11 Important Tips for a Profitable Garage Sale

by Gina Roberts-Grey

Whether you’re looking to clear out some clutter, get organized or make a few extra bucks, a garage sale might be part of your summer plans.

Before a cross-country move nine years ago, I learned firsthand that despite crossing your fingers and wishing on stars, you can’t control whether it rains the day of your garage sale. I also learned that between the rain drops, there is money to be made by holding a garage sale anyway. But there are tricks that can ensure that a garage sale is the best use of your time and resources.

Do your homework. Before slapping price tags on your wares, check eBay, craigslist or Etsy for any vintage or antique items similar to what you plan to sell. Knowing their worth will help you price accordingly; and when someone wants to haggle, you’ll already know how low you’re willing to go on the price. This simple step can also prevent you from unloading a potentially rare or valuable item.

Advertise. List your sale on craigslist or GarageSaleFinder.com and post signs in your neighborhood. “Just be mindful of any town ordinances that prevent you from posting on public poles,” says Jeanine M. Boiko, an avid garage/yard sale shopper who holds an annual summer garage sale in Wantagh, NY.

Don’t sell broken or dirty things. This sounds obvious, but lots of broken, damaged and dirty items can make their way to a garage sale. And who wants chipped dishes or dirty clothes for their kids or something broken or that they have to fix? Intact and working items fetch a higher price, too. If your buyers spot one or two damaged and dirty items, they’re going to wonder if everything there is junk rather than their next treasure.

Price every single thing. No matter how small an item, make sure everything and anything you want to sell has a price tag. That way browsers don’t have to guess if an item fits into their budget.

But price items to sell. “People don’t care if your Pottery Barn dish cost you $25. They want it for a steal and you want to unload it, so expect to eat some of what you paid for an item,” says Boiko. Avoid setting the price based on what you paid and instead ask yourself what you would pay for the item at a garage sale. Since the item is used and being sold at a garage sale, the original sales price isn’t a major factor and overpricing drives buyers away.

Price clothes dirt cheap. Unlike kids’ clothes, which are often popular, adult clothes aren’t typically hot commodities at garage sales. To up the odds you’ll move your husband’s gently used hunting shirt or tie collection, price adult clothing low and display clothes on a clothing rack. “Leaving them in bags or folded on a table is only going to get messy,” says Boiko. But displaying them on a rack or line strung up between two trees or poles lets shoppers see items more clearly and recreates the feeling of shopping in a store.

Style it. Create little vignettes of furniture, place items on risers on a table. Merchandising your items makes them look so much more attractive and gets them out of the house. Set up your tables to make them look as inviting as possible. “People like to do drive-bys,” says Boiko. “And you’ve got only a few seconds to draw them in from the car or street.”

Boiko sets up her sales as if her garage and yard were a little shop. “It might take some time to pretty things up, but it will certainly pay off in the end.”

A U-shaped garage sale is helpful, too. It allows people to come in and move in an orderly fashion in the semi-circle or u-shape. Merchandise moves quicker because they are easier to see. It also allows you to better monitor your wares.

Put the nice things up front. People often drive by and if they can see a pretty dresser or nice chair you have for sale, they’ll stop. If they see racks of clothes, they’ll probably drive on by. And group like items. If you have kids clothes, organize them by size and gender. If it’s kitchen items, put these all together.

Don’t discount small sales. Boiko likes to set up a $1 table set up with random items like miniature picture frames, candles, candle holders, etc. “People sometimes have a hard time passing something up if it’s only $1 and those dollars can add up quickly,” she says. When your sale is winding down, consider placing a sign in the yard that says all items that haven’t been sold by a certain time will be half off. This gets stuff moving fast and your garage sale over more quickly.

Prepare to haggle. Sure, you took time to set what you feel is a fair price, but that doesn’t mean someone won’t try to buy it for less. Don’t be insulted if someone offers a low-ball price, it’s nothing personal. Instead have a pre-set “low” amount in mind that you’re willing to accept and be prepared to say no if they can’t meet your price.

Change it up. Don’t risk losing customers because you don’t have the proper amount of change. Have a variety of change ready, especially for that early bird that shows up with a $50 bill. A good rule of thumb is having $80 to $100 in small bills and coins.

Photo credit: Getty Thinkstock

About the Author

Gina Roberts-Grey, owner of GRG Productions, Inc., is a writer specializing in celebrity profiles and Q&As, as well as health, personal finance and consumer issues articles. Her health and lifestyle articles have appeared in many print markets including AARP The Magazine, Essence, Family Circle, Glamour, Heart Healthy Living, Natural Health, Parents, Parenting, Pregnancy, Woman's Day and more.