How to Have a Killer Yard Sale

For some, the idea of their stuff being rummaged through by strangers at the crack of dawn on a Saturday sounds as appealing as a root canal. For others, yard sales are a prime opportunity to rid the house of unwanted clutter and make extra money.

Whichever way you look at it, anyone who has held a successful yard sale knows it’s more than just throwing your belongings out on blankets in the yard and collecting cash. Here are some strategies and tips to help you make some serious money—but you will be up early, so have the high-octane coffee ready.

Start with a plan
A successful yard sale doesn’t just happen; it takes some advance thinking and preparation. A few weeks before your sale, go through your home, starting with the attic and work your way down to the basement. Clear out clutter and put items that your family no longer wants or uses in boxes.

Make the unemotional decisions first. Start with things you can easily surrender, like a stack of old books. And start small, emptying one drawer or shelf at a time. Ask yourself: “What can I let go of?  What can I live without?” Be sure to dust off or clean the items prior to your sale; even hardcore yard sale buyers may balk at digging through someone else’s dirty dishes and toys. Once you’ve gathered together what you want to sell, ask yourself some questions.

  • How am I going to display items? Do I have enough table space? If not, see if you can borrow tables from friends or put together makeshift tables out of plywood and boxes.
  • How many signs do I need and where should I display them? Drive the routes that people will use to come to your sale and decide on the best locations ahead of time so you’re not scrambling the morning of your sale.
  • Who is going to put the signs out the morning of the sale? Designate your spouse, a friend, or one of your kids for this job ahead of time and let them know specifically where to place the signs.
  • How much cash should I have on hand and how will you keep it in a safe location? A good rule of thumb is to keep at least one roll of quarters, 20 one-dollar bills, and a few $5 and $10 bills handy. Use a fanny pack, small purse or pocket apron so you can keep the money close to you.

Get the word out
No matter how great your items are, if no one knows about your sale it’s doomed to fail. Advertise a few days in advance on Craigslist, and then re-post a revised ad the day before and the morning of the sale. The more details in your ad, the better.

List specific items, brands, and sizes. Highlight sought-after items like furniture, electronics, vintage items, tools, and collectibles. Entice potential buyers with photos of your best items. You can also place a paid ad in your local paper’s Classifieds or on a website like YardSaleSearch.com.

Put some time and effort into making a number of clearly-readable signs—the bigger the better. Homemade signs are fine, just make sure they’re big enough to read (drive by them yourself to check) and include arrows and the address. Use bright colors and keep it to as few words as possible. Check your local sign ordinances so you don’t risk your signs being removed. Place signs at every entrance to your neighborhood, and include arrows for every turn. On the day of the sale, task someone with checking on the signs throughout the day to make sure they’re still up.

Price to sell
People who shop yard sales are looking for deals, so be sure not to overprice. It’s better to sell something on the low end, than to have 20 people pick it up and put it back down because they feel it’s too expensive. A general rule is to price items for 1/3 to 1/4 of their original price, taking into account their age and condition.

Here are some other pricing strategies from seasoned yard sale holders.

  • Price items as if you were buying them at someone else’s garage sale and feel you got a bargain.
  • Offer discounts for buying in multiples, like 3 for $5.
  • Keep pricing simple. Use round numbers in quarter increments. For example, 25 cents instead of 15 cents, or $5 instead of $4.80.
  • Colored dot stickers work well: red dots for a dollar, yellow dots for 50 cents, etc.
  • Have some boxes or tables with a fixed price for everything to save time from having to individually label items.
  • Be ready to negotiate! For many, half the fun of yard sale is haggling. So when pricing, give yourself a little wiggle room knowing that most will offer less than what you put on the price tag.

Setting up your sale
Set up your sale so it’s easy for buyers to shop. Group similar items, like picture frames and purses, together; alphabetize books, movies and music; sort clothes by size. Keep items off the ground and leave enough room for buyers to get around easily.

Big-ticket items, like furniture or baby strollers, should be close to the curb so drivers can easily see them. Put something equally eye-catching closer to your house, like a large mirror or floor lamp. It should be something interesting that will entice buyers to move through your whole sale to see. As items sell, close any large gaps by moving things closer to the street, so your sale always seems well-stocked.

If you have electronics for sale, run an extension cord outside so buyers can try them out to make sure they work. If you’re selling records or CDs, playing background music can create a good vibe and help sales.

Everything must go
Making money is great, but remember, the main reason you’re having a yard sale is to get rid of clutter. So about halfway through the sale, offer everything for half price. You can also let buyers “fill a bag for a buck.” During the last hour, offer what’s left for free. If you still have items remaining at the end of the sale, drop them off at Goodwill or another local charity. Remember to get a donation receipt for your taxes.

Resources: HGTV.com, Moneysavingmom.com, Money Talks News, Realsimple.com