13 Tips for Running a Profitable Garage Sale

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The following is a guest article written by David Boyd, an Australian personal finance writer. David works at Money Choices, where he has been giving home buyers and investors information on choosing a home loan that best fits their needs. Enjoy!

13 Tips for Running a Profitable Garage Sale

A yard sale by any other name is a garage sale, a barn sale, a moving sale, or a tag sale. The motives are the same no matter what you call it–a clutter-free home and cold, hard cash. To make a profit, try these tips!

#1. Plan it Out Thoroughly in Advance: A poorly-planned yard sale is like waiting to do holiday shopping until the last minute. It can be done, but it usually isn’t done well. Yard sales are not spontaneous events, so take a month to get yourself prepared and ready for the day.

#2. Uncover the Treasure: Yard sale inventory is in your home’s most-ignored places – the attic, the basement, the garage, or the shed. If something has gone unused for a year, it qualifies to be sold. Make it sales-worthy by washing, shining or fixing it. If it’s broken, dangerous or under government recall, throw it out. Don’t risk your reputation and relationship with others over shoddy goods.

#3. Go Undercover: Scoping out the yard sale competition can give you useful pointers and help avoid mistakes. Ask friends and neighbours to share their yard sale experiences and think about what you could do better. Drop by a few yard sales to get a feel for how bargain hunters respond. Check out the set up and watch the seller operate. Take special notice of what sells and how much things cost. Use what you learn when you price your own goods.

#4. Get on the Right Side of the Law: The last thing you want is a local authority shutting down your yard sale just as the profits start to roll in. Don’t ignore your homeowners’ association rules or local laws! Get a permit, if you need one, and adhere to any local restrictions on yard sale days and times.

#5. Have a Back-Up Plan: Decide well before yard sale day whether your event will be rain-or-shine. If you plan to sell in any weather, be realistic and make sure it is physically possible, at the last minute, to move your for-sale items to a dry, covered location. If not, schedule a rain delay.

#6. Pick the Big Day: Unless you’re having a whole-house sale, keep it simple. A one-day sale is usually more than enough time to make a good profit. Prime times are Friday or Saturday. Set a reasonable yard sale time that won’t have early bird bargain hunters at your home before dawn.

#7. Price it Right: This is a step you may want to skip if you feel confident that you can haggle over every spoon and baby toy, but most successful yard sales have price-tagged merchandise. Negotiating is recommended. Use stickers and be fair. This is stuff you don’t want that someone else might. Cutting the retail price in half will make your things sell. Remember, if it won’t sell, it won’t disappear by itself.

#8. Let Everybody Know: Call around for special advertising rates in the local papers, especially the community papers. Advertise two days in advance with short, to-the-point copy hitting the highlights–date, address, hours and special items along with general categories. Put up flyers on bulletin boards. Announce your sale online in social networks and Craigslist.

#9. Pick Up the Drive-by Sale: Having big, easy-to-read signs directing traffic to your yard sale will get you extra traffic. Create signs using heavy cardboard and dark lettering, with minimal information and large directional arrows. Then, hit the streets with a staple gun and start spreading the news.

#10. Save Time with Setup: If you can do it ahead of time, get it done. Borrow and set up tables, chairs and clothes-hanging areas. Cover up anything immovable that’s not for sale. Keep batteries, tools, a tape measure and extension cords ready for sizing and testing merchandise. Assign duties to helpers. Stock up on newspapers and boxes for packing sold items and make a trip to the bank for at least $20 in change.

#11. Yard Sale Day: Grab your coffee and put on an extra pot on for early birds. Set up the checkout area with the money box and and wrapping materials. It’s time! Actively engage your customers, but give them lots of time and room to browse. Re-stack sale items to keep them organised. Stay open until the end and consider cutting prices in half in the last hours.

#12. What You Can’t Sell, Give Away: Make a solemn commitment now that whatever goes unsold still goes. Call a charity to arrange a pickup anything that’s left behind. The only thing you want to have left is the money.

#13. After-Sale Clean Up: Once the sale is over, return everything you borrowed and thank your helpers. Don’t forget to make sure to send out a party to take down all the street signs. Count your profits. You’ve earned every single penny.

How about you all? Have you ever ran a garage sale? Was it successful? How much money did you make? What techniques did you use to make sure it went well?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

Jacob’s Thoughts – Listed below are some of my random thoughts as I was reading this great piece!

  • Another good alternative for getting rid of unused household items is to sell them on eBay! You can make some pretty good money on things that otherwise would just be sitting around!
    • A key thing with this is to make sure that you check the “completed listings” on eBay to make sure that you can sell your item and make a modest return.

***Photo courtesy of http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_Cex7gUC2DII/TMv__w52heI/AAAAAAAAAuc/o5p36JcsOAw/s1600/garage-sale.png


  1. Devon Yardley says:

    A caution for people running garage/yard/estate sales:

    Today we ran an estate sale to clear out the house of an old friend who passed. At the end of the sale two young men came in and after looking around said they were interested in buying two sets of coffee cups, mumbling something about buying them for friends in need. They bargained a little and after getting the price down to $10 they wanted to pay for the cups with a $100 bill. Something about the whole situation just didn’t feel right…and the $100 bill didn’t feel right…so we said sorry we couldn’t make change for a $100. We told them if they wanted to come back we’d hold the cups. They left and never returned.
    I am convinced that the $100 bill they tried to pay with was counterfeit.
    Now having lost $10 worth of merchandise is not a big deal, and losing $90 in the process of making change for the fake $100 bill would have sucked, but in the long run would not be so bad. But IMAGINE the problems that would ensue if we had tried to use the counterfeit bill – WE would then be responsible for trying to cash in the fake bill.
    So please, please, please – never accept large bills at estate, garage, or yard sales unless you know the buyer. For that matter no checks either.

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