FROM TRASH TO TREASURE- Yard Sales 101

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Yard sale in an american weekend on the green lawn

 

Getting up early on Saturday mornings with my mom to go hunting yard sales and hidden treasures was a tradition throughout my youth. It was the only place I could take my meager babysitting money and get a lot of bang for my buck. I became good at haggling at a young age and quickly learned the value of things to know if I was getting a deal or not.

As an adult, I like to do a yearly or bi-yearly purge of my home and host a yard sale. This tradition has carried on for over forty years and during this time, I have picked up a trick or two I would like to share with you to help you have a successful sale.

I keep two large plastic containers in my shop/garage, every time I run across an item we don’t use or an article of clothing we no longer wear, in the box it goes. When the boxes are full, I know it’s time to do a whole house purge and have a yard sale.

Reasons to Host a Yard/Garage Sale

  • Recycling/Repurposing/Reusing
    • Selling your unwanted items is a perfect way to practice the 5 R’s (Refuse, Repurpose, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle)
  • De-clutter Your Home
    • Are parts of your home resembling something you’ve seen on the TV show Hoarders? Yes? Time to purge.
    • Rule of thumb: if you haven’t used it in two years, time to find it a new home – either donate  or sell it
  • Make Money
    • I have made as little as $100 and as much as $2000.00 at my yard sales. I look at the money as a bonus to cleaning my house. Kind of like getting paid to de-clutter my own home- score!
    • Have a plan for the money. Need a hot water heater? Always wanted to take a vacation? Haven’t had a date night in a while? No matter the goal, make one and reserve your earnings for that. Everyone will be on board with helping at the sale if they have a carrot at the end of the stick.
  • Fundraiser
    • I hosted a yard sale for my mother who didn’t have insurance and needed an operation to remove cancer. People come out the woodwork to support a good cause. If you have a non-profit you would like to raise money for, a yard sale is a great resource. Send an email out to your friends and family for yard sale donations and tell them about the cause, most will be happy to donate items.
  • Moving
    • Moving sales attract a LOT of people. If you are moving, host a moving sale instead of paying to move things you no longer want or need.
  • Estate Sale
    • Having a death in the family is a very emotional experience. Sorting through the deceased belongings can add to the trauma. Many families  already have an established home and have no need for two of everything. Estate sales are another big attractor for buyers. I would advise hiring a professional who is not emotionally attached to host an Estate sale, as it can be very emotional when someone tries to negotiate the price on a hand made quilt your Grandma Betty made.
  • Meet Your Neighbors/Neighborhood Sale
    • Neighborhood yard sales are very popular. Customers can hit a lot of sales without having to travel far distances. Get involved with your neighborhood, or start a neighborhood yard sale yourself if you don’t already have one. You will be surprised how many people you meet.

Reasons Not to Have a Yard Sale

  • HOA  or City Restrictions Against It
    • Many Home Owner Associations and City Ordinances have rules against hosting yard sales, check your laws before you plan one.
  • Safety- if you live alone, in a bad neighborhood, or feel unsafe
    • If you live alone and don’t have anyone to be with you during your sale, you may not want to host one. It is always good to have two or more people run a sale. Things can be overwhelming when a crowd comes.
    • If you live in a bad neighborhood where crime is high, consider hosting your sale at a friends or family members house
  • Location
    • Do you live down a remote road or in a gated community? If people can’t reach you, they can’t buy from you
  • You Don’t Have Room
    • Kind of hard to have a yard sale without a yard. I have actually had a yard sale on my screened in porch before but I had to place one person at the driveway guiding them in. Many people won’t stop if they don’t see something that lures them in from the road.
  • Parking
    • If you don’t have anywhere for customers to park (roads are fine if permitted) then it wouldn’t be a good idea to host a yard sale
  • You Don’t have that much to sell
    • If you only have a small amount of things to sell consider joining in with neighbors or friends. Yard sale pros will get discouraged if they drove all the way to your place and you only had one small table of things for sale
  • Your items are all designer, custom order, high end
    • People expect to get a bargain at yard sales. Do not expect to get 1/2 back on your investment at a yard sale. If all your items are high end or custom, sell them at consignment stores, craigslist, ebay, or in the local paper.

 Tips for having a successful Yard/Garage Sale

  • ADVERTISE
    • Craigslist and word of mouth are the two best places to advertise for a yard sale. Make sure you check to see if your local paper offers FREE online advertising.
    • Forget paying to advertise your sale in the local paper unless it is; a neighborhood yard sale, a fundraiser yard sale, a moving sale, or an estate sale. The cost won’t outweigh the traffic they provide. It you have good signs, that’s all it takes.
  • YOUR ONLINE ADVERTISING SHOULD HAVE:
    • Time. A good time to start a Yard/Garage Sale is between 7:00 -8:00 a.m. I wouldn’t start it any later than 8:30 a.m. and I normally run mine to 3:00 p.m.. If you don’t mind being outside all day, stay open longer.
    • No Early Birds Please. If you advertise your sale at 8 a.m. you will have early birds there hunting for the best deals at 6:30 a.m.. If you advertise your sale at 7 a.m. they will show up at 5:00 a.m.. The pros know the tricks of the trade, early bird gets the worm. You can advertise No Early Birds Please, but expect them to arrive anyway.
    • Rain or Shine: Will you still host your sale if it’s raining? If so, include Rain or Shine in your advertising
    • Brief description of items for sale (EXAMPLE)
      • baby items
      • households
      • sporting goods
      • furniture
      • bikes
    • Directions to the sale. I generally don’t list my home address, just the street, so I can avoid early birds. I give them directions to my road and they can follow the sings from there
    • Date of Sale. Many only host their sale for one day, Saturday. If you have a lot to sell and plan on being home all weekend, get the most for your time and expand your sale over two or three days. If I am having a Friday and Saturday Sale, I will end it later on Friday (6:00 p.m. ish) to catch all of the people getting off work. On Sundays, plan to get a rush of visitors after church gets out.

 

SIGNS, SIGNS, SIGNS

  • One of the most important keys to a successful sale are Signs. Buy the bright florescent poster board (get all the same color so people will recognize them as the same sale) and fold it in half horizontally. Get a thick tip black marker or paint and make your signs. Less is more when it comes to advertising on a road sign. People are driving and can’t slow down to read every little detail. Write on both sides of your poster board so traffic can see them from both directions, and make sure the arrows will point in the right direction they need to go to get to your sale.  The more signs you have, the more traffic you will generate.
  • YOUR SIGN(S) SHOULD HAVE:
    • Yard Sale ! (or Garage Sale, Estate Sale, Moving Sale, etc.)
    • Time (7 am- 3pm)
    • Date: (Friday, Sat & Sun)
    • A large arrow pointing them to your direction  >>>
    • Sign Placement
      • Place one or two signs on the nearest main road or cross section.
      • Place a sign at every crossing road between the main road and your house.
      • Place a sign at the end of your road.
      • If your road is long or has a lot of twist and turns, place smaller signs (the same color as your poster board) with just an arrow pointing them in the right direction
      • Place sign in front of your house
    • Put the signs out the night before or a couple hours before your sale. Make sure you pick all of your signs at the end of your sale or you will have uninvited guest looking for your sale. The city or county may take your signs as well if they are left out too long.
    • Well-made signs can last for several sales so take good care of them

SET UP

  • Please, for the love of God, please have everything; out, ready, priced, and waiting for the start of your sale. Stage your sale the day (or days) before and cover with a tarp until the sale begins. Keep an eye on the weather so you can protect your items from the elements.
  • Price Everything. Everything. I have walked away from an item I wanted at a sale because it didn’t have a price and I didn’t want to ask the host. Price everything.
  • CLEAN ITEMS
    • You can make a lot more money on a clean chair than a dirty chair. Take a damp towel and wipe everything down, your customers will appreciate your efforts
  • Staging: A well-staged sale is a successful one. Don’t pile items on top of each other that people have to go through, you will have a mess in no time. Make a shelf for books with a cinder block and a 2×6 piece of wood, hang clothes on hangers on a rope (hangers not included with sale), put furniture together. Place like items together, clothes in one section, households in another
  • Check Out. Have a visible area for you for people to check out. I normally place an umbrella over my area with a chair and a good book for down time.
  • Stage Eye Catchers (see list below) closest to your yard entrance to draw attention.

EYE CATCHERS

  • Eye Catchers are items that draw people in and sell quickly. Some examples are:
    •  Bikes
    • Appliances
    • Baby Items
    • Sporting Goods
    • Furniture
  • If I have a close friend or neighbor buying one of these Eye Catcher items from me, I ask them to leave it at my sale until the end of the day and I place a SOLD sign on it. I do this to keep attracting new would-be customers.

WHAT DOESN’T SELL OR MOVE QUICKLY

  • Broken Items
  • Dirty Items
  • Clothes (Baby clothes move quickly, all others that are not displayed on hangers move slow)
  • Shoes
  •  Personal Items (do not sell undergarments at a Yard Sale, this is a yuck factor to most)
  • Monogrammed Items
  • Overpriced Items

SUPPLIES

  • Money Bag/ Cash Box/or a Contractors Apron. Have someone with your cash box at all times.
  • Change. Have lots of change on hand to start your sale if you can.
  • An ideal cash box is :
    • One roll of quarters
    • One roll of dimes (if you have anything priced for a dime- omit if not)
    • One roll of nickels (if you have anything priced for less than a quarter-omit if not)
    • $50.00 in One Dollar Bills
    • Five $5.00 Dollar Bills
    • Two $10.00 dollar bills
    • One $20.00 dollar bill
    • EARLY BIRDS will try to give you a $20.00 dollar bill for a $1.00 item, always ask if they have something smaller or you will run out of small change during the first two hours.
  • Small tool kit. Keep a small tool kit handy to disassemble items if needed.
  • Extra price stickers. Price stickers always go missing off items during a sale. Check often and make replace as needed.
  • Plastic or paper bags. Make good use out of those recycled plastic bags and offer them to customers to bring home their purchases in.
  • Newspaper. Use old newspaper to wrap breakables in.
  • Hand Sanitizer (handling money all day is a dirty job)
  • Calculator. When you have a crowd and multiple people talking to you, it’s hard to do math. Use a calculator to avoid adding errors.
  • Drop cord/electrical cord. Customers will want to know if electrical appliances work. Run a drop cord from an electrical outlet to your check out area so people can test items before they buy
  • Sold &  Not for Sale
    • If you are using your own furniture to display items or have personal items around that are not for sale, place a NOT FOR SALE sign on them. I’m sure you will still have offers to buy them but it is best to have clearly marked.
    • Place SOLD signs on anything that is sold but hasn’t left your property.

EARLY BIRDS

  • Early Birds are die hard Yard Sale people. They know the tricks of the trade, how to spot a good deal, how to haggle, and how to get what they want. They will show up 1-2 hours before your sale is advertised to start and 9 times out of 10 they will offer you less than what you’re asking.
  • I welcome early birds but I politely tell them price is firm for early birds and any negotiation of price will start at 11:00 a.m., if the item hasn’t sold.

DON’T HOLD ITEMS WITHOUT FULL PAYMENT

  • If you are selling large pieces of furniture or equipment, expect to hold an item until they can get a truck to pick it up. Never hold an item without FULL PAYMENT. Trust me.

SOLD ITEMS TO BE PICKED UP LATER

  • If a customer bought a large item and needs to get a truck or van to pick it up, get their phone number and give them a deadline when to pick it up by. Let them know if the items isn’t picked up by the agreed time, you will refund their money and sell it to someone else. Never let a customer pick up an item when; you are not home, home alone, or after dark- for your safety and theirs.

CASH ONLY- UNLESS YOU PERSONALLY KNOW SOMEONE

  • I think this tip is self-explanatory. NO CASH, NO SALE.  Anyone going to a Yard Sale knows to bring cash, if they ask if you’ll take a check, that is a red flag. Unless, you know them personally.

SELLING ITEMS FOR OTHER PEOPLE

  • Inviting friends or family members to join your yard sale is a great way to add eye candy and entice a large crowd, plus it shares the work load.
  • If others are going to sell their items at my sale I do a couple of things:
    • They have to split any advertising cost
    • If they are staying at the sale, they help manage the sale
    • They have to deliver their items before the sale, have them cleaned and clearly priced with their initials on the price tag
    • If they are not going to be at the sale to help, I charge a 10% sales fee (I take 10% of their total sales)
    • If they are not going to be at your sale, make sure they write down the bottom line they are willing to sell their items for. Nothing is worse thank tracking down someone to see if they will take $4.00 instead of $6.00 when you have a crowd.
    • They are to pick up their items at the end of the sale and help where needed

NEGOTIATIONS

  • Most (not all) yard sale customers will ask you to take less than the sticker price. I know this ahead of time so I price my items accordingly. If I want $20.00 for an item, I will price it at $22.00, knowing they will offer me less.
  • Split the difference. Never say “Yes” to the first low offer. If you have an item marked for $20.00 and they offer $15.00, come back with a offer of $18.00. Part of the fun of a Yard Sale Customer is the victory of a good haggle.

YOU WILL MAKE 90% OF YOUR MONEY BEFORE NOON

  • Your sale will go in waves. You will have the Early Birds, The On Timers, and the Deal Catchers (at end of sale or in afternoon).
  • After my second wave of people I will go around my items and see if anything hasn’t been touched or picked up. If so, it may be the price is too high.
  • If you are having a One Day Sale; I start cutting prices on everything I don’t want to keep after 1:00 p.m.
  • If you are having a multi-day sale; Cut prices on the morning of the last day on anything your don’t want to keep.

SPECIALS

  • $5.00 Grab Bags.
    • Clothes and end of day deals are the perfect time to offer $5.00 grab bags. You provide plastic grocery store bags and anything they can fit in it (clothes generally) is $5.00

WHAT TO DO WITH EVERYTHING AT THE END OF THE SALE?

  • Take anything you don’t want to part with and put it back into your plastic storage tote for future yard sales.
  • Take pictures of big ticket items (furniture, tools, equipment, etc.) and place adds on Craigslist, ebay, News Papers, or Consignment Stores
  • Put an add on Craigslist to sell everything that is left for one price and say they must take ALL and pick up only. Give a time limit too- Today !
  • Call your local non-profit organization to see if they will come and pick up your items. The local Salvation Army and the Woman’s Shelter will pick up our yard sale items and give us a receipt for the total value to use as a tax donation.

KEEP PETS INSIDE

  • Not everyone is a pet lover. Many have allergies or even fears from being attacked in the past. For your protection, the protection of your customers, and the protection of your pets, keep them inside during your sale. When you need to take them outside to use the restroom, use a leash.

LEMONADE STAND

  • Involve the kids and set up a lemonade or a hot coco stand if its cold.

HOW TO PRICE YARD SALE ITEMS

Remember, this is a yard sale for used items. People are expecting to get a deal, the price you paid for your  items is irrelevant, if you are emotionally attached to items, a yard sale is not the place to sell them. You would be better off selling emotionally attached items on; ebay, Craigslist, Etsy, Consignment Shops, or in the local paper.

PRICING TIP

  • Write the first three letters of the item on the bottom of the price sticker. For instance, you have a blender for $8.00, under the $8.00 write BLE. Stickers get lost or come off, if an item is missing a sticker, a customer will pick up the nearest sticker laying around and assume it goes with the item. Writing the initials down will assure the correct price is being charged.

PRICE IS FIRM

  • If you would rater keep and item than come down on your asking price, mark it PRICE IS FIRM, and stand your ground.

I found this great article on WIKI How, How to Price Your Yard Sale Items. This is a general guide to pricing, not concrete in stone. If you are having a Estate sale, I recommend hiring a professional to host the sale for you.

Price toys at $1 – $3. You could also have a “free” box with some of the least expensive items, so kids who come to the yard sale with their parents can take something home; perhaps their parents will also be more likely to buy something in this case.

Price kitchen supplies at $1 – $3. This includes china, flatware, baking supplies, and all other kitchen items. Make sure they’ve all been carefully cleaned before you put them on display.

Price computer equipment and other electronic equipment at $20 or lower. Even if you bought your juicer at $100, it’ll be hard to move it for more than $20; good deals on electronics abound, so you’ve got to go lower than what savvy shoppers can find online.

Price home décor items at $3 – $5. Candlesticks, pictures, knickknacks, and other home décor items should be some the lower-priced items in the sale. Exceptions are made for antiques or items that are rare or expensive, such as high-quality art.

Price rare antiques at $100 and up. If you’ve got something truly special, like a Tiffany lamp or a Victorian chaise, price it high. The right buyer will be willing to pay what it’s worth.

  • If you don’t know the item’s value for sure, do some research first or get it appraised. You don’t want to undersell your most valuable possessions.
  • Display high value items close to the house, in a special area you can keep an eye on.

Price sturdy furniture at $50 – $75. A solid wood dresser, table, cabinet, or bookshelf might be one of the higher-priced items in your yard. A good rule of thumb for these items is to charge 1/3 the original price. If you paid $300 for a table you’ve hardly used, go ahead and charge $100 for it. You can always drop the price if you need to.

Price lower quality furniture at $10 – $30. Furniture made with materials that aren’t sturdy, or furniture that has been very heavily used and is full of scratches, should be priced cheap so you can move it off the lawn. At these prices, you may be able to sell off your old furniture to students looking to furnish a dorm cheaply

Price games at $5 – $10. Some rare or expensive games might sell for more, but in general your games won’t go for more than $10.

Sell records at $2 – $3, unless you have a very rare record that is still in good condition (in which case you may want to consider taking it to a record store to trade it in – you might make more cash that way).

Price CDs at $3. Keep in mind that CD sales have gone down, so these aren’t the hot commodity they used to be. You could try to sell bundles of CDs by the same artist for a little more if your aim is to sell them off as quickly as possible

Price DVDs at $5. You may want to consider having a laptop or DVD player handy so people can make sure the DVDs work before they fork over the cash. Display the DVDs in their original cases.

Price books at $1. People don’t want to pay more than this for a book at a yard sale, unless it’s a beautiful hardcover coffee table book. Display your books spine-out in an attractive box or on a bookshelf that’s also for sale

Price coats at $10 – $15. Launder the coats and display them neatly on hangers. Coats that look like they’re 15 years old will sell for less, but if you have a name brand coat that hasn’t been worn much, you can price it a little highe

Price shoes at $5 – $7. Be sure to polish the shoes to remove scuff marks and worn areas before you display them. If you have a pair of very gently used name brand shoes, you could price them a few dollars higher.

  • Old tennis shoes should go for less; you may even want to give them away for free.
  • Display shoes attractively, rather than throwing them all in a box

Price adult clothes at $3 – $5. Old shirts, pants, dresses, and other items shouldn’t be priced higher than this, unless they’re name brand with the tags still on. You might have more luck selling clothes if you leave out the oldest, rattiest items; don’t make people dig too deep to find something worth buying.

Price baby clothes at $1 – $3. People won’t expect to pay more for used baby clothes, since they’re often inexpensive to begin with. Make sure the clothes are laundered and well presented to make the best sales.[1] If the item is name brand with the tags still on, you can price it a little higher.

  • If you want to sell clothes that have been heavily used or are stained, price them at $0.50 or $0.25, just to move them off of your lawn.

 

I hope this helps you make your sale a huge success. If you host annual sales, a good yard sale will bring back loyal customers time after time.

 

6 Comments

  1. Valerie on March 11, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    Thanks sooo. much!
    This was very helpful!

  2. Sara @ The Holy Mess on June 10, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Wow! This is an incredible resource. I have a post on my website with tips for attending a rummage sale. Put the 2 together and you have a great resource combined. You have thought of everything in this post. What a great list!

  3. Sara @ The Holy Mess on June 10, 2015 at 11:44 am

    Editing to add, sharing this on FB. 🙂

  4. […] have too many tips to mention in hosting a yard sale so if you would like to know more read my post From Trash to Treasure How to make money at a yard sale. I hosted a Yard Sale last month and I made $400.00 and change, not bad for staying home and […]

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