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13 tips for a super yard sale

A yard sale is just clearing your clutter, right? Wrong. It's an opportunity to become a master of marketing.

By Stacy Johnson Jun 21, 2011 8:31AM

This post comes from Brandon Ballenger at partner site Money Talks News.


If spring is for cleaning, summer is for selling off all the junk you've accumulated. And the simplest way to do it? An American classic: the yard sale.


Yard sales are known by many names, including garage sales, attic sales, porch sales, barn sales, junk sales, tag sales, moving sales, and the ever-popular rummage sale. They've been around for as long as people have been collecting clutter. If you're so inclined, check out the history at this Wikipedia page.


But if you're more interested in making money, what you need are a few tips to make your next sale more successful. Reporter Jim Robinson recently visited a few yard sales and talked to both buyers and sellers. Check out some his advice in the video, then read on for more.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that a yard sale is nothing more than throwing your stuff out on the lawn and collecting cash. As with all events that involve currency changing hands, marketing and merchandising make a difference.

As Jim mentioned, keeping it simple and organized is essential. More tips to make sure you end the day with more fives and tens and fewer odds and ends:

  • Check the rules. The last thing you want to do is drag all your stuff onto the lawn only to have a neighbor complain or someone from city code enforcement drop by. It's rare for a permit or license to be required, but it's possible. There are even neighborhoods where it's not allowed at all. (According to Wikipedia, Beverly Hills residents have to do their yard saling in the -- ahem -- back yard. Just one more reason not to live there.)
  • Don't go it alone. There are a few things in life best done alone, but yard saling isn't one of them. The more people you involve and the more stuff you offer, the better the sale will be and the less you'll have to do. Go door to door and get the whole block involved.
  • Check the weather and pick your spot. The yard is better than the garage. There's more light and space, people can see the wares clearly from the street, and the whole thing looks more festive and inviting. But check the weather. You don't want your stuff rained on, and inside or out, you'll have fewer shoppers if it's raining. Weekends are obviously best, and plan on starting early. You'll have bargain seekers there at the crack of dawn.  
  • Advertise well. Homemade signs are fine. Just make sure they're big enough to read (drive by them yourself) and include arrows, the address, and a phone number in case people can't find you. The busier the street where you plant your signs, the better. But be aware of sign ordinances in your neighborhood. Advertise online for free as well. Try Craigslist and If you have too much stuff to mention it all in an ad, name sought-after items that rope people in: furniture, electronics, tools, collectibles, and brand names. The more effort you put into marketing your sale, the more money you'll make and the faster your clutter will clear.  
  • Make it easy for buyers. Group similar items; alphabetize books, movies and music; sort clothes by size or type. Leave enough room for people to get around easily and quickly. A yard sale checklist for before, during and after the sale can help you keep track of everything.
  • Price and label clearly. Removable stickers (colored dots work well) are cheap solutions for labeling -- red dots are $1, yellow 50 cents, etc. Having boxes or tables with a fixed price can save you from individually labeling everything and helps display items.   
  • Encourage bulk buys. People who shop yard sales are looking for deals. Offer discounts for buying in multiples, like three for $5.
  • The clock is ticking. If as the day goes on stuff isn't selling, become more flexible: The later it gets, the lower the price.
  • Keep it simple. Pricing everything in quarter increments makes transactions simpler. So does having plenty of change. Keep at least one roll of quarters, at least $20 in ones, and a few fives and tens handy. Use a fanny pack or something else that keeps the money on you. 
  • Don't be a pest. Doesn't it annoy you when store employees follow you around? Acknowledge everyone with a smile or a wave to show you're available, and leave them to it. Consider offering free drinks: water, lemonade, tea, or cheap soda.
  • Power to the people. It's hard to sell electronics if people can't see they work. Run an extension cord outside. If you have records or CDs for sale, playing music can help sales and provide a nice atmosphere. Exception: if you're trying to unload your heavy metal collection.
  • Donate your leftovers. As the day winds down, if you have stuff left over, call a local charity and invite them to the party. That way you can turn your remaining inventory into a tax deduction while helping people who didn't have the money to show up.
  • A tip for yard sale buyers. If you're a buyer, always head for the ritziest ZIP codes. Rich people have higher quality stuff and are more likely to let it go cheap. But if you're thinking Beverly Hills, be sure to check around back.

More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

Jun 26, 2011 9:28AM
Good article with some great advice--my biggest peeve is the signs people put up!  They're usually unreadable from a slow-moving car trolling around for sales.  Many of them ramble about the stuff at the sale, in small writing (like I'm even gonna see it!).  Signs should be precise--LARGE, BOLD letters with the address of the sale, maybe the phone number, the DATE and TIME, and arrows pointing in the direction of the sale.  That's it.  List the goodies you have in the paper, where you should be advertising your sale anyway (and there are sometimes free ad publications you can use).  Your signs should coordinate with your ad, too, such as "LARGE 4-Family sale," or "Barn Sale." Put that in the ad, and then on the signs.  I like to use neon signs, they're so easy to spot in a car.  Another good idea is to use balloons!  Put a couple on your signs, then put a few out on the mailbox (or other visible area in front of the house) and use the same colors on the signs & the house so people know they go together.  Happy saling!
Mar 6, 2012 11:49PM
In my city, garage sales are much more regulated - you have to have a permit ($16 to the city), you can only have one garage sale per quarter lasting no more than 2 days, and no sales allowed before 9 a.m.
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