Aim: Financial Blog for Members

Aim Feature: Yard sale — a potential treasure trove for sellers

Betsy Palmer Kennihan
August 26, 2014
Family buying items at yard sale

Need some extra cash in your pocket? Look around—the answer could be sitting right next to you. Maybe it’s in that chair you no longer like, the toys your kids have outgrown, or books you’ve read and just don’t need anymore. Small appliances, old dishes, home decor, too-small clothing, even large furniture—it’s all fair game. What’s no longer your taste can easily find a happy home somewhere else. It’s time to price those extra items, see what they can bring in at a yard sale and reap the rewards!

This reduction of clutter (and addition to wallets) is known by a variety names—garage sale, yard sale, tag sale, etc. And though there are small distinctions between the three—a garage sale is technically held in a garage, a yard sale is supposedly so item-packed that the sale has spilled out to the yard, and a tag sale is synonymous for either—they’re all basically the same thing. No matter what you call it, this sale is often a win-win for everyone—sellers and buyers alike.

Planning for your yard sale

1. Decide what you can part with

Round up as much as you can, but don’t part with something you’ll regret later. Still, do you really need that lamp from Aunt Ida that never suited your style?

If you happen to be selling someone else’s belongings (maybe those of your spouse, your child, your friend), make sure that person grants permission to sell and also agrees on the price tag. (Sentimental value can sometimes be stronger than you realize.)

2. Promote your yard sale

At least three weeks out, pick a day, then advertise with signs and bulletin board notices. Keep your notices up until after the sale.

3. Use your local newspaper

Check with your local newspaper. They may offer special rates in their classified section. Your sale advertisement should announce location, specific start and end times, and types of items offered. (Saturday mornings are particularly popular; they let buyers cruise from one sale to another.) Also consider stating whether Early Birds are allowed (or not). If you don’t specify, you could be in for a pre-coffee surprise.

4. Make use of local websites

Consider free, online posts on local community websites or take a more regional approach with sites like Facebook or Craigslist to draw the attention of a larger pool of potential buyers.

Preparing for the yard sale

1. Organize your stuff into groups

A week or so before the big day, pick one area of your home and organize salable items into categories; the idea here is to think like a store thinks. Group clothing items together, shoes together, sports equipment, home decor, etc. Then divide those groups into sub-groups. For instance, clothes should be organized into “pants,” “shirts,” “neckties” or “socks;” then home decor into “dishes,” “candles,” “framed prints,” etc…you get the picture.

2. Price your items

All you need is masking tape and a permanent marker or pen, then price each and every item. This is probably the most time-consuming step, but done correctly, will help pay off in the end. Consider researching an item’s value if you’re not sure. There are all kinds of stories out there about buyers finding million-dollar items at yard sales. There was that rare copy of the Declaration of Independence that later brought in $2.2 million; photo negatives reportedly taken by photographer Ansel Adams (purchased at a garage sale for $45); and of course, the $3, thousand-year-old bowl that was actually worth $2.2 million. So, be sure to know your item’s worth, always price accordingly, and try to price at what you feel you’d pay if you were the one shopping.

3. Set-up the night before sale day

If the sale is to be located in your garage, set everything up the night before. If it’s in your yard or other exterior area, set up an hour or two before start time (depending on how much you have to offer).

4. Load up on small bills and change

Make sure you have cash on hand for change (lots of coins, singles, fives, etc.) for your customers. And if you decide to take checks (not recommended), perhaps jot down the buyer’s address and driver’s license number if you don’t know them personally.

Your sale day has finally arrived!

Keeping in mind all of the above, always be open to negotiating with your buyer. Yard sale shoppers are hunting for deals; you don’t always have to accept a lower offer, but rest assured, a few will be made. The rock-bottom price is up to you.

Holding a garage sale gets easier with practice, so once you have one or two under your belt, you’re a certified pro. Be picky about what you offer (but not too picky) and over time, you might even find a few repeat customers.

A final word...wherever you go, and however you profit, good luck. And happy yard-selling!

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