How to do a moving sale
July 5, 2013 10:10 AM   Subscribe

Is it worth the trouble to hold a moving sale?

Y'all helped me find a place that would accept my furniture donations but now I am having second thoughts. I am considering holding a last minute sale on Sunday.

My idea is a two hour "come and take it" sale: set firm, low prices on everything and then donate whatever is left over to the charity that is scheduled to take things away on Tuesday.

Is holding a sale worth the trouble? If so, what is the best time to do it? I am thinking 10am to 12pm. But I live alone in an apartment complex, and I am wondering whether it's a bad idea to broadcast that information. Rather than posting each item individually, would I post the sale as an event on Craigslist? I've never used Craigslist and I wasn't clear how it works from just glancing at it. Any advice is welcome.
posted by vincele to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Craigslist, yes, but also put up bright neon signs near every stoplight within a mile or two of your apartment! The signs are much more important. Garage sales are all about impulse anyway.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:13 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

8 am until 2 pm is a better idea. People get up early to hunt at these things. Sell lemonade if it's hot.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:13 AM on July 5, 2013 [6 favorites]

Also, maybe you could put up a sign near the mailboxes at your complex. How is it not appropriate to have a yard sale at your apartment complex? What are they going to do, kick you out ;)
posted by oceanjesse at 10:15 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Make it 10-2 and if it's hot where you are pick a shaded location and also fill a big jug with ice water and place it next to a stack of paper cups.
posted by mareli at 10:15 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, it's worth it for Craigslist! Take pics of each large item and post them under furniture for sale by owner, and then make your post title something like "Moving sale, one day only! See Pics inside!".

Within the text of your post, list each item and include pictures. If someone searches furniture for "sofa" and you have that word in the text of your post, your post will come up in their search. I think limiting it to a couple hours is fine.

As for being alone in your apartment, do you have a neighbor next door you can just let know that you will be hosting the sale, or someone to call after the sale is over as a safety check-in?

Good luck with your sale and the move!
posted by shortyJBot at 10:22 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Totally worth it, but if you're doing a last-minute sale before you leave and already have the stuff you're planning to move with you packed -- why bother pricing things? Just let people in and tell 'em to make an offer on anything in sight. This totally worked for me. The security issue with letting lots of strangers into your home is mitigated by it not being your home anymore in under a week.

If you have any friends that you could invite over to help supervise, that would be ideal. This is a moving chore that doesn't require lifting things or getting sweaty, so emphasize that as well as the food and drink of their choice that you will provide. If you want to make it clearer who's running the sale, get hats or vests or ribbons or something.

As far as advertising: the others are right about how to do it (signs + CL posts) but I want to add that you should make sure the address you include is understandable by Yard Sale Treasure Map. Do posts both for the moving sale as a whole in the garage sales category and if you've got any particularly large items like furniture, put it up there, too.
posted by asperity at 10:42 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

shortyJbot, thank you, I am starting to feel more confident. I don't have access to a camera, unfortunately. What will that do to my chances? Should I post photos of comparable items and identify them as such?
posted by vincele at 10:42 AM on July 5, 2013

Is it worth it? I suppose that depends on how much you need the money versus how much you need your time. Craigslist only takes a few minutes to post to, but if you're in crazy-busy last minute packing mode are you going to want to randomly stop your packing/cleaning efforts to interact with potential shoppers? Perhaps do a quick tally of how much you'd price everything at; if you sold, say, 75% of the items you were selling, would it be enough cash to be worth your while?

My partner and I ended up donating a TON of furniture, books, etc. when we moved, largely because we put everything off until the last minute and just ended up being far too busy to do anything else. I'd guesstimate we probably could have made a few hundred bucks on those things if we'd tried to sell them, but looking back on it now I have zero regrets on giving it all away - at the time it was worth more to us to just be rid of the darned things than to deal with buyers.

If you are being a bit more proactive than we were and still have time before your move, then it certainly couldn't hurt to try selling things on Craigslist. Consider being clear that you'll only take cash and maybe that the buyers will need to carry it away themselves (if you don't want to end up helping them load - again, I suppose this depends on how tight your timelines are). You might get people emailing you questions about the things you have for sale; it's up to you whether or not it's worth your time to respond. Good luck!
posted by DingoMutt at 10:47 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Saturday" as in tomorrow? If you're just selling furniture, it's probably worth it. But if you have an assortment of misc stuff (kitchen utensils and small appliances; clothes and accessories; books; etc.), you may not have time to properly prepare for the sale (take pictures, write a descriptive ad). You risk not drawing enough shoppers to make it worth your time - or worse - attracting a crowd when you're only half-prepared, e.g., still setting up and pricing items when the "early-birds" arrive. And there will be "early-birds".

Re "firm, low prices": I like this because I absolutely hate dickering over prices. However, I don't believe that my attitude is typical among garage sale shoppers, so if you stick with this policy, be prepared to take some grief. Perhaps you could post a sign indicating that the price of items remaining after 2:00 pm will be drastically reduced.

Good luck.
posted by she's not there at 10:58 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't have access to a camera, unfortunately. What will that do to my chances? Should I post photos of comparable items and identify them as such?

Not having photos of the actual items will hurt you. A large fraction of garage sale merchandise is absolute crap, and regular garage sale-goers know it. Even showing to look at stuff has an opportunity cost, so more customers will show up if they are confident you're not selling crap. It's too easy to lie in text about what the merchandise is like. Even if you found stock photos of the exact same products, those photos wouldn't convey the items' condition, which is important. That said, I don't think you need bunches of photos of individual items, or separate Craigslist listings. The moving sale ads I find most interesting have several pictures, with several items in each picture pretty much in situ, along with a text listing of particular items and categories of items. Good ads convey a sense that the sale is like a treasure chest, i.e. that there are many good things, in good condition.

Regarding your "firm, low prices," I would say that most craigslist sellers (odds are including you) tend to overvalue the stuff they're selling. In a garage sale situation where you are trying to unload a bunch of merchandise very quickly, your prices will have to be, on average, much lower than the same items might be priced if you didn't mind waiting a week or two for the right buyer to come along. So maybe hold your prices firm for the first hour, and then start bargaining. For any given item, there might only be two or three customers interested. If the first customer goes away without buying because your "firm" price was too high, then you really don't want the second interested customer to walk away too because that will mean that nobody buys it, and you will a) get nothing, and b) have to dispose of the thing.
posted by jon1270 at 11:31 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

My experience of yard sales is that especially if you mention books and records on CL a bunch of weird but decent people will show up at 7 am (not kidding) to peruse your wares. Don't let anyone leave empty handed and if someone's thinking about one item throw in anything else to get them to buy it--the last thing you want is a little money plus a bunch of crap to donate. You want instead the same amount of money plus nothing left to get rid of.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:16 PM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

What Potomac Avenue says is true. Yard/garage sale shoppers come before your posted hours. Be warned. They are a subculture of early birds elbowing to get the best worm.
posted by Cranberry at 12:19 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well thank you all for your comments. I am only selling furniture. I already sold something and I got more money for it than what I had asked. It was an accident-- I kind of panicked and I forgot the price I had posted in my ad!

I found a way to take photos so I did what shortyJbot said. In addition to posting individual furniture ads, I posted a Moving Sale ad. I added to my location a nearby landmark.

Craigslist is not easy to use. Right now I am stuck in cell phone verification code purgatory and I can't edit ads. It took me 3 hours to write all the ads and upload photos for each item. Craigslist is a great resource but I couldn't do this if I were pressed for time.

I hope this comment serves as reference for others in the future.
posted by vincele at 8:08 AM on July 6, 2013

Glad that it worked out and that you were able to post photos. (Sorry I didn't get to reply before about not having photos.) I think photos really do help! Glad that your sale was successful!
posted by shortyJBot at 8:54 AM on July 6, 2013

Ok one final followup. I sold everything except for two large items, which I will donate to charity.

I think the keys are to price everything low (35% to 40% of list price for like new items) and to follow the law of "the first person who shows up with cash gets the stuff."

I just ignored the people who made things complicated over email. That made some guys mad but I got rid of everything.
posted by vincele at 7:23 AM on July 7, 2013

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