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Five Must-Know Tips — and More — for a Successful Garage Sale

Garage sales can be clutter-busting, fundraising successes or frustrating boondoggles. If your last try wasn’t worth the hours of effort you put in to sort, clean and price someone else’s future treasures, let these five expert tips pave the way to results that will have you cheering!

Choose the Right Time

Garage and yard sales are the most successful when your clean, low-cost goods will be in the highest demand. Consider what you have to offer. If most of the tables at your sale will feature winter sports gear and holiday decorations, an early spring date may not be your best bet, while it can be tough to sell swimsuits and pool floats in November. Avoid major holiday weekends. Clean items at the right price can sell in any season but will go for a premium if the timing is right.

The veteran garage-sales with the most money to spend are notorious for keeping on task. Armed with lists of sales, they will hop from area to area to save time and fuel and will rarely backtrack to the sales run by stragglers opening late. Check on the typical starting times in your area and schedule your start time no later. On a warm summer day, your customers will be headed for the beach by noon.

Pick the Right Place

Sales in outlying areas can struggle to attract shoppers. If it’s your only choice, consider gathering items from several families and advertising with gusto. Convince bargain hunters that your sale is worth their while, and they will come. If it still seems like a longshot, ask family or friends with homes in higher traffic locations to join forces with you at their place or consider alternatives such as renting tables at a flea market or asking a local business to use their parking lot in exchange for bringing in traffic.

Ask the Right Price

Most used goods should be priced at a quarter to a third of the retail cost or less. Clean furniture, appliances, or sporting goods in top working condition sell at the top of that range, while items that are in lesser condition or are readily available for a lower price, such as clothing, should be significantly less. The retail reference price should reflect the current value of the item, not what you may have paid five years ago. It can be painful to sell an obsolete electronic device for a fraction of its original cost, but if it’s priced it too high, be prepared to put it back in the junk drawer!

If you are having a sale over a two to three day period, it’s fair to stick to your asking price the first day, but if it doesn’t sell, reduce it. Know what your bottom line is and if you want it gone, be prepared to dicker. It’s only worth what someone will pay you for it.

It can be helpful to attach photos of similar items that are for sale on websites that hawk used goods to justify your price, but beware — many of these websites offer intangibles such as guarantees that make their goods more valuable. They also sell to a national audience, meaning that things that are plentiful and cheap in your area may be rare in others and command a higher overall price that won’t reflect what you can realistically get.


The cost of advertising in the local newspaper or on websites like craigslist© will drive enough traffic to your sale to make it worth the price, especially if you’re allowed to post photographs. Be clear about what you have, the forms of payment you will take and if you are willing to accept offers. Good directions to your sale location are a must!

Signs can make or break your sale. You should comply with all local ordinances, but otherwise, use large, colorful poster board and other attention getters such as balloons and streamers. Make them look like party invitations! Place them on every major roadway nearby with directional arrows pointing the way. List your starting and end times. Make sure the print is easy to read.

Signs directly reflect the quality of the goods being sold and the congeniality of the sellers. To some, garage-sailing is all business, to others, it’s a social event. Don’t underestimate the selling-power of a smile. Give everyone the impression they’re welcomed.

Be Prepared

Make sure you have all the necessary permits and verify your advertising a few days before the sale date. Have a contingency plan for rain if needed and round up plenty of help — you’ll need it.

The day before the sale, put your signs in place. If wet weather is expected, cover them with see-through plastic wrap. Erect your tables and rain covers if needed. Put out anything that won’t be damaged by weather. If you plan to put a price tag on every item, start tagging! If you plan to price by the table, make out signs. Finally, if you plan to restrict parking in your driveway, put up entrance barriers. Use a road cone, sawhorses, or even ladders.

On sale day, start on time. Shoppers who show up to closed garage doors won’t return. Have plenty of change and a good supply of boxes, bags, and paper for wrapping fragile items. A cash box can be good for collecting funds, but keep a close eye on it. Aprons with deep pockets are a more mobile alternative.

Helpful Hints

– Have tape, a stapler and a black marker available on sale morning to make emergency sign repairs. Keep a few index cards handy to create sold signs for customers who purchase large items that will need to be retrieved later with a truck.

– Stay comfortable with bug spray and sunscreen. A general yard spray will encourage customers to shop longer!

– Make sure your advertising lists the forms of payment you will take and your preferences for pick-up. Cash only and item pick-up by the end of the sale is recommended.

– If you are fundraising for charity, make that clear. Don’t expect shoppers to want to pay more, but you will draw attention to your cause, and you may be surprised by people’s generosity.

– Add interest to your sale with free entertainment or refreshments. Your teenage son strumming his guitar and a couple of adorable little ones pouring lemonade don’t cost much and turn your sale into an event.

– If you are selling large items such as furniture or appliances, have help on hand to load. A hand-truck will be a blessing.

– Plan to keep your pets inside during your sale. It minimizes the risk of accidents and relieves them of the stress of too much excitement.

– Be prepared for early birds. These are the folks, usually dealers, that will show up an hour before the sale starts to get the best deals. It’s rude, and you are within your rights to ask everyone to be respectful of your starting time, but remember that these are the people with the most cash to spend. Be nice.

– Have a plan for a speedy clean-up. This can be anything from making a pile of free goods by the side of the road to bringing it to a charity thrift shop. Flea marketers are often happy to pick up your leftovers for free.

With a little luck and preparation, you’ll soon be enjoying more clutter-free space in your home and spending your garage sale earnings on something fun. Enjoy the time with your family and friends and get to know the people you will meet. Smile, have a good time and set the stage for next year’s sale by creating many happy customers.