Selling out: 10 tips for a successful garage sale

By Leslie Chaffin | May 2, 2019

Two sure signs of spring: we get that “itch” to re-organize and garage sale signs start popping up on street corners. 

Pick a Date—Not only does this give you a goal for your re-organizing efforts, it also allows you to advertise ahead of time. Dozens of communities have citywide garage sale days. Take advantage of the additional advertising of these events. 

Get Your Permit—Most cities have a permit requirement, even if you live outside city limits. This was a lesson learned the hard way when participating in a citywide sale as we checked on our signs only to find them removed the first day of our sale. 

Advertise—Besides the local newspaper, list on Facebook, Garage Sale Hunter, Craigslist, Yard and Feature items that will draw shoppers such as collectibles, dolls, furniture, tools, vintage items and antiques,

Price to Sell—Your goal is to “re-home” the items in your sale. Don’t be sentimental. For instance, sell good condition T-shirts at $1 or less; For your higher end items, be flexible. Be careful not to price them so high that people will be hesitant to make an offer. 

Make Your Signs—Make them easy to read and follow. Neon color poster board stands out in a group of signs. Also use a large black marker to make wide letters with large arrows and your address will help shoppers find you.

Think of Your Customers—If you have power tools or kitchen items, have an extension cord available; place a mirror near jewelry or accessories.

Get Your Change—In general, you need two rolls of quarters, $20 in $1 bills, $30 in $5 bills and $40 in $10 bills. Especially your early shoppers may have larger bills, so you want to be able to make change. for them. Using a fanny pack or other small purse that you can keep on you helps you keep your funds safe, especially if you don’t have someone else helping you with your sale. 

Organize—If you’ve done much garage sale shopping, think about what attracts you as you drive past a sale. Does it look like the seller cares about their items? Can you quickly identify what is in the sale? Think about how your sale will look from the street. Organize tables to keep like items together. If you can, have clothes hanging on a rack as this is much easier for people to go through than on a table. Set up the evening before your sale, so all you have to do in the morning is move out a table and your large items. Have a table where you’ll make transactions (and this can be a good place for small collectibles to keep an eye on them). This includes planning for weather. If you have tables outside, cover them securely to prevent items from blowing away or in the event of possible rain. Likewise, if you don’t want everyone to see what else is in your garage, use old sheets or invest in tarps to put up over what is not on your sale.

Sell, Sell, Sell—Plan to be ready about an hour before your sale starts. Typically you can expect people to arrive as early as 7 am. They may not arrive out in the country until 8 or 9 am, but you still want to be ready as early as you can. 

Greet everyone with a friendly “hello” and let them know you’re happy to answer any questions they might have about items, but don’t “hover” around shoppers. Playing music at your sale and, especially on warm days, having some lemonade or other cool drink available for shoppers helps to keep them looking longer. 

I’ve been to many garage sales where children or grandchildren set up a lemonade booth for 25 cents a cup to engage them and help them make their own money at the sale. 

Finally, have a plan with what to do with the leftovers. Think of organizations you can donate to, such as the DAV, your church or local organizations. Stack them in the garage. For larger ticket items, such as furniture, collectibles and vintage items, take them to a local consignment shop or post them in Facebook Marketplace or “swap and sell” pages in your area. 

Your goal is to clear things out of the house, so don’t bring things back in. 

Contact Leslie Chaffin at