5 ways to make the most of your time and effort

Having a Successful Garage Sale

by Jill Fitzpatrick


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It's getting close to garage sale season. Before you go to all of the trouble of holding a garage sale (because it is always more work than you think), follow these five tips to make the most of your time and effort. Hopefully it will also mean a bigger payoff in the end.

  1. Have signs, signs, signs and more signs. Although a Craigslist or newspaper classified ad may bring people in early on, it's your signs that will keep them coming. Make sure you put your garage sale signs on all relevant street corners. Don't skimp on size and keep it simple; the word "sale" with a BIG arrow usually is simple enough. Balloons on your sign will confirm that it is a "fresh" sale and not a leftover sign from weeks before. I'm always amazed when I drive by an impossible to read sign with teeny directions and a teeny tiny "directionless" arrow. You don't want your customers to give up on the hunt before they even reach your garage sale.

  2. Make your garage sale look interesting. There's nothing worse than watching people drive by your garage sale without stopping. Make sure large interesting items like furniture, bicycles and anything unique are front and center. Always be willing to rearrange things as items sell. Also, invite neighbors and friends to contribute items to make your sale look fuller.

  3. Choose your weekend carefully. Make sure you don't choose a weekend to hold your garage sale that will compete with popular local events like parades or festivals. The middle of summer can also be difficult because of the heat and people being out of town for vacations. The busiest garage sales I've held are usually on one of the first nice weekends in spring, the beginning of summer, or the end of summer, just before school starts. You might also check to make sure there is no roadwork planned for your area that will direct people away from your garage sale.

  4. Don't price too high and be negotiable. Be realistic in what your garage sale items are worth. A sale with overpriced items will result in people leaving without even making an offer. Generally (and I mean very generally here) a good place to start is about 25 percent of retail value and adjust from there. You might ask a friend or neighbor who frequents garage sales for some input on your pricing. If someone low balls you on an item, don't just say "no." You should respond with a counter offer. Remember the goal is to sell things, clean out, and make a little cash for your trouble. It's the worst to find yourself at the end of the day with the same stuff you started out with. You either have to sell it for much less than you would have if you had not been greedy in your pricing, haul it all off to donate, or bring it all back inside.

  5. Remember to market your garage sale during the garage sale. As people come to your garage sale, say hello and make eye contact. Ask people if they are looking for anything specific. I can't tell you how many sales I've gone to where the owner doesn't even look up from their book. Also, when you are selling items like tables, bookshelves, dressers and television stands, avoid the temptation to load them up with a bunch of stuff. My neighbor who owns her own estate sale company pointed this out to me once. She said that when you have too much on an item you are selling, people either don't notice it or don't think it is for sale. Once she said that and I removed everything from the huge ugly television stand I was selling at a very reasonable price, it sold within minutes.

Jill Fitzpatrick is a married mother of three who lives in Portland, Oregon and works part time at a University. Her interests are personal finance, home improvement, bargain shopping, family life, modern furniture and home design. Other similar articles like this can be found here.

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