Last Updated on March 24, 2022 by Luke Feldbrugge
Garage sale tips are ideal for the first time or occasional garage sale merchant, but they also act as a good checklist for folks who regularly have these sales. Garage sales are fast, cheap and out of control. We can help with that last part. Here is our list of garage sale tips to help you get the sale going and have fun doing it.
If you are on the cusp of buying or selling a house, the garage sale serves the additional practical purpose of reducing your inventory of “stuff” so you don’t have to move it. The closer you get to a closing, the faster the “sell, donate or toss” impulse kicks in.
If you are at the “sell” phase, you might be thinking of the benefits of Craigslist versus a garage sale. This is not purely an economic decision. On an item-per-item basis, you will make more money listing stuff online, but in terms of getting rid of a lot of stuff quickly, the garage sale wins. Imagine going back and forth with buyers on DM and email for all the items you need to purge, and you will get the idea.
Do Some Quick Research
Find out if there are any permits or regulations in your community regarding garage sales. Most communities are pretty relaxed about them, but it’s a good idea to check. Those rules may come into play when you are setting up signs and posters (See Garage Sale Advertising Your Sale below) In most states, you don’t have to pay sales tax on the items you are selling, but do a quick search online to make sure.
Garage Sale Tips on Timing – Early is Better
Typical Days of the Week
The guidelines about days to hold your garage sale are, generally, Friday through Sunday.
The best season is usually spring, but that will be dictated more by your own needs, for example if you are in the process of attempting to close on a home.
Early Bird Gets the Sale
The goal is to draw a large crowd and downsize as much of your stuff as possible at once. Starting early in the morning is important, so 7 a.m. is good but 6:30 a.m. is better if you want to attract early birds. Die hard garage sale hunters will be at your door precisely when you said the sale starts. They might even come early. If you aren’t ready for them, you could lose them very quickly. These early birds are also very serious bargain hunters, and they often have a schedule of sales to hit each day.
Days of Community Garage Sale Events
You may also want to do some research on where there are upcoming neighborhood or city-wide garage sale events on the horizon. Some cities put lists of multi-family sales online. Making your garage sale coincide with these larger events can be very helpful. If you want crowds and traffic, being part of a community garage sale is invaluable.
Be Prepared for the Elements
Rain can dampen the enthusiasm of garage sale hunters, so you may need to organize around the potential for bad weather. Can you, for example, borrow a pop-up canopy to cover some of the items that are outside on the driveway? Or can you move the whole sale inside the garage if you reorganize? Preparing for a garage sale can be a lot of work, so just canceling due to weather will be difficult.
But you also have to keep in mind your potential buyers. Just because you can hold the sale in the garage doesn’t mean they’ll want to drive in a thunderstorm, or want to walk all the way from their car to your driveway in a downpour.
Worst case scenario, don’t be afraid to postpone your sale. If no one is going to come because of the weather, it’s not worth your time to hold the sale.
Make it a Fun Social Event
Garage sales are social events, so it can be a lot more fun when done with a team. Use family, both immediate and extended, and friends to help. Neighbors can also help. The upshot is that folks may want to “borrow” your sale to put just a few items up for sale, rather than have their own individual sale. That can increase the inventory of your sale while enlisting help so you don’t have to “work” the sale every minute of the time.
Tracking Sales for Guest Contributors
If you do incorporate items from other family members or their neighbors, make sure to use a system so you know which items belong to who. This will help when divvying up the money after the sale. One way to do this is to use colored stickers or tags for the items that come from other folks. Then write the price on that color and peel it off and save it on a sheet of paper when it sells. If that won’t work, keep a list of what sells and for how much. Finally, make sure everyone knows the system so there are no questions down the road.
Don’t forget – just like it takes a team to make garage sales fun, having a team to be your advocate during the home-buying, selling, or refinancing is far more important. That’s why Homes for Heroes real estate and mortgage specialists are here for you. And, as a bonus, they will actually help you save money during the closing process. To learn more with no obligation, sign up today.
Advertise Your Sale
Signage and Placement
You can’t really control the location of your garage sale, but you can control how many people know about it. That means large signs and flyers in high-traffic areas. If your sale is out on Country Road Middle of Nowhere, make sure your signs are out on the closest busy roads, such as a county or state highway. Then the signs should lead them from the busy road right to your driveway.
In busy cities, you may be planning on stapling some garage sale flyers to a bunch of telephone poles. You will realize you aren’t the first one with this plan when you encounter the prime telephone poles completely covered by other signs. Some have so many staples already in there that you won’t find any wood to attach your flyers to. Make sure if you decide to go with signs on sticks that you check the laws in your area about displaying garage sale signs. Don’t forget bulletin boards at the grocery store or at your church.
When going with signs, use bright colors and make the information large and bold:
- Top Items, such as tools, appliances, kitchenware, kids clothing and anything you think will stand out.
Remember that, for people driving by, you may have only 1-3 seconds to impress them and convince them to stop by your sale.
Garage Sale Websites and Online Communities
In terms of getting the most mileage out of your advertising, online sources are excellent. We mentioned Craigslist before; instead of advertising individual items, you can list your entire garage sale with details about what you are selling. Other reputable online sites where you can list your garage sale include:
A garage sale ad in a newspaper is also a good and traditional place to advertise, but they cost money.
Garage Sale Pricing and Payment
General Rule of Garage Sale Pricing
During your preparation for the sale, one of the biggest challenges will be pricing the items. The general rule is to mark each item at 10% of what you paid for it, so if you are selling a Ninja blender you bought for $120, price it at $12. In some cases, collectables should be priced higher. For example, old manual typewriters are currently in demand, so don’t go too low on certain items that may not be obviously valuable. A little online research goes a long way for items you aren’t sure about.
Remember Your Goal – Purge Over Profit
As you are pricing, remember that purging the inventory is more important than generating lots of cash. On Sunday, the general rule is to start slashing prices on remaining items. Some folks also have success with having one price for a whole box of items, e.g. baby clothes.
Managing Payment – Cash, Card or App
In terms of payments, the recommendation is to get a cash box and a healthy supply of $1s, $5s and lots of change. If you want to take electronic payments and credit cards, you should take a look at Square or Venmo.
Garage Sale Supplies
The list of supplies to remember is significant. You might not need all of these, but use this as a checklist.
- Tables (lots of them)
- Plastic Bags from the grocery store
- Boxes–liquor stores are typically very generous with boxes
- Tags or price stickers
- Pens, including sharpies
- Cash box and change
- Materials to make signs, e.g. foamcore
- Water, coffee and snacks
- Tarps (and ways to anchor them, in case rain hits suddenly)
- Garment rack (if you are hanging clothes for the garage sale)
- Tape measure
- Paper Towels
- Trash can
- Extension cords
- Dolly (for moving heavier items)
- Hand sanitizer
Garage Sale Setup Ideas
The next step in getting prepared for your garage sale is deciding how you want to display and sort your items. That may be as simple as just grouping similar things together–baby clothes, tools, kitchen items, yard tools, etc. Consider the set up of your garage sale carefully, and try to account for things such as breakables and bulk items like clothing.
Consider cleaning out your space before opening the doors. If you have a lot of “not for sale” items hanging on your walls, people will ask you about those items repeatedly.
One garage sale idea worth considering is putting together a box of free items. Take that box, with a sign, and put it at the end of your driveway. That can persuade some buyers to stop and give your sale a second look. It can also send the message that you are very eager to purge your inventory.
The Day of…Garage Sale Tips
Give Yourself Time to Set Up Before Opening
The day of your garage sale is going to be hectic, so give yourself enough time to set everything up and to check your items to make sure they’re all priced correctly.
- Make sure you open on time, i.e. the time you said it would open in your promotions.
- Put your change in a safe place and designate a space to complete purchases. Make this space obvious that it is the “check out desk”.
Greet Your Patrons
When your patrons begin to arrive at your garage sale, be sure to act friendly and welcoming. They’re going to have lots of questions, so be patient and keep smiling. Don’t hover. Answer their questions as much as you can and try not to get overwhelmed.
Hagglers Will Haggle
Haggling will happen, and you’ll have to get comfortable with that. Set a rock bottom price in your mind and try to meet the person you are haggling with somewhere in the middle. If you can’t, don’t miss out on a sale. Consistently weigh the advantages of cash against ridding yourself of something you don’t want to move.
After Your Garage Sale
Donate the Rest
Once your sale is over each day, make sure to bring everything inside so you don’t lose anything. At the end of the sale on your last day, look at what you have left. Are you still ready to part with every item, or are there items you realize you’d like to keep? If there is still stuff you want to get rid of, box it up and bring it to your local charity donation store.
Payout and Return Items Added by Guest Contributors
If you did a joint sale, make sure to return any unsold items to their owners. When you return their items, also make sure to give them the money they’re owed for the items that were sold.
Take Down Signage
Make sure to take down any signs or posts you put up advertising the sale so that no one comes to your home when the sale is over.
Then, admire your clutter free home (and the cash for the effort)!
Remember to Have Fun
I know we’ve mentioned fun a couple of times, but don’t forget to have fun. Not only is this an opportunity to purge the stuff you don’t want to move, and make some money, it’s a chance to have fun with friends, family and neighbors. In the case of neighbors, if you are moving away, this may be an event where you will be saying goodbye to them.
BONUS TIP: Is the Garage Sale Preparation to Move?
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