I love thrifting! If there’s one fun way to spend a sunny Saturday morning, it’s driving around checking yard and garage sales for useful finds and unappreciated treasures. During mid summer when the sales are thick, I’m busy as early as Monday planning my route through town!
In my travels, I’ve seen a lot of different approaches to having a yard sale. As a buyer, there are things that definitely increase or decrease the chance that I’ll find a sale, stop there, and buy something. I thought I would share some of these observations, to give a head start on having a successful sale from the eyes of an avid buyer!
Tip #1: Advertising
The first step to a successful yard sale is advertising. You want people all over town to come check out your sale, so promoting to a wide audience is a must. Many devoted thrift shoppers will collect addresses during the week and have a route through town planned in advance. You want to be a stop on that route!
The traditional way to do this is with a classified ad in the local newspaper. People have been advertising in the paper for decades, and there are still people, mostly older shoppers, who peruse the classifieds. Some newspapers will also have their own websites where you can post ads.
An even better, more modern option is Craigslist. Craigslist has a board for posting yard sales and garage sales, and people from all over town (all over the world, really!) can access it in seconds. It’s free to post an ad and to read them. Craigslist also has an option to post photos and include a printable map, which are great options to make your sale more convenient and appealing!
There are other websites, such as Yardsalesearch and Garagesalehunter where you can put up an ad as well. And don’t forget to post a flyer at small in-person spots like corkboards at local churches, libraries, laundromats, etc.
My advice is to use as many of these advertising opportunities as possible. The easier it is for shoppers to learn about the time and place of your event, the better the chance is that you’ll have a busy sale!
Tip #2: Signs
So now it’s the morning of the big sale! You’ve widely advertised your yard sale to alert shoppers of its existence, now it’s time to get them to your items. Your best tool: SIGNS. Sometimes giving an address isn’t enough to find your home. Roads can be named in odd patterns, street signs can be covered by foliage, and sometimes it isn’t obvious from the street that there’s a sale going on. More than once I’ve had to pull over and contemplate whether the open garage with people sitting in lawn chairs nearby was an actual garage sale, or just a couple enjoying the morning sun!
The key to getting people to your door is having good signage. First of all, signs should be BIG! A floppy notebook-sized piece of paper stapled to a pole isn’t going to attract attention from drivers. It’s too small and visually weak, and usually impossible to read from a car window. The best yard sale signs are big pieces of neon-colored posterboard. They’re large and bright enough to draw attention, and the cardboard won’t flop over or blow in the wind.
Second, make sure the writing is large and dark! Pencil or ballpoint pen on a sign isn’t going to be visible from a car window; it’s too thin and light to be seen at a distance. Make your letters big and thick, preferably with black paint or an extra thick sharpie. Stand back about 10 feet or so and observe your sign. Does it draw attention? Can you read it clearly from a distance? Is it something the driver of a car will notice and want to follow?
Third, don’t be stingy with the signs! Especially if you live deep within a housing development, where drivers must make many twists and turns to reach your home. Use signs to create an easily followed “path” to your sale. Remember, not everyone has a GPS…and buyers aren’t going to search forever for your house before they get frustrated and move on to the next sale on the list. Make sure the route to your home is clear and unmistakeable!
Tip #3: Prices
So now the shoppers have parked their car and are walking up to your home with money burning a hole in their pockets. You have all of your items laid out on tables or blankets, ready to be purchased. Here we go!
The next thing that will affect your success are your prices. First of all, each item (or table of items) should be clearly marked with a price. Some people will ask on an unmarked item, but many will not. When prices aren’t marked, my chances of buying are greatly reduced. It’s embarrassing to be forced to keep asking “How much for this?” “How much for this?” “How much for this?”
Second, your items should be priced appropriately. This is the single biggest mistake I see with yard sales. Let me be blunt here: no one wants to pay retail prices for used stuff. If you have valuable items, antiques, collectibles, or anything that you aren’t comfortable selling for a small amount, a better choice would be Ebay or a consignment shop. They usually have a much better chance of finding a buyer willing to pay a good price for a good item.
There’s nothing more disappointing than walking up to a sale and seeing a dinky mass-produced trinket priced at $5. That generally means that EVERYTHING at the sale will be drastically overpriced. In this day and age, there’s a thrift shop on every corner, Craigslist has tons of items for sale at very competitive prices, and Freecycle has stuff being given away for nothing. Don’t overestimate the price people are willing to pay for used items, when used items are available EVERYWHERE for cheap or even free!
It’s very common to see an overpriced yard sale, then a few days later, huge piles of unsold items are sitting on their curb for the garbage truck. Such a missed opportunity! What’s better: a dollar in your pocket, or zero dollars and an overpriced item getting hauled off to the dump? Your goal is to get as much junk moved as possible, with as much money in your pocket as possible. Price those items to SELL!!
I hope this guide has been helpful. I’ve seen super successful yard sales where people have had their items flying off the shelves (so to speak), and these are some of the things they did to create that success! Good luck, and happy sales! 🙂
My shop: PeachPod