15 Tips for Successful Yard Sales
by Christina Heiska
- Advertise it in the local newspaper, especially if where you live doesn't get a lot of traffic. If you are unsure of what to say in your ad, read some other ads and copy bits and pieces from them.
- You can also put up advertisements on bulletin boards in your community (grocery stores, community center, etc). You'll also want to put up signs in your neighborhood the evening before your sale directing them to your house. Drawing arrows on the signs helps. Use sturdy cardboard and make the signs legible. Regular construction paper is too flimsy, and trying to read magic marker from the road is hard. When I made signs, I saved up the tops of pizza boxes and used a Q-tip dipped in dark enamel paint. It was very easy and quick to do (and no mess to clean up). After the signs are up, drive past them and see if you can read them easily, because if you can't, nobody else can either. And most importantly, after your sale is over, TAKE THE SIGNS DOWN.
- Try to avoid putting your signs on utility poles. The staples and nails used to affix signs to the poles can pose a safety hazard to the linemen who have to climb the poles. Nails and staples can tear safety equipment such as gloves, harnesses and clothing (and hands, arms and legs too). Depending on where you live, you could even be breaking the law by affixing signs to utility poles. Affix them to other places such as street signs or buy some inexpensive stakes and put your signs on those. I guess I should tell you that I think nailing signs to trees is a big no-no too!
- If you have time, months before your yardsale, start accumulating the items you want to sell. Put all the items in a box in some out-of the-way place. If you don't have to retrieve an item out of the box before the sale, it's probably safe to assume you don't need it and can sell it. If you still have the original boxes and instruction manuals for an item, you can probably charge a little bit more for the item. As you accumulate stuff for your sale, make sure you do not sell something that you'll regret later. Do not sell anything without the owner's approval (like your grown children's old toys, baseball card collections, etc.) I hate reading the ads in the yardsale section of the newspaper that say "will the person who bought the widget this past Saturday on Maple Street, please call ...., it was sold by mistake, has sentimental value."
- I like yardsales where people have put prices on everything. The price should be on top of an item, not on the bottom. I know it's a lot of work, but worth it because you won't have people asking every two minutes, "how much do you want for this?" As a general rule of thumb, price items about a third of what they would cost new. There are exceptions. Clothes are generally very poor sellers, unless it's baby/kids clothes. But if you price adult-sized clothes cheap enough, it will sell regardless. But remember, you can always go down on a price, but you can never go back up. If you don't have time to price everything individually, signs are helpful, such as "all books .25 each" or "any piece of clothes $1.00", or "anything on this table .50". You also can offer the customers a deal, example: paperbacks .25 each or 5 for $1.
- I've been to so many yardsales where items are not marked. When I've asked the seller how much they want for a particular item, many times they respond, "I don't know, how about .50 or .25?" No buyer in their right mind will say, "yeah, I want to pay the higher price." The better way would be for the seller to answer, "How about .50?" Then if the customer puts the item back, then say "or how about .25?"
- Your yardsale will be more successful if you take the time and make sure everything is clean and shiny and displayed nicely. Ask friends/neighbors to loan you portable tables if necessary. Nothing worse than going to a yardsale and just seeing boxes of dirty, unorganized, cobwebbed junk in boxes expecting people to fish through it. Sometimes the sellers are just sitting there having their coffee doing nothing. These people probably wonder why they never have successful yardsales.
- If you hold your sale in your garage, make sure any item you DON'T want to sell is put away. If you don't, that will be the one item the customer wants.
- Guard your money! Have lots of coins and small bills available to make change. If you don't, your first customer will be have a $20 bill trying to buy .50 worth of stuff. Do not leave your money laying around in a box! I recommend wearing a fanny pack because you'll always have your money with you. If you are running out of change, and someone is trying to haggle a price down, be willing to negotiate if the buyer has the exact change.
- Have grocery bags available to put sold items in. It's also a good idea to have some newspaper available to wrap breakable items. Having a calculator can come in handy totaling up purchases, especially if you are like me and have a math phobia.
- If you have children, keep them busy by setting up a lemonade or Koolaid stand. If it's a hot day, and I've been yardsaling all morning, I know I am always thirsty. They can also have a table of their own selling their old toys. Explain to them if they get rid of their old toys, they'll make space to put the new toys that they buy themselves with the money they earn. If they agree to parting with their old toys, help them set the prices.
- If you are selling any electrical appliances, have an electrical outlet handy or a long extension cord. I don't allow strangers in my house, either to try out appliances or try on clothes, etc. If they need to use a restroom, give them directions to the nearest fast-food restaurant.
- Just like in the real world, shoplifters and shady characters go to yardsales too. My friend recently had some small items stolen at a yardsale. Nothing too valuable, just a book tucked into a purse, so she wasn't going to confront the person. But it could have been worse if she had left other more expensive small items like jewelry unattended. I don't want to scare you, I'm just trying to inform you. These people are few and far between so it shouldn't deter you from having a fun day having your own yardsale.
- If possible, invite a neighbor or friend to join you in your yardsale. Its also cheaper to split the cost of the newspaper ad with someone. And the more stuff you have available to sell the better!
Good luck and have fun!
Christina can be found almost every Saturday cruising around Maryland looking for good deals at yardsales. She has given 6 yardsales in the past 7 years and gone to countless others. For more information and details on yardsales, visit her webpage at YardSaleQueen.com or send her an email at YardSaleQueen@Comcast.net.