It’s summer, and that means it’s yard sale time.
It’s that time of year where the Cash Cow Couple goes hunting for Christmas gifts for the whole family. We buy used, spiff it up, and give some righteously awesome secondhand gifts to everyone we know. We’re pretty sure they know it’s secondhand, but we’re also pretty sure no one cares. Christmas is about being together, right? Or at least it’s supposed to be.
But enough about Christmas. Let’s talk about yard sales. If you’ve ever been out romping your town for good deals early on the weekends, then you know there are some sales that sell out by 8 a.m. and some that make you wish you’d stayed in bed.
This is no coincidence. Having a crazy successful yard sale is a science.
So if you’re thinking about de-junking your house and selling your stuff for some profit, you’re in luck. I’ve scoured at least 2 cities and tons of websites to bring you the most comprehensive guide to having your most crazy successful yard sale ever.
Part 1: Preparation
A crazy successful yard sale isn’t done on a whim. It takes time, organization, and most of all, preparation.
Get over nostalgia:
Before you even think the words yard sale, you need to make sure you’re ready to give up your junk.
Now, I know a lot of people have issues getting rid of their things. They claim that stuff has sentimental value.
I don’t really get that, but if you struggle with it, then make sure you’re actually ready to give up your crap before digging it all out and wasting your time.
Check for change:
Once you’ve decided what you’re selling and have cut all emotional ties with your material items, go through it all. You’re looking for receipts, spare change, or misplaced $20 bills that were long forgotten in that zipper pocket of your parachute pants.
Shine ‘em up:
Now, this next one is a biggie. Clean your stuff. No one will stick around if your stuff looks like it was dragged from the shed where it’s been housing a family of spiders for the past year.
Dirty items gross people out.
If your items are cleaned up and looking their best, the buyer is more likely to see it’s potential as a new addition to their life. In other words, the more convenient an item is for the buyer, the more likely it is to go home with them.
So take the dirty work out of it for your yard sale shoppers and clean your stuff up!
Organize your sale:
It’s pretty common knowledge that your favorite grocery store organizes their items so that you buy more. That’s why the milk is at the back of the store, and why the guacamole mix is sitting right next to the avocados.
So when laying out your garage sale, make sure like items are grouped together. Put the women’s clothes and women’s shoes in the same area. Put kitchen gadgets and cookbooks on the same table. Put golf clubs, bags, balls, shoes, and hats together.
If you are trying to sell your clothes, consider several different strategies. Whatever you do, don’t throw a pile of clothes on a table and expect people to rifle through them. Maybe one crazy bag lady might take the time to sort through your old clothes, but most people will walk right on by. The ultimate goal is to make the shopping experience resemble a retail store as much as possible.
1. Hang up all your clothing: I’ve seen people use the garage door, picket fence, or a clothes rack. Do whatever you gotta do to make your clothing visible.
2. Clearly mark the prices of your clothing: Whether you have a sign saying all clothing is 25 cents each or each item is individually marked, make sure your customer can see the price tag.
3. Organize clothing by size, type, and gender: In other words, hang men’s, women’s, boys, and girls clothing separately and clearly mark what’s what. Then, within each section, group pants by size together and keep separate fromt the shirts by size. Clearly label the clothing sizes. Again, make the process as convenient as possible for your customer. If they can’t tell the size, price, or condition of the article of clothing, they won’t bother looking through it.
4. If you’re really trying to sell a lot of clothing, consider a grab bag approach: For example, provide plastic sacks and post a sign saying, “All you can put in the bag for $2.”
If you are trying to sell furniture, there are a few tricks to sell it fast.
1. Set it out on the driveway or lawn: There are two reasons this is a good idea.
First, it reels in the drive by customers. There are people that will just drive by your sale to see if it looks interesting. By putting your larger items out front, it entices customers to get out of the car and take a look.
Secondly, this gets your item in the natural light. Your customer will want to be able to see the item clearly. By being honest, putting it out in the light instead of hiding it in the dim garage, you’re more likelly to get a buyer.
2. Make the price tag visible: Since your item is big, your customer will want to be able to see the price tag clearly. Use cardboard or computer paper to write the price in large, clear print.
3. If you’re trying to sell any type of furniture that folds, collapses, or has extra pieces, be available for a little show and tell: Be ready because you might have a customer that is interested in a piece, but they feel odd touching your stuff for the fear that they might break it. So be available. If you notice someone looking at a piece of furniture that needs some instruction, offer to put it together or break it down for them.
4. Put furniture that goes together in the same area. If you have a table and chair set, put them all together. Grouping sets increases the value of your furniture and also makes it more appealing to your buyer.
Electronics can be your biggest moneymaker at your yard sale if you do it right. The following tips will have them bringing in the big bucks.
1. Make sure they can be tested: It’s a fact that people are leery of electronics sold at a yard sale. They assume most electronics have stopped working. To avoid this concern, make sure your electronics are near an outlet so that your customer can try it out themselves to ensure it is in proper working order.
If the item takes batteries, be sure to have a used set of batteries ready to display that the item works.
2. Discount items that don’t work: There are some yard sale gurus that scour their city for old electronic parts. So if you have electronics that don’t work, make sure there is a sign saying they don’t work and cut the price. Who knows, you just might sell it!
3. Sell your used electronics asap: Your old iPod dock will fetch a much higher price now than it will 3 years from now. As soon as you know you’re done using an electronic, sell it.
Ok, so now that you know how to prep and organize your sale, it’s time to talk pricing.
1. Price objectively: You’ve already cut emotional ties with the junk you’re selling. Remember that and don’t stay attached to your stuff when you are trying to price it. Price your yard sale stuff to sell. Remember that this is a yard sale. People are looking to get a deal, not spend retail prices. If your prices are too high, you’ll know because you’ll get customers who come, whisper to each other and walk away promptly with a fake smile and a curt, “thanks!”.
2. Make your price tags easy to see: You don’t want people to waste your time by asking you how much something is every 10 seconds. You have a few options. You can buy pre-labeled stickers at the store, or you can use masking tape and a sharpie. I prefer the masking tape strategy because it is the cheapest. Just make sure your handwriting is legible.
3. Be willing to make a deal: Your prices are a starting point for negotiations. Many people that come to a yard sale are expert negotiators. They are looking to bargain with you. If you’re afraid of a little back and forth negotiation, your sale won’t be as successful. Be flexible and enjoy the negotiation process.
4. Make sure you have change: Go to the bank and make sure you can make change for your customers. You’d hate to lose out on a sale because you can’t break a $20. Most people will come with change and small bills, but it’s best to be prepared for any situation.
Part 2: Market Your Sale
Ok, ok. Now that you know how to set up a ridiculously awesome yard sale, you want people to actually show up, right?
If no one shows up, you’ve not only wasted your time preparing for your yard sale, but you’re also going to drink way too much of your kid’s lemonade so they won’t feel bad about their first entrepreneurial effort.
In essence, part 2 of how to have a crazy successful yard sale is the most important because it will tell you exactly how to market your garage sale so that you get as much traffic as possible.
Pick a date:
A lot of people think that this is easy. Just pick a date that you aren’t going anywhere and have all day to hang out in the shade of your garage.
But there is a lot more to picking a date for your yard sale than that.
Follow with me here. What do people need in order to buy your stuff?
When do people have the most disposable income?
So do your research. Find your city on Wikipedia and read about which companies employ the most people in your community. Then, find out what Friday is payday, and make sure to have your yard sale the Saturday immediately following.
Also, be sure to check the weather for rain or extreme heat, as both will keep your customers in their homes instead of at your yard sale.
Pick a location:
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have your garage sale on a busy road. You can choose a cozy neighborhood if you’d like, or a parking lot, or your friend’s backyard.
The trick is to make sure your signage is clear enough to direct your traffic to your sale.
If you were to go on a ride along with the Cash Cow Couple on a yard sale Saturday, you would get the unique privilege of hearing me comment about almost every yard sale sign we see.
I get worked up about yard sale signs because 99% of people get it wrong. This is marketing 101 people!
Actually, it’s even simpler than that. It’s just plain jane common sense.
When making a yard sale sign you need to worry about the following:
Use brightly colored poster board. Neon pink, highlighter yellow, or tennis ball green are all fantastic options. This attracts attention to your sign and makes it stand out among the white computer paper and cardboard signs that you’re competing with.
If you put up more than one sign to direct your customers to your sale, be sure that you use the same colored sign. If your first sign is pink, the customer will be looking for a subsequent pink sign to indicate where to turn next. Switching it up to a different color might seem fun in the store, but it will frustrate your potential customers to no end.
Once you’ve chosen your sign color, use a sharpie or thick permanent marker to write the information on your sign in large, clear print.
There are only 3 things that need to go on your sign.
First, you’ll need the word “SALE” in all capital letters. You don’t have to put “garage” or “yard” or “estate” in front of it. Just “SALE.” That’s it. It’s clear, and I promise, yard sale goers will understand what that means.
Second, you’ll need a street address. Putting the address on your sign will eliminate uncertainty for your shopper. If there is no address, the customer might feel as if they are wandering around and that your sale isn’t worth their effort. Write the address in large clear print.
Lastly, please put an arrow. That way, even if the customer doesn’t know the address, they will be able to follow your arrows.
Now that you have some rockin’ signs, you need to figure out where to put them.
Start with the nearest busy road closest to your location. Post the next sign at the street where the customer needs to make their first turn. Post the second sign where they need to make their next turn and so forth until your last sign has the customer turn down the street where the sale is being held. Take the guesswork out of it for your customers and guide them with step by step signs.
You’ll want to make sure that your signs can be seen coming from both directions on each road. I can’t begin to count the number of sales we’ve passed by simply because the sale’s advertisement was only accessible to cars driving in the opposite direction.
Also make sure that your sign isn’t going to blow away or bend in the wind to the point that the customer cannot see what information is on the sign. Tape or staple down all 4 corners of your sign.
Please note; a lot of cities have ordinances about where signs can be posted and many have fines for those that do not abide by these ordinances. In my city, it is a $500 fine for not following the rules. So make sure you follow your city ordinances. Nothing would be worse than paying that fine with all the profit from your sale.
Put an ad on Craigslist:
Hard core customers will look online on Friday for yard sales in their area, so take advantage of this free ad space.
Just like yard sale signs, people have no clue how to market their yard sale on Craigslist.
Unlike a yard sale sign, an ad on Craigslist can be more descriptive, because people will have more than a split second to see what the ad says. So take some time to compose a compelling Craigslist ad and stand out from the competition.
Include the following in your yard sale ad on Craigslist:
1. Catchy headline:
Don’t just write, “huge yard sale!” Everyone writes that. Take a few minutes and think about what makes your sale unique. For example, are you selling your stuff plus your friend’s stuff? Write, “Two- family yard sale blowout.” Do you have tons of furniture? Title your sale, “Yard Sale Furniture Extravaganza. Everything must go.”
This ensures that the Craigslist browser will click on your ad, and will hopefully come and buy your junk.
2. Pictures of big ticket items:
It is really important to have pictures and specs on your big ticket items. That way, after your catchy headline reels in the customer, they will be even more intrigued to find out you have something nice to offer. It also makes the customer feel competitive with other shoppers. This is good for you as it means you’re more likely to get your asking price for your big ticket item.
Be sure to put dimentions on furniture and specifications on electronic equipment. This assures your customer that it will be worth their time to come out and look at your big ticket item.
Also write the price of the item. Write, “ $40 OBO” which stands for “or better offer.” This will keep your customer intrigued, because it makes them feel like they could possibly talk you down from your price point.
Maybe they can, maybe they cant. But either way, you’re more likely to sell.
You need to put your yard sale address on the ad. Otherwise, no one will know how to get there.
Be specific about what time your sale opens up. I’d recommend something like, “Sale starts at 7. Those that show up earlier than that will pay double the prices.” Otherwise, you might have someone knocking on your door at 5 a.m.
Do NOT include the following:
1. Personal information:
No one likes a tell-it-all. Please refrain from an ad like one I came across that read, “selling furniture- maybe even my husband’s favorite chair!” This is too much information and it makes me feel bad for your husband. Keep it to yourself.
2. Phone number:
If you put your phone number on there, you will get calls from very annoying people. Save your sanity and just list an address.
3. A list of every single thing you’re selling:
Remember that a little mystery keeps people intrigued. Keep it simple and just list your best items.
4. Exclamation points:
We know you’re excited about making money and getting rid of your junk, but please, keep the exclamation points in your Craigslist post to a minimum.
So, what do you think? Will these tips on how to market your yard sale work for you?