I need your secrets for Yard Sale Success
March 22, 2014 2:40 PM   Subscribe

I have to have a yard sale next weekend for reasons. I need your tips to help me maximize this experience by decreasing stress and increasing income.

The yard is in an upscale neighborhood very close to the downtown of a large US City (memail me if you want more specific location) where it's already warm.

The big draw items that I have are gently worn (Banana Republic/Loft/etc) women's clothes in a small size, KitchenAid stand mixer, and other kitchen items, as well as some craft supplies. I'm a terrible photographer with only a cameraphone. I don't personally know anyone who can take quality pictures.

The plan is for this to happen on Sunday.

So. How do you word a Craigslist ad to get people to show up? How to price things (I'm especially worried about the mixer...)? How much change should I have on hand? How early should I start?
posted by bilabial to Work & Money (22 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
The only bit of that I can answer is how early to start.

The answer to that is no matter how early you PLAN to start, there will be people knocking on your door from the moment the sun comes up. Seriously. I had a yard sale advertised to start at 8am. There were people there from 5. I've since heard that this is really common.
posted by lollusc at 3:02 PM on March 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Be sure to make your signs legible to passing cars. I passed a couple today with signs where the lettering was so light/faded, I didn't know it was a sign until I passed it.
posted by michellenoel at 3:03 PM on March 22, 2014

If your local craigslist is a busy one, be careful of posting too early. I posted my ad the morning of the day before the sale, and by evening, the post was useless as so many people posted sales after me.
posted by Vaike at 3:24 PM on March 22, 2014

Keep your prices low. And if a customer offers a lower price, accept the offer.

The point is to move the merchandise, not rake in the cash. You may well rake it in anyway, but don't turn off your clientele by high (sometimes interpreted as "snotty") prices.
posted by BostonTerrier at 3:29 PM on March 22, 2014 [8 favorites]

You don't need a nice photo for the stand mixer; Craigslist that puppy today.
posted by kmennie at 3:44 PM on March 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've made 3K twice at yard sales - here are some things that worked well for me:

- Can't emphasize signage enough. Big, bold (think neon posterboard and FAT black letters) and as minimal detail as possible (you want YARD SALE to be big, and the street name and date; house number and times are less important). As many signs as you can, placed on strategic routes to your location.

- If anyone you know has an online bulletin board/listserv type thing for their job, church, whatever, get them to post an ad. My ex-MIL worked for the school system and got my ad out to every educator in the county, which was huge.

- Price your stuff low, but nothing less than a quarter (you don't want to deal with smaller change than that.) Books are, in my experience, the slowest things to sell, so price those especially low.

- For small, low-cost stuff (plain t-shirts, toiletry samples, craft supplies etc) consider bundling them in ziplock bags and pricing them in lots. People love feeling like they got a deal.

- Use tables (few people want to crawl around on the ground looking through junk!) and group your stuff as attractively as possible. If your sale looks nice, people will be more likely to stop by and spend.

- For any electronic items including kitchen gadgets, consider having an extension cord handy so people can see that they work.

Good luck!
posted by justonegirl at 3:48 PM on March 22, 2014 [9 favorites]

I had a nearly new item marked for $50 at a yard sale once, and people thought I'd meant to mark it for $5 (or, that's what they offered me, and seemed affronted when I said no, the price really was $50 and I wasn't budging). I ended up taking it inside and selling it for $60 via craigslist later.
My take away: People go to yard sales looking for super bargains. If you have anything you think is worth a bit (more than $20?), I'd consider trying to sell it via craigslist, unless unloading it all at once is the priority over price.
Good luck!
posted by msbubbaclees at 5:06 PM on March 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

State "No Early Birds" in your ad if you don't want people to show up hours early. I think 7-noon or 1 pm is fine. You will get most of your people early. By noon there are hardly any people left shopping.

Price things clearly and keep prices low. If you have a garage keep the garage closed, or block open door somehow, and put everything on tables in your driveway. If you leave the garage door open people will poke around your garage and touch things and ask about things that are not for sale.

Hang up your clothes if possible. It's better if people can look at clothing on hangers.

You might have better luck putting your Banana Republic clothes on Ebay if you want any kind of money for them. Gargage sales are generally not good for selling clothing and people expect low prices when it comes to clothes at garage sales. If you want anything over five or so dollars for an item of clothing (unless fur or evening wear or something very special) I would seriously consider Ebay or a consignment shop.

Garage sales are like dollar stores. People want to buy things for a dollar, 50 cents, even a quarter. Price your stuff to sell.

If you have decorative household items, place them together in a nice grouping. Same goes for kitchen stuff -- group like items together and set it up like a store.

Put a price tag on everything.

Keep your money on your person in an apron.
posted by Fairchild at 5:23 PM on March 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Definitely get tables. Someone you know probably has some in their garage that you can borrow, or you might be able to check them out at the local community center. If you can get a standing clothes rack and hang the clothes, even better.

Also agree with big, bold signage. If you know someone who is a real estate agent or has some other kind of standing signage that you can borrow tape your signage on, even better.
posted by radioamy at 5:26 PM on March 22, 2014

Get the address in the ad so that it shows up correctly on Yard Sale Treasure Map.
posted by asperity at 7:23 PM on March 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you have a smartphone, you may consider getting a square or other free card reader on to make it easier for people to pay.
posted by Red Loop at 8:22 PM on March 22, 2014

You can use colored stickers as price tags. Early in the morning: green sticker items are $2, red sticker items $1. At 10 am, cut prices in half.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 8:25 PM on March 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

If it is warm in your area have a cooler with bottled water for sale.

If your goal is to get rid of stuff then price in a way that encourages multiple items:
Books $1 each or 6 for $5

Don't be afraid to put out stuff that you feel is worthless - one mans trash is another mans treasure is very true.

Weird stuff that has sold well for me:
*magazines (many painters work from photo's in Smithsonian, Arizona Highways, etc.
*half used cleaning supplies
*having several boxes on tables for people to paw through priced 25 cent, 50 cent and $1.00
*men's socks (who knows why)
*advertising T-shirts (sold 50 to one couple from Germany who thought they were great)
*cracked dishes (purchased by a mosaic artist)

Get a carpenters apron for your money, lots of plastic bags and refuse all early people. The ones who show up before you open are usually dealers and they will cherry pick the best and try to take advantage of your early morning disorientation.
posted by cat_link at 9:04 PM on March 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

We often hit up yard sales on the weekends. Here's a few things I'd recommend:

First, when you put the ad on Craigslist, the main page listing should not have your address, it should have your nearest major intersection. You can put the address in the ad. The reason for that is that people may not know where 123 E. Maple Dr. is, but they know where Central St. & Main Ave. is. People can quickly see the sales that are in the area of town they want to shop in.

Someone above mentioned that people are looking for huge deals at yard sales. This is very very true. Try the craigslist route first on bigger ticket stuff. I saw an item at a yard sale this morning that the seller was asking $150 on. It was a good price on the item, but I'm not carrying that kind of money or expecting to drop that kind of coin at a yard sale. Who knows, you might get the right person who's willing to make a snap decision and pay that, but your odds of selling the item are going to be much better if you post it ahead of time and see if you can sell it that way.

Signage - don't skimp here. Poster board isn't that expensive. Get poster board and markers and make those letters - and particularly the direction arrows - nice and big. I need to be seeing these signs a few hundred feet ahead of time so I can know where to turn, and which way to turn, and if I'm in the right lane to make the turn. Additionally, if at all possible, put the sign on the side of the road with the arrow; if people need to turn left, put it in the island if possible, if it's a right turn, put it on the right side of the road. Most importantly, though, make that arrow very visible. VERY IMPORTANT - do not place signs where they can present a traffic visibility hazard.

Make the yard sale obvious. We've passed up a lot of sales because the homeowner parked their cars in front or the sale was set up in a part of the yard where we couldn't see it. If at all possible, do it in the front yard. A lot of people don't feel comfortable going into a backyard or indoor yard sale.

Oh, and one thing I've seen in ads before: "Early birds pay double." You can also emphasize no early birds. Make sure you put a sign on your door that the sale starts at 8 am or whatever and please don't disturb before then. Otherwise (and maybe even in spite of that) people will be knocking on your door at 5:30 expecting you to start selling.
posted by azpenguin at 9:10 PM on March 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

People looking at signs only want to know one thing: which way to the rummage sale. Don't put times. Don't list items. Don't even put the town name. The word "SALE", an arrow, and the street address, written as big as humanly possible is plenty. Arrange signs to form a path from the main streets to your home. If people are merely following the direction the arrows point, they should find your sale.

These days, do not bother with increments smaller than a quarter; you don't want to have that much change in your pockets, and when somebody buys a $1.35 thing, a $3.99 thing, and seven things from the six-for-a-dollar HappyMeal toy bin, you're just going to round it anyway, so don't mess with weird prices.

Emphasizing "no early sales" -- however, don't open early because you think good sales will happen. The early-birds are dealers, and they want to buy things for half what you priced them at, and if they're willing to try and force you to open early they're going to be jerks in general. We're antique dealers, and the night before our advertised rummage sale the wife of one dealer we know -- clearly not realizing this was our house -- showed up at your front door with a story about how her grandma's in a wheelchair, and we should let her see what we've got so she could tell Grandma, and grandma has trouble navigating rummage sales in her chair, I didn't fully understand the logic but it didn't matter. "You're DealerGuy's wife, right?" The light went on over her head when she realized who we were, and left without saying anything. It had worked enough times to encourage them to continue doing it. Don't encourage jerks.

However, stay open as late as possible. Much later. At 2pm, there might be a lull for an hour or so, but do not be misled: around 4 or 5, even on weekends, there is usually a second surge of bored people on their way to the store or out to do things, who will follow rummage sale sign arrows and since they haven't been rummaging all day, and were probably on their way to spend their money elsewhere, they are good buyers.

Lastly, always ask what people are looking for. Someone might mention something that you've got a box of in the basement but didn't get around to pricing, or didn't think of selling but now that you've got somebody interested, right in front of you, the money might sound more tempting.

How much change: a roll of quarters, but lots of ones and fives. Right away in the morning, people go to the ATM, which spits out twenties. You don't want the first three sales be people giving you a twenty to buy a $3 thing, wiping out your change. I usually have $100 - $200 in change, most of it in singles, but I wouldn't go less than $50 in bills. Don't worry about having $10s or $20s in change at the start of the day; if you're giving out fives as change, that means you're bringing in $10s and $20s as people buy things. If someone hands you a $100, there's no shame in saying you can't break that big of a bill.

Forgot: make sure you have helpers, at least one if not two or three. It's sad, but people shoplift from rummage sales and extra eyes help. If you need to use the restroom, or send somebody out to pick up lunch, or something needs to be carried out to a car, helpers are invaluable.
posted by AzraelBrown at 5:34 AM on March 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

One more thing. Remember that "tomorrow" means "never." (Cryptic?) What I mean is ALWAYS put the date (DATE) and day of your garage sale on your signage/advertising.

Also, be nice after the sale. Remove your signage when it's done.
posted by mbarryf at 7:44 AM on March 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

To maximize profit, sell stuff on craigslist. Yard sale prices are low.
posted by theora55 at 9:49 AM on March 23, 2014

If you need to step away and delegate somebody to hold the money & make transactions while you're gone (you need to use the restroom, for example) be sure to tell them EXPLICITLY that NO you have not made ANY promises to ANYONE about special deals and that if somebody comes up and says "oh, bilabial said I could have [item priced well above $5] for $5, I just had to get cash" they are LYING.

Ahem. Still annoyed about that one, years later. You're driving a shiny Mercedes and you feel the need to scam me out of $30? At an estate sale? Sheesh.
posted by Lexica at 11:40 AM on March 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

One thing that helps is to have all your signs be the SAME neon color. Driving around, I love it if I can follow all the neon green signs with big black arrows - makes it way easier to follow the breadcrumb trail to your sale.
posted by bookdragoness at 12:52 PM on March 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Segregate tables by price. All Items Here for $XX.XX
posted by IndigoJones at 7:57 PM on March 23, 2014

Grandma financed her vacations by holding annual garage sales with stuff she'd picked from going to other garage sales - and passed her wisdom down to me.

Earlybirds will come and most often be jerks. One time we opened the garage door to move some stuff out of the aisles and a couple of people were leaping over the stuff to get into the garage.

Have more singles than you think you need in change. Go into the house occasionally and empty your cashbox/apron pockets into a more secure location.

Display your stuff on tables, cover the tables with sheets, if you can. Using "tablecloths" means you can set up makeshift tables with a piece of wood on top of sawhorses/garbage cans. Group your displays, either by price or category (ie housewares, books, tools, etc). If you have small stuff that's easily shoplifted, like jewelry, put that on a table next to the checkout, where you can keep an eye on it.

Good signage. Same color signs are great. Make your address large and with arrows, as azpenguin says. Draw attention to the sale - Balloons on a ladder on the driveway. Big furniture, if you've got it should always go out on the drive to draw people in.

Have bags and newspaper for people to wrap their purchases.

Sell the KitchenAid on Craigslist.. garage-salers want bargains.

Good luck!
posted by sarajane at 12:14 PM on March 24, 2014

My folks's church did a radical thing with their garage sale a while back, that I always thought could be used at a single household garage sale. They had no price tags on anything below a certain dollar amount ($25 or $50 or so). If there was no price tag, the policy was, "Proceeds go to the church's roof repair fund. Pay what you think is fair." About 5% of the customers seemed really upset that the church would not price items or haggle with them, but the other 95% loved it, and the church ended up making more than in previous years. Also, no time was spent deciding prices and putting little stickers on everything.

I imagine that if one were to try this, you would need a big sign to the effect of:

(unless otherwise marked)


Then, offer an email sign-up for anyone who wants a copy of the final donation receipt (to keep things honest).

And, don't haggle or guilt customers into paying more. You're trying to get rid of your stuff. If you feel strongly enough that an item should not sell below a certain price, put it in the tagged pile. Otherwise, just let it go with a smile.
posted by LEGO Damashii at 9:50 PM on March 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

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