Effective and Successful Garage Sales


A garage sale —what better way to sell your stuff to others who are willing to buy it? Or, to go scavenging for hard to find items that others are desperate to part with. Here are some quick tips if you are having a garage sale, or plan to shop at one:

Advertising. Letting people know in advance that you are having a garage sale will get those early birds out and at your sale first thing. Make sure you advertise by listing a few key, anchor items that will draw attention to potential garage sellers.

Use Effective Signs. Especially if you live at the back of a large neighborhood, it will be critical to your sales success to ensure you have enough signs that people can find you. If they can’t find you, they will stop at others along the way, and will likely give up (in disgust) in trying to find your house. If you live in a community with a homeowners association, be sure to learn the homeowner rules before putting up signs or considering a garage sale in the first place.

Pricing. Garage sale items should be priced as inexpensively as possible. Remember that the sentimental value you place on something has nothing to do with the actual value a potential buyer may see. For example, if you paid $20 for a pair of Osh Kosh overalls for your new baby boy, you can expect to receive between 50 cents and a dollar in return, depending on how worn they are. Also, make sure items are well marked, especially if you have a large garage sale. This will help shoppers as they browse through all that you have available.

Combine for Effectiveness. If you don’t have many items to sell, ask neighbors and friends if they have things they would like to contribute. The more you have to sell, the more successful your sale will be, as people will stop if they see a perceived value. If there are only a few, small items, they will likely keep going.

No Clothes. Baby clothes sell very well at garage sales, as do baby toys and other baby items. However, adult clothes and shoes tend to not sell well, as adults are more wary of worn out clothing and shoes. Avoid trying to sell adult clothes, and instead, donate to Goodwill, your local women’s/men’s shelter, or AmVets. All are good causes, and your clothes will go to better use than they will at a garage sale. You won’t miss the clothes, and won’t miss the hassle of having to donate them afterward.

Allow the Early Birds. If your signage or advertisements say you open at 8am, make sure you are open by 7:30am. Many good shoppers come very early to ensure they get the best buys. Don’t be aggravated by the early birds. They are the professionals—there to spend money.

Offer water, pop, lemonade, and baked goods. Shoppers will be weary and bleary going from sale to sale. Any “safe” refreshment you can sell will enhance your sale in their eyes, and will earn more money for you as well. A “refreshment stand” run by kids will win the hearts of most shoppers!

Shopping Garage Sales

Review the Wednesday or Thursday evening paper for local sales. Garage sales tend to run Thursday-Saturday in most areas, so having an idea of when and where you are going is a great idea. Also, make sure you hit the road with goals in mind—don’t hit garage sales just to explore. You’ll end up coming home with more stuff that might ultimately be sold later at your next garage sale!

Barter/Negotiate. All prices are not final. If you see a desk that meets your needs for $75, offer the owner ½ the price, and negotiate from there (depending on condition of the item). Have in your mind what you will/will not pay for an item, and stick to it. Be willing to walk away if the owner is unwilling to negotiate. Swing back by the sale toward the end of the scheduled time, and if the item is still there, they will likely be more willing to negotiate.

Ask questions. If you are looking at a mower or another type of appliance, find out what type of condition it is in. Also, check to see how many kids went through a child’s car seat, as well as how used the wheels are on the tires of the bike you want to buy. Be wary of those who don’t have answers, and definitely negotiate these items. If the owner is unwilling to negotiate or cannot answer your questions, walk away.

Bring cash. Many owners will not accept checks, so make sure you have cash on hand.

Go early. Make sure you get to your first sale 15-30 minutes before it is scheduled to open. This will ensure you get the better items at better prices. Try to get to the sale on the first day it is open to ensure you have more of a selection from which to choose.

Buy the refreshments. Kids love to bake cookies and sell lemonade or pop to weary garage sale buyers. Remember when you were a kid, and you were thrilled that someone bought your lemonade? Return the favor for the little ones you encounter who are trying to start their “businesses”.

Whether you are going to garage sales, or having one, you can find some great treasures at inexpensive prices. Bring a friend along and enjoy the day!

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