Garage Sales

By Ginny Frizzi

January 18, 2012 6 min read

Having a yard sale is one thing; having a successful one is another.

Those individuals who take the time to plan their sale are most likely to be successful.

Whether called garage sales, tag sales or yard sales, the first thing is to establish your goals, according to Andrew Schrage of the website Money Crashers.

"There are two main schools of thought regarding garage sales. The first is to simply de-clutter your house and make whatever you can available for sale. The second is to focus in on profits," he says.

Begin by gathering items for sale. You can designate a space, such as corner of the basement or garage, where sale items can be placed.

Take the time to get the merchandise in order. Check to see that goods work. Clean them, and group similar items -- such as books, records, dishes and kitchenware -- together. This will make it easier for buyers to find what they are looking for.

One of the most important steps is to publicize your sale.

"Place your ad in the Friday classified section of the local newspaper, advises Reyne Hirsch, who was an appraiser for the Public Broadcasting Service's "Antiques Roadshow" for 13 years.

"Don't be too wordy. Think about some spicy keywords that will grab their attention and make them want to stop by. Words like antiques, collectibles, modernism, jewelry and couture add interest to see what is there," she says.

Schrage said he believes you should never pay for advertising, since there are so many free options -- plus, garage sale "gurus" usually know where to find sales.

Free sources of advertising include Craigslist and local websites that list events such as yard sales. Notices can be posted on public bulletin boards in supermarkets or community centers, and some newspapers provide free listings for garage sales.

Signage the day of the sale is important.

"Big black letters, arrows ... even balloons to get the attention of drivers who maybe had no idea you were having a sale. Put the signs out in the wee hours of the morning or the night before," says Hirsch.

Hirsch advises that if you aren't sure of the value of an item, such as a furniture or painting, hold it back from the sale.

"Do some research, or have an expert look at it. You don't want to make the mistake of selling that old rocker for $5 at a yard sale when it is worth hundreds and perhaps should be sold at auction," says Hirsch, who once purchased a box of old baseball cards for $5 that contained individual cards that she sold for hundreds of dollars each.

Other tips include:

--Arrange a joint sale with family, friends or neighbors. The more merchandise, the better. Use different-colored tags or stickers to keep track of everyone's merchandise.

--Have a supply of plastics bags, newspapers and empty boxes available for wrapping and packing sold items.

--Consider a tag or dot system, such as all blue dot items are 50 cents, yellow dots are one dollar, etc. You can post price signs by items, such as "Five paperback books for $1" or "DVDs 50 cents each."

--Make sure you have plenty of singles and coins for making change. Most garage sales are conducted on a cash-only basis. Many sellers wear a fanny pack or multi-pocketed carpenter's-style apron to hold their money.

--For clothing, get plastic grocery bags and allow customers to stuff full for a set amount, such as $5 per bag. This strategy can also be applied toward the end of the sale to move other items. For example, "Fill a box or bag for $1."

--Have an electrical cord handy so buyers can test items such as radios, lamps or power tools to ensure they are working.

--Be prepared to negotiate. Most buyers expect to dicker for a better price, but the seller shouldn't be intimidated if the price offered is too low. Keep in mind that if you want to move the merchandise, your prices shouldn't be too firm.

--Unsold items can be donated to a local charity or thrift shop. Make arrangements for a pickup or deliver yourself following the event. Donations may qualify for a tax write-off.

An additional way to make money at a garage sale is by selling refreshments, including bottled water, soda, lemonade, granola bars and cookies. You can put children in charge of the stand.

"I personally feel that this strategy is a great idea to boost the success of your garage sale and also to involve your children," says Schrage. "If your sale is in the summer, definitely invest in a few cases of bottled water and sell them at a profit. Sometimes, the return on bottled water can rival that of the profits from your garage sale."

Hirsch says that in addition to refreshments, children can make money selling unused toys or games.

"It can teach them responsibility about money. Let them negotiate with buyers, although they seem to be less likely to haggle with kids," she says.

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