather than "BIG SALE" with the address tiny underneath).
posted by sulaine at 7:28 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Definitely advertise on craigslist. That's how we'd figure out which sales to hit on a Saturday. Put your post up on Thursday or Friday, for the people who like to plan ahead.

Also, have GOOD SIGNS. Make sure they are legible: good contrast, large lettering, etc. If I'm driving, there's no way I can read something written with a thin sharpie on old cardboard.

Have a bin of free stuff out front. If I get a free toy for the kids or some random kitchen gadget, I'm more likely to feel like I should buy something as well.

Free coffee is also great, especially if it's a chilly morning. I'm more likely to walk around & look at all your stuff while I drink it.

If you expect to get lots of foot traffic, have bags to put peoples' purchases in.

Be realistic in your pricing. I go to yard sales to get a deal & am not going to pay you $10 for something I can get at Goodwill for $2.
posted by belladonna at 7:29 AM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Using neon colored paper, cut-out some large arrows and post them on telephone poles at major intersections near your house. Have the arrows point the way to the yard sale.

I can't read words on advertisements, especially while I'm driving, but I can spot neon colors all the way from across the intersection. So. when I see neon paper, I know there is a yard sale near by.
posted by nikkorizz at 7:30 AM on May 9, 2012

There's a craigslist section for yard/garage sales. Put an ad there.

Do it on a Saturday. That's when everyone else does it, and when you will get the career yard sale shoppers.

If you are not on a main road/busy thoroughfare, go to the nearest main road and put up signs, leading to other signs that point to your house. Maybe even put some balloons up to attract attention (on the road and in front of your house). Try putting them up a day or two before so people driving by will take note of it for the weekend.

Refreshments are good. Maybe sell coffee for for 50 cents a cup?

Collaboration is also good. We once got multiple friends to come sell stuff at our house--both the crap they were trying to get rid off, but also some of the crafts that our friends make (like screenprinted goods). We then named it [Street name] Flea Market, made designed posters and posted them around town.

Yes, make a facebook event invitation.

If you have a local weekly paper, maybe put an ad in there.

Yes, good bright big-lettered signs and arrows are good too.

Price as cheap as you can handle. T-shirts shouldn't be more than $1. Pants no more than $3. Shoes no more than $5. Records no more than $1. Be prepared and willing to negotiate on everything. There are some serious yardsale goers out there.
posted by greta simone at 7:36 AM on May 9, 2012

Also, don't forget to play music. The more relaxed the atmosphere, the longer people will linger and look at your stuff. And don't be afraid to engage people in conversation either.
posted by greta simone at 7:37 AM on May 9, 2012

Here are the things you need:

Good Signage: Just arrows, big black arrows on neon paper. Put one on the main street and then a few to lead them directly to your house. People know what those mean. If you try to put an address on or describe what you have the writing will be too small for people to read easily from their cars. They will not get out of their cars to read your sign.
If you have sales even somewhat regularly a handful of cheap wire landscaping fence and some poster board will make you signs that last for years.

Power: If you have any electronics or other devices you need an extension cord for testing. Even better, if it 's a TV or something, have it already on and visibly working.

A couch: If you have a couch to sell, great you're halfway there. Put it in the back with a small sign so people can't read it from the road. That way when it sells they still have to walk up to it to find that out. You will get more traffic for that one item than if you just gave away the rest of the sale.
If you don't have a couch to sell just put yours in the driveway with a sold sign on it.

Hang clothes: Piles of clothes don't sell as well as clothes that are hung and easily browse-able. Also you'll have less folding to do throughout the day as those piles will get absolutely trashed.

Prices: Put a price sticker on everything, or an easily readable sign for bulk stuff like "All Clothes $.50". If they have to ask you for prices, and you're busy, they'll just walk away.
posted by BagOTricks at 7:40 AM on May 9, 2012

Getting people to stop is half the battle.

So I buy cheap hotdogs, buns, condiments and soda to serve at our yearly garage sale. Nothing fancy, buy generic. I have the hotdogs on the grill or boiled and ready to serve for $1, and add a soda to the mix for another $.50. Gay-ran-teed you'll get 3x the traffic stopping by....

(If you purchase the food and drink correctly, you'll make money on the hotdogs and soda.)
posted by lstanley at 7:43 AM on May 9, 2012

Above advice is great. As someone who likes to go to yard sales, I gravitate towards one marketed as "moving sales" because I know that there is going to be a lot of stuff, so I'd recommend calling it that instead.

Definitely legible, bold signs.
posted by radioamy at 7:54 AM on May 9, 2012

Signs: Most signs say "YARD SALE" in huge letters and then have the address written in pencil, impossible to read from a passing car. Chances are if someone sees a sign on a telephone pole they're going to know it's a yard sale. So, the largest thing on the sign should be the address and an arrow pointing the way.

Written in smaller type should be any items that might be of specific interest to people. Books, woodworking tools, baby items, etc.

What I did was I made some signs using neon orange paper that had a blank spot where I could write an arrow with a Sharpie. So as I hung signs around town I added an arrow to each one pointing the way.

Decide what your goal is. Do you want to make the maximum amount of money for your stuff or do you just want to get rid of it as quickly and as easily as possible?

Early birds. These folks will show up an hour before your yard sale starts and start walking around. They do this professionally and can be very aggressive. I had a guy come to my door (after I put a big sign up front saying "Yard sale canceled due to rain... come back next week") and when I told him that, no, he could not look at my stuff today, he looking past me at some art hanging on my living room wall and told me he was interested in buying art. You know what? Fuck that guy.

If you're interested in just getting rid of stuff then by all means sell it to the early birds. Or, you can be aggressive and tell them to go away so you can set up.

When you're done, remove all your signs.
posted by bondcliff at 8:03 AM on May 9, 2012

Decide if you main goal is to make money or get rid of stuff. If your goal is to make money, find the best things you are willing to get rid of. Present them well (clothes on racks, electric items plugged in and ready to demo as working, etc.). You can have other stuff laying around, but your high ticket items should be visible and attractively displayed. If your goal is to get rid of stuff. Bundle and lower price for multiples. (T-shirts $1, 3 for $2, 5 for $3, etc.)
posted by hworth at 8:04 AM on May 9, 2012

My neighborhood has two garage sale days each year. The only advice I will give is this:

Price everything as if you never, ever want to see it again.

My attitude toward garage sales is that I want this junk gone. I've gotten whatever utility I imagined from them, so any money I make will be icing. So, I price everything to move and move fast. If I thought something actually had value, it probably wouldn't be in the sale in the first place.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:10 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

If all you're selling is clothes and smaller items, see if there are a few other, larger, more interesting items in your house you might want to sell, as well. There's nothing more disappointing to me than a yard sale with nothing but a clothing rack and outdated kitchen stuff/small electronics.
posted by xingcat at 8:16 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, your signs need a big, clear arrow, the word "SALE", and just the address (big enough to read without slowing down). Write on both sides of the sign. The address can be shorthanded as "123 1ST ST" -- you don't need "north" or "south" or the town name or anything, they're all ready close enough to know that. Make enough signs that people following them can connect the dots easily, and have a "Start" at busy intersections -- people need to be able to follow the breadcrumbs without having to think too much while they're driving. If you see somebody else's garage sale signs, put one of yours there, too, because people will be looking there anyways. While the paper and craigslist are fine and good, Wifey and I rarely start out rummaging with a list -- we look for signs.

Then, stay open way later than you think you need to. We've had sales that got really quiet between 2-3, and we sat on the edge of "should we just close up?" only to have a sudden burst of sales from 4-6. Conversely, if it's raining or so forth, definitely close up right away and reschedule. Nothing's more unpleasant than sitting outside on a cold, rainy day with no customers, all your stuff getting wet.

Also, keep in mind that you're trying to move product -- people will spend $5 to get a bag full of $0.25 stuff but they'll balk at buying a single $5 thing that's worth $5. There's a psychology about buying that's different for cash-in-the-pocket garage sale shoppers who aren't sure what they'll run across at the next sale. Price to move, not price for value. Wifey and I have had sales where everything, literally, was fifty cents. EVERYTHING. Books, clothes, videotapes, CDs, DVD players, vintage toys that were probably marked up to $20 in the antique mall the next day -- everything. People walked away with grocery bags full of our old crap, and we were happy to get our basement cleared out. The later the day gets, the bigger your volume discounts are -- and after a point, make a sign that says "EVERYTHING 50% OFF" and put it up so it can be seen from the street.

Make sure you've got like $200-$300 in change. Before they go to rummage sales, people go to the ATM that dispenses $20 bills, so in the first half hour you're open most of your fives and tens will disappear into the pockets of people who only spent a dollar, so plan for that. Do not price anything at $0.05 or $0.10, or weird amounts like $0.60 or $0.95 -- that's just a disaster when making change. Increments of $0.25 is the minimum, so you only need to get rolls of quarters for coin change. Don't accept checks unless you know the person.

Clothes go in the back. People will pass up sales that look like they're just clothes.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:30 AM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Keep prices low, especially clothes (since people likely won't be trying them on). I don't even like paying $1 for clothes at a yard sale. Keep it cheap to get rid of it! And price everything - I hate having to ask the price especially if it means waiting around for someone to be available.
posted by kirst27 at 8:39 AM on May 9, 2012

Sign should say YARD SALE, then day and date so people won't wonder if it is an old sign. Also put "2 blocks" or some such if you can.

DEFINITELY write "block sale" or "neighborhood sale" if that is what it is because I am twice as likely to stop for those. Put a flyer on your neighbors doors to see if anyone else wants to join in.

Because of the price of gas I won't stop unless there is a current date (been burned by too many old signs) and if the sign gives some kind of distance guide I am twice as likely to stop. Even, here in the country, if a sign even says "one mile" I might stop - at least I will know it is not a ten mile or a mystery distance I just don't do anymore because of gas prices.

The best signs I have seen are either an old ladder or a big giant box (must be weighted down inside by bricks or rocks - with weird colorful things attached - like kitchen things or toys or small colorful suitcases, things worth 5o cents (in case they are stolen) but a jumble of colorful stuff really catches the eye. Balloons will work but are second best.

I've had many successful yardsales. There is one rule: people will not stop unless there are other people shopping. Even if parking is tough make sure there is at least one of your cars parked right in front as if that is a customer. Then, since you usually do this with a friend, I hope, when things get slow one of you start walking around and picking up things and act like you are thinking about buying it. When a passer-by sees this it brings out their competitive spirit. Yard-saleing is a competitive sport.

Price everything. Americans, generally speaking, do not like to dicker and yardsales where nothing is priced and people are too shy or just don't want to make an offer will just leave. Many people will say will you take 25 cents for this item marked 50 cents. Fewer people will make the effort to come up with their own starting bid.

I've heard about people who use newspaper or craigslist to follow sales but none of my friends do so I am suspicious if that is worth the effort.
posted by cda at 8:40 AM on May 9, 2012

If you put an ad in craigslist, be sure to list as much as you can about what is for sale. (If the ad sounds like the sale is mostly children's clothing, toys, and books, I won't go there looking for electronics or computer gear.)
Also, I second the recommendation for refreshments - 25 cent coffee, 25 cent brownies and Nanaimo bars, kids selling lemonade, a bowl of free Hershey's kisses... sounds like a fun morning!
Make the pricing simple enough that you can make change easily. If everything costs multiples of 25 cents, you need only bills and quarters to make change for any purchase.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 9:02 AM on May 9, 2012

Don't keep the money at a location, keep the money on a person. Garage sales are what fanny packs are for. All money should go into the fanny pack. If a person gives up money-handling duties, person hands fanny pack to other person.

Take some time to make things look good, and keep staging merchandise as the day goes on. Otherwise, stuff that's been picked over looks more and more like it's been picked over.

Find music that's not likely to offend your customers (radio, maybe?) and put it at a moderate volume. Filling up the aural space helps when you're at a customer low.
posted by gnomeloaf at 9:31 AM on May 9, 2012

All good advice above. I'll add that if my goal is to get rid of stuff, especially kid stuff or kitchen stuff or tchotchkes, I will fill ziplock bags with a bunch of things, and then sell the whole bag for $1-2, rather than dicker over nickles and dimes.

We live around the corner from a thrift store - I spend enough time there to know what things sell for there, so there's no point in trying to over-price something that's cheaper a few steps away. Know your market.

I make sure my signs are outside of the hipster coffee shops and brunch places in the 'hood. Often people are there for a day of shopping and poking around and will swing by if it's only a slight detour.

If you state a goal for your sale, people are often more willing to help. Every summer my kid has a lemonade stand and sells her old toys to raise $25 to "adopt" a Peregrine Falcon through the Canadian Peregrine Foundation. Stating this on her sign and showing how close she's getting has made people more generous, and she never fails to raise that and more. For our sale, if I state that it's for a week at a horse-riding camp or a day-long trail ride for the kid (it's usually for something like that), that seems to encourage sales because they like where the money is going to.
posted by peagood at 10:40 AM on May 9, 2012

Make sure your dwelling(s) are locked up. My parents were robbed by someone who sneaked into their house, during a yard sale. If anyone asks to use your bathroom, say "sorry."
posted by Carol Anne at 11:31 AM on May 9, 2012

Make all your signs the same color/style. If I'm navigating by sign, I follow the similar ones, especially if there are a group. If someone changes from yellow neon with a black arrow to orange neon arrow, I'll think I lost the trail and go somewhere else.
posted by bookdragoness at 2:19 PM on May 9, 2012

Prior to moving, we had a big yard sale. We knew anything that didn't sell would either go to Goodwill or to the landfill.

I posted signs on the main streets through our community on Thursday, stating that it would start at 8 AM on Saturday. I was up and ready for business at 7 AM the day of the sale. Our items ranged from a very nice and fully functional complete Pioneer stereo system (vintage 1995) to a string trimmer, lawn mower, to any number of small household goods.

At 7:30 AM a guy rolled up in a full size pickup truck, and started bargaining on the mower and string trimmer. I sold them at 75% of my marked prices. Then, he started trying to work me on my on the Pioneer stereo. I told him I'd sell it to him at my very generous asking price if he would take every other single household good and the other items along with him.

He said fine and handed me cash. He said he was going directly from my house to a flea market where he would sell it all.

At 7:57 AM, he was loaded, I was paid, everything was gone, and I got my Saturday back. I netted about 60% of what I'd hoped to get, and this single hassle-free transaction was one of the best deals I've ever made.

Nobody who buys at yard sales ever expects to pay the asking price, or even close to the asking price, for anything.
posted by imjustsaying at 6:53 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

When you list your yard sale on Craigslist, make sure that Yard sale treasure map can parse it properly.
posted by Orb2069 at 9:10 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

« Older Wanna be on Mommy's new album?   |   Unexpected changes in perception after eye surgery... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.