Garage Sale Tips


A yard or garage sale is a great way to sell what you don’t need to raise money for those things you do need.  It can be a quick and easy way to bring in some money.  And most everyone has stuff lying around the house that they never use or no longer need.

Hoarding has become a major problem for some and for the pack rat, stuff can pile up quickly. Nip it in the bud before it becomes a problem and have a garage sale to declutter your home. You’ll find it easier to clean your home and quicker to find and retrieve items when you need them.

Having a yard sale is very easy if you follow my garage sale tips and most towns allow it without a problem.  The only time you might run into concerns is if you have a continuous over-the-summer yard sale or one that is repeated several times in a short period of time, giving the impression that you are running a business.  If unsure, check with your local town office to see if there are bylaws to be aware of.  Then start planning to have a garage sale.

Garage Sale vs Selling on Consignment:

The alternative to having a yard sale (private sale) to dispose of unwanted items for cash, is to sell them through a retailer such as a used goods store or flea market retailer that sells items on consignment – meaning they sell it for you and keep a percentage for their trouble.

Only problem with selling on consignment is that these retailers usually are more particular about what they take to sell, which could limit your salable merchandise to just a few things.  You also lose the consignment fee, so revenue is usually less than selling privately.

With a yard sale, you can sell lots of stuff (there are some exceptions) and as the old saying goes “someone’s junk is another person’s treasure”.  More stuff to sell means more money in your pocket.

Decide on a Sale Date and Time:

Start by deciding when to host the sale – best days to get people out are usually on a weekend, but it can vary with different areas.  Check your local paper to see when people tend to hold yard sales and make note of the most popular times.

Also make a decision as to duration. Consider the time of day based on comfort outdoors. For example, don’t plan to hold a sale in the evening in an area with lots of mosquitoes. You may also want to have your yard sale around the same time as others in your area, to take advantage of that consumer traffic.

I’ve found that avoiding certain days or holidays is best, such as not planning a sale on Father’s or Mother’s Day, but a sale on a summer long weekend would be more profitable. Think in terms of when are you most likely to check out yard sales and when are you not.

I also tend to pick a date around the time seniors would have received their pensions and others have their paydays – mid month or end of the month – so people are more able to buy.  The first yard sales of the summer and the last ones are usually well attended. Once you’ve got a target date to work with, start to gather your items for sale.

Gather the Goods for Sale:

This is the most time-consuming part – rounding up everything to sell.  Start by making a list of items that can only be rounded up the morning of the sale, such as large furniture pieces and things that are still in use until sold.

Go through your entire home, starting with sheds, garage and basement.  Gather things to a common place such as the garage – a spot where it will be easy to fetch this lot the day of the sale.  Take time to go through household storage areas and basically every nook and cranny of the home if you want to fully maximize revenue potential.

Don’t overlook the toy box and old sporting equipment – they’re big sellers, as are books and comics. If you can’t move an item to the designated spot, jot it down on the list.  Large home appliances or heavy furniture which cannot be moved to the outdoors, should be listed with pictures on a poster at the sale and be prepared to show them when required.

Package breakables properly and mark boxes. Very small insignificant items like hardware stuff could be all put in a small box and marked with a price for the whole box, or a same price per item for anything in the carton, just to make things easier.

Things You Should NEVER Sell:

  • Recalled appliances or items
  • Things that you know don’t work – should be discarded or into the ‘free’ box – someone may want it for parts
  • Appliances or tools that are barely clinging to life or are emitting a burn smell obviously will not work for long and should be discarded.
  • Infant or children items that no longer meet certain safety codes
  • Hazardous appliances – those with a known electrical problem or safety issue
  • Used mattresses and pillows are sometimes banned from sale for health reasons – check with local agencies
  • Borrowed items sometimes can accidentally get included in the sale by some family members. Round them up and return to rightful owners.

Garage Sale Pricing:

It’s been my experience that when yard sale items have no prices, people often don’t bother to ask and you’ve lost the sale.  It’s best to put a reasonable price on the tag and be ready to take offers.  Decide ahead how much discount you’re willing to accept, though it may vary depending on the object.  It’s not a bad idea to check with your partner to confirm an offer is fine to accept.

Ask a friend to help with pricing and better yet, if you don’t usually go to sales and have no idea of prices, plan on visiting a few before your own sale.  Unreasonable prices tend to turn off people immediately and many will leave without looking any further.

While some prefer to price items as they pack them for the pending sale, others like to price as they unpack and place items on the sale table.  Either way works; just be ready to spend more time pricing just before the sale if you defer this task.

Use small stickers that remove easily, stringed tags on fancy items or use an easy to remove painters masking tape to write prices on. Be careful of what you are putting tape on, so as not to cause a blemish on a fine article.

Plastic bag fancy linens, bedding, draperies and add a tag with the size and price.  Only those really interested will unbag the items to fully view them and it will protect them from dirt. Never, ever write with marker or pen directly on the items.   Nice things bought at yard sales often are used for a gift, so keep the price sticker removable.

I prefer to round off prices rather than make it harder to make change. That being said, often a price of $5.99 will grab a buyer but $6.00 may seem much higher, though it’s just a penny. It’s up to you, but if you want to make it super easy to take money and make change – round up or down.

Keep prices reasonable based on the age, condition, popularity and collectible nature of the items. No one wants to pay close to full price on a yard sale item.  And planning to have a table of antiques or artwork that you want full price for, is not really a good idea at yard sales.  People generally have a hard time making the distinction and expect low prices, not full retail.

Make sure that family members are included in this household ‘purging’ so everyone is happy.  Gathering stuff for a yard sale can be a hassle but if you plan way ahead, you could do the gathering during spring cleaning time or over a quiet period of the year.

It makes yard sale goers extremely happy when they can get something for nothing, so have a box or two marked ‘free’ with items that you figure would never sale, like old issues of craft or woodworking magazines, beat up books, plastic containers with lids, canning jars, odds and ends.

Items That Sell Well at Garage Sales:

  • Toys
  • Infant equipment, furniture, clothing, toys
  • Children’s clothing (in style)
  • Games & puzzles (fairly intact)
  • Sporting equipment (meets safety codes)
  • Books, fiction, specialty, recipe, hobby, craft
  • Collectibles
  • Vintage kitchenware
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Dishes
  • Kitchenware, cookware and general household
  • Building supplies
  • Tools
  • Craft supplies, equipment
  • Home decor items such as wall pictures, lamps
  • Small furniture items
  • Yard items and equipment
  • Fishing lures and equipment
  • Christmas, Holiday or Halloween decorations also sell well even months ahead of when people can use them, but expect to get a much lower price

Baked Goods and Plant Starters:

A separate table with homemade baking such as muffins, squares, cookies, bread or pies are usually very good sellers.  Have them prepackaged to save time and avoid things that will wilt in the sun, like chocolate.  Make sure to include some important details such as if sugar-free, wheat-free, nut-free and so on.

You should have a designated mature person overseeing this table, so they can answer questions regarding food ingredients or plant information.  Small indoor plants or vegetable garden seedlings are very good sellers and you can often divide your plants into small pots or start seeds indoors ahead of planting time.

Advertise Your Garage Sale:

You’ll have to plan ahead to get an advertisement in your local paper so timing is just right for the date you picked.  Take advantage of free online advertising networks. Put posters up on popular bulletin boards in your area such as in supermarkets, coin laundry outlets and service centers at least a week prior to the sale.  Be considerate and remember to take posters down after your sale.

The night before your sale, place posters in allowed areas on the road and main junctions. Make sure posters are easy to read; avoid too much text and use large dark lettering. Use a recognizable ‘Yard Sale’ sign where you can just add the address, date and time.  The morning of the sale, add a sign at the end of your driveway, to catch the attention of those passing by. Some people also add balloons to their sign.

Before The Sale – Things to Do:

  • Cash float – you’ll need to make change so arrange to have about $60 for a float in various denominations, including change and something to keep it in – that stays with the main person taking the money. Someone should always be holding the money; never leave a cash box on a table. Expect to make change for the odd large bill.
  • Gather some plastic bags for bagging sold items and newspaper or paper to wrap breakables
  • Paper, pen and calculator
  • You’ll need a chair or two for helpers
  • Tables to display items (may need several) plus one for the cashier.  Tables could be plywood or an old door on saw horses, kitchen table, folding tables
  • Mark unpriced items – this can take a whole day more or less
  • Plan an easy-to-grab lunch and drinks during the sale
  • Arrange help with the sale, at least one more person can help monitor for those few that ‘grab and run’ without paying, expecting not to be noticed during the sale
  • Clear the ‘sale area’ of yard stuff, garage items and place a tape across areas in the garage not included in the sale
  • Plan the set-up time required prior to the start of the sale. This can take a whole day arranging priced items on tables and other large stuff gathered.
  • Use more tables, rather than high stacks of stuff on fewer tables; it makes it easier for people to view the goods.
  • You’ll also need a plugged in extension cord handy so appliances and tools can be tested before buying
  • Plan on dressing for the weather

The Day of the Sale:

  • Set up hours ahead; there’s always early birds, even if you state there shouldn’t be any
  • Be ready to roll at least one hour early
  • Keep valuables always within sight; place those on a table close to your monitoring/packing area
  • Occasionally remove large bills from the cash float and store safely.

After the Yard Sale:

  • Dismantle tables but scrutinize what goes back in the home.  This is the ideal time to keep the clutter down and decide whether stuff that didn’t sell should be discarded or donated to a charity’s yard sale, or brought back in to use. You could also repackage left-overs for your next sale.  There might be a buyer next time for those items.
  • Take stock of what types of items sold well, which sold close to sticker price and what stuff people were not interested in.  This is good knowledge for your next sale.
  • Count the cash. Subtract your original float amount from the total cash and that gives you your net revenue from the sale.  Wrap coin if applicable for the bank.

Expect some haggling over prices, that’s what some find the most fun since everyone wants a bargain. Having a yard sale is a lot of work from the gathering of stuff to holding the sale, but relax – you can have a great time too. Just follow my garage sale tips above and you’ll have a successful yard sale.