There are two reasons to hold a Garage Sale: To get rid of stuff, and to make money.
In addition, a Garage Sale can be very profitable if you have a plan that is implemented like any other business deal. Holding a Garage Sale is a great way for homeowners (and renters) to clear out the clutter and get a jump-start on spring-cleaning. I have held my fair share of Garage Sales over the years; some because I needed to prepare a house for sale, and others just because I wanted to clean out the clutter.
The “Good Stuff” – What Sells
At Garage Sales just about anything can go up for sale, and most of those anythings will sell if the price is right and if there is a buyer who is willing to pay. The key to getting top dollar for anything you sell is to make sure that it is clean and still useable. Buyers will be looking for Designer or better brand label clothing and accessories for men, women and children. Shoes and designer handbags are also big sellers.
Furniture and appliances, books of all kinds, decorative household goods, bicycles and other sporting equipment, items you received as gifts but never liked or used…the list goes on.
Baby goods, from clothing to furniture and toys are highly sought after. Important to note: Baby furniture has strict federal guidelines these days concerning safety, so if little Johnny was born in 1994 and you are hoping to sell his crib or car seat, check with consumer product safety guidelines first.
What not to sell…
Check with municipal restrictions for liquor or wine and porno magazines, even if they are deemed collectibles.
Do not sell anything that you think you will regret later on. We all have chachkes that have been collected over a lifetime, such as a useless wedding gift from a beloved relative, and souvenirs from our travels. If you are not willing and able to let go of an item that holds even the slightest emotional significance, keep it. Otherwise, you will have to deal with seller’s remorse, and it will come back to bother you over and again.
We have all heard the stories of how some average Joe bought a picture at a random Garage Sale, only to learn that it is really some rare work of art, worth thousands! Anything that you suspect may be of significant value such as rare collectibles and antiques should generally be appraised, and then sold at a live auction or on an auction website, where the serious bidders and buyers shop for collectibles. This only applies however, if you do not really mind letting certain items go for any price. If you don’t have the time or desire to deal with auctioning an item, that is your choice but keep seller’s remorse in check when you practically give away that Civil War era tool, or grandma’s fine silver. If nothing else, donate such items to a museum or organization that will appreciate them, and take the tax write-off.
At What Price? …
Remember, this is a Garage Sale and people are looking for bargains. To reiterate, the reason we have a Garage Sale is to get rid of old stuff and to make money. However, do not expect to make enough money to retire, or to take a trip to Disney; although you may make enough for a down payment to Disney.
Be realistic in determining a fair asking price, and expect to deal with negotiators. Clothing items should be priced well below what you paid retail. For example, if you paid $80 for a brand name, all wool sports jacket, your Garage Sale asking price should be about $8 or less. Again, buyers are looking for a bargain, and you are trying to get rid of stuff. Consider that the alternative is giving it to charity, in which you will receive $0 of the profit.
The goal of a Garage Sale is to end the day with money in your pocket, and little to nothing left of your stuff.
When Should You Have A Garage Sale?
Choosing the right date is important, and any random Saturday will not work.
Think about who generally shops at Garage Sales: People on a fixed income like retirees and families on public assistance, entrepreneurial types who like to resell your rejected collectibles on EBay, thrift shop or second hand storeowners, and then there are average, savvy consumers who are looking for a bargain, especially with furniture and baby items. The majority of your prospective customers receive a paycheck least once a month, at the beginning of the month. Therefore, you should hold your Garage Sale on the first Saturday after the first of the month, when money is plentiful. If the first lands on a Sunday, you can schedule for the Saturday before, as people with direct deposit tend to have money in hand sooner.
The month or season in which you hold your sale is critical for two reasons: Weather and Economics. Naturally, you will not expect droves of buyers at your Garage Sale when the forecast calls for icy roads and arctic temperatures. In addition, November and December are bad for Garage Sales because the gift-giving holidays are looming and buyers will generally choose to spend their money elsewhere. There is no competing with Wal-Mart at Christmastime.
I recommend holding a Garage Sale about every two to three years. A lot of work and preparation goes into holding a Garage Sale, and it takes that long just to accumulate enough “inventory”; you might as well make it worth your while. However, if you have a large family that accumulates clothes and toys, only to outgrow them within in a year, you can probably get away with an annual sale as a way to get rid of the old stuff to make way for the new, but your inventory selection may be limited.
“Know Your Customer”
Now that you know who shops Garage Sales from the economic perspective, you need to know the different types of buyers. Educate yourself on the buying habits of Garage Sale customers so that you can prepare yourself for various interactions with them:
Serious buyer – Carries cash even for large purchases. They know what they want, and they know a good deal when they see it. This buyer will definitely negotiate with you to get a better deal. I say if they are willing to pay cold hard cash, let the item go at the first reasonable offer because for big-ticket items you may not get another buyer.
Stalker – Will methodically drive by your house the day before to see what goods you will unveil the next day. Some may actually, walk up and try to talk you into selling the “good stuff” in advance. I once had a guy come to my door the day before, and he tried to low-ball me on my husband’s discarded cowboy boots. I told him to come back the next day and he did, with the entire family. By the time they were through, he was handing me about $90, including $50 for those five pair of cowboy boots.
Nosy Neighbor – They come by with coffee cup in hand, just to see “what’s up” and nothing more. I do believe this behavior goes hand-in-hand with that primitive curiosity that humans have about wanting to know what is inside someone else’s medicine cabinet.
Negotiator – If an item is reasonably priced, you will avoid having to negotiate on most items. Even so, be ready to play. If an item has been sitting for a while, let it go for their offer price, and remind yourself that you are there to, that’s right – get rid of stuff and to make money.
Marketing 101 for Garage Sales
It is so very true; sometimes you have to spend (just a little) money to make more money. I strongly suggest that you spend the mere $15 or so that the local newspaper paper may charge, and place an ad for your Garage Sale. You will get your money back and then some.
On the day before the sale, place large, staked neon orange signs on well-traveled intersections near your house. They should be simple, with wording such as “Garage Sale, 1234 Main Street, 7AM” and then a big fat arrow pointing the way. In addition, when the day is done, do not forget to remove the signs.
“Rain or Shine”
Of course, you need to hope for no rain, but unless the forecast is calling for torrential rain or heavy snowfall, stick with your plan to go forward with the sale. Serious Garage Sale hunters will find you and make it worth your while.
Yes, it is called a Garage Sale, and if you do not have a garage, it is a Yard Sale. Regardless of what you call it, try to hold your sale under a covered spot, such as a carport or patio. Those serious buyers who come out rain or shine still like the idea of perusing through your goods in some type of climate-controlled comfort. On cool days set up a small space heater, but practice safety precautions. On hot days, keep fans blowing. The longer your customers linger, the better your chances of a sale.
Provide lawn chairs for tag along family members who need a rest. On cool days, allow your teenagers to sell coffee for 25-cents a cup, and on hot days allow kids of all ages to sell bottled water or ice-cold, canned soft drinks.
In recent years, I relocated my Garage Sales to my large back porch. This works well because during the week leading up to the sale, I can set up the “store” at my leisure without having to deal with curious neighbors or the aforementioned “stalkers.”
“On Your Mark…”
Only naïve sellers start their Garage Sale at 9:00. That old saying about the early birds getting the worm is true. Serious Garage Sale hunters are your worms; they start early as well, and they especially like it when you open shop at 7:00 AM. This will be to your advantage if you are competing with other sellers in the same neighborhood. Plus the sooner you start, the sooner you will finish.
“In God We Trust…All Others Pay Cash”
I have seen this cash-only policy posted in several places of business, and you should adhere to it as well. Be assured that serious buyers will come to a Garage Sale armed with cash, especially if they set out that morning to buy large ticket items like furniture, appliances, and designer or better label clothes.
Be ready to close a transaction with plenty of rolls of quarters and $1 bills on hand, and have a few $5 and $10 bills available to make change for larger transactions. I always price my items in 25-75 cent increments, and in whole dollar amounts to avoid dealing with pennies, nickels and dimes. Do not accept checks, and only put a big ticket item on “hold” for someone for up to thirty minutes, which is usually long enough to get to an ATM machine and back if you live in the suburbs.
“All Sales Are Final”
I once sold a silk topiary plant to a woman for $2, after she talked me down from $4. It was toward the end of the day and I was ready to close shop. Unbelievably, she came knocking on my door later in the evening, and asked for a refund! Apparently, she noticed that some faux berries were missing from the piece. Therefore, I suggest you post a sign that spells out the obvious: All Sales Final.
Good luck on your Garage Sale, and remember, you are doing this to get rid of stuff, and to make money!