Love ‘em or hate ‘em, yard sales are a great way for sellers to get rid of unwanted possessions or shoppers to gain wanted possessions, all without adding anything to landfills.
And having a yard sale can earn a seller some money, all while finding new homes for things no longer needed. A successful sale can yield hundreds of dollars in a day or two.
If you are giving a yard sale, your profits at the end of the day will depend on more than the items you’re selling. Preparation and presentation can make or break your event. Having a yard sale is no small task, so if you’re going to tackle it, you might as well do it right. To get the best results from your labors, here are some ideas on ways to do it right and have a successful yard sale.
This part takes a serious time commitment. It’s best to start at least a month (ideally two or three) in advance of your sale date and chip away at it when you have a few hours free at a time. If possible, choose a place in your house, basement, or garage that can be the staging area for the sale. Set up a row of large, empty boxes to organize as you sort. Have plastic baggies on hand so you can manage small, loose items, especially kids’ toys. Got a pile of random Legos? Throw them in a bag together and price it at $1. A toy with a bunch of little pieces or a doll with accessories? Bag them up. You’ll be more likely to sell all the parts if they’re together neatly and priced to move.
As you pull items from the depths of closets, backs of drawers, and tops of shelves, keep like with like. Determine your categories (such as clothes, kitchenware, household decor, tools, books, electronics) and sort accordingly. Price each item as you go along. That way you won’t have to unpack your boxes again later, to price everything, only to repack them for transport to where the sale is being held.
Before items go to the staging area, wipe down anything that looks dusty or dirty. Take the time to make things look appealing and useable. Blow up tires on old bikes. Have batteries and an outlet available for shoppers to test gadgets.
How to price your stuff: the 50-30-10 rule
New, unused items: 50% of retail
Slightly used items: 30% of retail
Used items: 10% of retail
It takes a lot of time, but it is definitely worth it to price your items. A lot of people aren’t comfortable asking how much something costs or naming the price they want. You’ll lose potential buyers and spend a lot of time answering cost questions.
The generally accepted yard sale pricing rule is 50-30-10. New, unused items get priced at 50 percent of their retail cost, slightly used items at 30 percent, and used items at 10 percent of retail. You can also utilize bulk pricing, like “Buy 1, Get 1,” or a similar package deal. If what you are selling includes antiques, do your research. Don’t price an old, sentimentally valued piece too high that it won’t sell, and don’t let a priceless heirloom get away for $10.
If your yard sale is a multi-family event and you plan to keep track of proceeds separately, make sure each family uses a different color price sticker. That way, your cashier can keep a log of purchases to tally at the end of the day.
You can hold a yard sale anywhere and pull in customers using advertising and signs. But if you’re able, pick a place that is easy to find, offers ample parking, and has enough space (ideally flat ground) for all your items. If you’re not confident about your location, consider asking a well-located friend, neighbor, or family member if they’d like to join the event. Sales advertised as community, neighborhood, or multi-family sales tend to attract more customers because shoppers know the number of items will be greater and more diverse.
Saturday is the most popular day for sales, but fanatics say Friday is the primo day to shop. If you’re going to take the time and put in the effort to prepare for a successful sale, why not do two days? You might consider one full day (8 a.m.–3 p.m.) and one later half day (9 a.m.–1 p.m.). Some sellers also slash prices at the end of the second day to get rid of any lingering items.
Whatever time frame you choose, be prepared for early birds to show up as much as an hour in advance. This practice (common on the part of serious yard-sale goers) can be annoying while you’re trying to set up, but it’s also an opportunity to sell a lot quickly. Collectors and resellers will scoop up your best merchandise, so consider a “no bargaining before opening” rule. If they really want the goods, they’ll pay the sticker price.
Displaying your items on tables will greatly increase your sales. Having objects at table height makes everything easier for your customers to see and inspect. If you run out of tables, improvise with sawhorses or boxes (plastic totes or sturdy cardboard) and a piece of wood across them. For clothing, hang items on hangers, and display them on a garment rack, clothes line, or fence, so they are easy to see and look through. Ideally the only things on the ground will be large items like furniture or bulky objects like luggage or big toys.
As much as possible, group similar items together, again, like with like. For example, collect and present items for the kitchen together. Place holiday decorations together in another group. Have all books, comic books, magazines, CDs, and DVDs together in another spot. If you have a bunch of small, loose things, consider putting them all in a shallow box or tote and pricing them with a sign that says, “This box $.25 each.”
Think about what first impression your sale will make, including what drive-by shoppers will see from the road. You’ll want to place anything valuable, large, or unique within view to encourage people to stop their cars and see your wares.
Serious yard salers will plan out in advance what sales they want to go to before they jump in the car. Even the casual shopper might scroll the local listings before they head out and plan an efficient route. It’s easier than ever to advertise your sale online, utilizing free services like Craigslist and Facebook community pages. There’s also the tried-and-true method of placing an ad in the local newspaper, which generally gets you both a print and an online listing.
If you have a lot of one type of thing, like lots of baby stuff or camping gear, make sure to mention it in your ad, if you can. Dealers will be looking for anything antique or vintage, including jewelry. Contractors are searching for tools and other building materials. Things that seem useless—like odd quantities of leftover tile, half empty boxes of screws, piles of unused shingles, or scrap wood—may get snapped up faster than you think. People also look for CDs, books, and records. Print ads often have limited word counts but online options are typically more generous, so you can highlight your most numerous, interesting, or prominent items.
If your city allows, advertise your sale with signs that direct people from busy intersections to your location. These signs will encourage people driving by to stop. They will also help people who saw your ad and who are looking for your sale (and may be a bit lost) to find your sale successfully.
Your signs should be on bright posterboard, with the words large, bold, and written with black permanent marker. Dollar stores are a great place to find these supplies for not much money. Include the date, time, a directional arrow, and the address on your sign and hang them the night before your sale or early the morning of. Remember to collect all your signs after the sale.
It’s not uncommon for shoppers to ask if you’ll take a lower price on an item, even when the price is clearly marked. You’re under no obligation to accept, and if it’s early in the sale you may want to hold out for someone willing to pay full price. Later in the day or on Day 2, you might want to take less, especially if you plan to give away or pitch everything that doesn’t sell.
Check out and making bank
The easiest way to manage payments is to set up a checkout table near the front of your driveway or yard. This way you can greet people as they come in and receive payment as they leave. It will also discourage people from walking off with stuff they haven’t paid for, which is an uncommon but not unheard-of occurrence. Make sure you have a good lot of change (both coins and bills) before the event starts. Lots of folks will show up with $20 and $50 bills to break. If you have the ability to offer credit card payment, use it.
Shoppers appreciate it if you have bags or boxes on hand for their purchases, especially if they are buying multiple items. If you happen to have an extra “floater” who can help lift heavy items into cars, that is also a plus, but of course not required.
If you have kids in your household, consider allowing or encouraging them to sell baked goods and lemonade, or hot cocoa if it’s cool, at their own table. It keeps them busy and involved, they make a little cash of their own, and shoppers can enjoy the refreshments.
When the sale is done, you’ll have some items left. Look over everything and set aside any high-value items you want to try selling separately via Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or a similar service. Excluding these valuable exceptions, the rule should be that if you dragged it out of the house to sell, it’s not going back in. Next, box everything up for donation. Goodwill is a popular yard-sale drop-off location, but there are many more to consider, including local churches, shelters, thrift stores, and nonprofits. In some cases, the organization or store will even come pick up your boxes for you.
Putting together a successful event is a time commitment, but the benefits are tangible. You’ll have a lot less clutter in your house, a little more cash in your pocket, and a feeling of accomplishment when all is said and done . . . and sold!