The pandemic put the brakes on yard sales—while people had plenty of time to clean out their closets and cabinets when they were stuck at home, most unwanted items were simply donated to thrift shops. But: 2022 is gearing up to be a banner year for yard sales. Everyone who held off disposing of their accumulated junk now is looking to get rid of it.
One rule has stayed the same—the more planning you put in, the more money you’re likely to make. Here’s what you should do for yard sale success…
Logistics: Your first step is to find out what is permitted in your town…not just whether you can hold a yard sale but also where you can place signs to draw people to your event.
The next step is to pick tentative dates. Spring and fall are excellent choices because the weather isn’t too hot or cold. Most sales last from one to three days. Rule of thumb to get rid of most items: The more stuff you have, the longer the sale. Also: Get a commitment from at least one friend or family member to help you—he/she also will be another pair of eyes to prevent theft.
Prepping your stuff: Get a few small or medium boxes, and start filling them with items grouped by category, such as books, collectibles and clothes.
Don’t stop to evaluate worthiness at this stage. Some things you think are questionable might not sell, and you can toss or donate them after your sale. But there’s a buyer for almost anything!
One caveat: Presentation matters, so clean off dust from each item before you put it in a box. You don’t have to mend things, but if you do sew the rip in a coat, for instance, you’ll probably get a few more dollars for it.
Important: Check everything completely for hidden or forgotten items. I’ve heard dozens of stories about people finding gift cards, cash, jewelry and all kinds of hidden treasures inside furniture and clothing they purchased at a sale.
Pricing: Many sellers have a hard time pricing items. Some people overestimate the value of things, while others think their stuff is worth nothing. It’s no secret that people love dollar stores, and there’s truth in the saying, “Price them low and watch them go.” While it’s a good strategy to sticker things that are weird or even broken for $1 or $2 to make quick sales, you don’t want to shortchange yourself on more valuable items.
To determine price: How do you figure out if $10 is too high or too low for a working blender or a piece of costume jewelry? To find the sweet spot for pricing all types of items, visit an area thrift shop or even someone else’s yard sale—what are they selling hardcover books and small appliances for? Many sellers also look at eBay for pricing guidance, but the best you can hope to get at a yard sale is between 50% and 75% of what a comparable item sold for on eBay—eBay asking prices don’t count.
Or you can just ask yourself how low you’re willing to go to make a sale and still be satisfied. Keep in mind that buyers love to haggle, so leave yourself some wiggle room.
To save time later, put a price sticker on each item as it goes into a box.
Important: If you have pristine collectibles or designer clothing, you might do better on eBay or a resale website such as Poshmark or TheRealReal. Yes, it takes more time to photograph and post items, but if raking in money is a priority, take a divide-and-conquer strategy—decide which items will be earmarked for the yard sale and which will be sold through more profitable sites.
Getting the word out
Not publicizing your yard sale well enough is a big mistake. People often put up a few signs and leave it at that…or they take out a single ad, not realizing that there are many places to list yard sales for free. Postings on key websites bring in dealers and collectors, usually at the start of your sale, while strategically placed signs bring in people driving by throughout the day.
Online options: You can post ads online as late as the night before your yard sale if you’re unsure about the weather. Consider these options…
Your local Patch online site, both for your town/area and those near you. Patch is a website that has news and events about your local area.
Facebook groups: Join as many local yard sale or buy-sell groups as you can. When you join one or two, Facebook will suggest other groups to you. Always find out what a group’s rules are before posting. Create ads to run at different times in different Facebook groups. I might post 10 different ads on Facebook the night before a sale. Sponsored ads that cost a few dollars may be worth it to target Facebook members who live within a certain distance of your location.
Free yard-sale listing sites such as Gsalr.com, YardSaleSearch.com and GarageSaleFinder.com.
Craigslist, not only under the category of yard/garage sales but also under all relevant categories of items you are selling. Place the ads a few days in advance, and give only your street, not your house number, to avoid aggressive people showing up on your doorstep prematurely.
Church or local town e-newsletters or bulletins: Find out when ads are due and will appear in the bulletins to time these mentions.
Important: Check the weather forecast before you start actively advertising. If the chance of rain is better than 20%, consider postponing your sale for a week—rain definitely cuts down on buyers and makes it logistically difficult to hold a sale in your yard or driveway.
Craft your postings and ads carefully. Be specific with a bulleted list of big and expensive items and items you have a lot of or that are unique or interesting. This will entice buyers looking for specific items as well as buyers who figure that you might have other good stuff even if they didn’t see anything they wanted on your list. Reminder: A picture is still worth 1,000 words—include individual photos of big items and group photos of smaller, interesting things in the ads and posts. E-mail your ad to all your local friends and neighbors to let them know about the sale.
Signs: Scout out where you’ll put signs as far in advance as you’d like, but don’t actually place them until the day before or even the morning of your yard sale. If you live in a very rural area, you might put your first sign a few miles away. You’ll need one at every turn along the most highly trafficked routes to your house.
Signs should be least 14 x 18 inches (but bigger is better). Stores such as The Home Depot, Lowe’s and Staples sell corrugated plastic yard sale signs that hold up to rain and moisture better than cardboard and often come with a stake.
Make eye-catching signs by stapling fluorescent poster board onto them and writing with thick, waterproof markers. Use red for “YARD SALE” at the top, and draw a big red arrow to indicate the direction to your sale near the bottom. In between, use black (easier to read) to write your address on one line and the dates and times on another. Tip: Because you want to make sure that your arrows are pointing in the right directions, consider drawing them as you place your signs in the ground. And depending on your local roads and intersections, you might write the information on both sides of each sign. Also, if you have a long driveway, put a sign at the end of it. (Remember to pick up signs after the sale ends.)
Early-bird buyers, especially dealers, often will show up 30 to 60 minutes before a sale starts. Keep that in mind so that you leave yourself enough time to stake signs and organize your tables well before the sale starts.
On the Day of Your Sale
Make your displays enticing. Most items look best set out on tables. Cover your tables with cloths or plain fabric. Lightweight plastic shelves placed on tables increase your display area. Clothes look best (and will stay neater) when hung on rolling racks.
Refresh your displays as the day goes on. Sometimes people gravitate to a certain area, making it a hot spot for sales—if so, move items to that area every time some get sold. Fill in any big empty spots as needed so people won’t assume that all the good stuff is gone. Move unneeded tables off to the side.
Know how to haggle. Many buyers will try to negotiate the price. Don’t take it personally if someone offers $3 for something you think is worth $10. You might accept $3 if you want to get rid of the item…suggest meeting in the middle at $6 or $7…or say, “I just dropped the price” or “I priced it low for quick sale and can’t go any lower.” Whatever decision you make, do it with a smile—people respond better when you’re nice about it.
Avoid these money pitfalls…
Have $50 to $100 in small bills, including plenty of singles, in advance. Invariably your first buyer will hand you a $20 for a $1 item!
Keep the doors to your home locked, even if you have helpers, so that no one can sneak in when you’re distracted.
Don’t leave cash from your sales within anyone’s reach, and don’t use a cash box. Instead, wear a fanny pack or a money pouch. Empty it inside your house periodically.
Get the money in hand before you help a “buyer” load up his car—thieves will distract you and take off before you know what’s happening.