“I want to win $700.” The Science of Running a Successful Garage Sale


Steve Sultanoff, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology in California, started doing garage sales more than 30 years ago.

“I started dating when I got divorced,” he explains. “My wife had everything in the house, and I was left with an empty house and limited resources.”

He has recovered from his divorce but is still a fan of shopping at garage sales, even going there when he is on vacation and once making a pilgrimage to The biggest garage sale in the world, an annual event with over 500 vendors, held in Warrensburg, New York. “I’ve made some great purchases over the years,” he says.

While some of his purchases have been collectibles, many have been very practical. “Twenty years ago, I bought 1,000 greeting cards from a rep,” Sultanoff recalled. “Most didn’t have envelopes. At another sale a few months later, I was offered a free box of about 500 greeting card envelopes. I always use the cards. Imagine how much I’ve saved on greeting card costs over the years, and the cards were mostly high end. »

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“Garage sales, also known as tag sales or yard sales, are a great way to declutter your home and give useful items a second life,” says garage sales expert Mike Kelleher. “Legacy List” with Matt Paxton, a television series that captures the emotional highs and lows of families who downsize their homes.

Kelleher says there’s a science to hosting a successful garage sale. “It takes thought and planning,” he explains.

10 tips for a successful garage sale

To help you prepare for a garage sale this summer, Next Avenue polled its expert sources and compiled these 10 tips:

1. Decide what to sell

Everything must be in good working order, not broken or stained. “Good quality clothing and cookware like Le Creuset is always popular,” says Kelleher. “Other items for sale in the garage include vinyl records, old toys or vintage movie posters. These are the type of items you can’t just pick up at Target. TGT,

Sultanoff suggests going to a few local garage sales before you get your own. “It will give you an idea of ​​what items to sell, prices, and how to organize your sale,” he explains.

2. Choose a location

Before hosting a yard sale, check with your city or town for yard sale rules. “Some cities may charge for a license,” says Sultanoff.

“A home that’s easily accessible by car and on foot is ideal,” says Kelleher. “Ample parking is also important. Nobody wants to be blocked by another car and not be able to leave. »

Depending on how much you have to sell, you may consider a multi-family event. More items can attract more buyers to attend.

Also consider using social media in conjunction with holding a physical sale so people who can’t attend the event can still purchase items.

3. Set a goal for the sale

There are two main reasons people choose to have garage sales: to make money and to get rid of items they no longer use. Before the sale, it is essential to determine your primary motivation.

A good goal is to focus on earning a certain total amount of money (eg, “I want to earn $700 so I can pay a bill or go on vacation”) and worry less about what you earn on each part. Or set yourself the goal of finally being able to use the garage to park your car.

4. Pricing — Part 1

Emma Gordon, founder of US Salvage Yards, has been running successful garage sales for several years and says fair pricing is key. “I avoid pricing items based on sentiment,” she says. “Instead, I ask my friends how much they’d be willing to pay for an item, and then set the price based on their answers.”

Sultanoff also urges caution. “Don’t expect to get the ‘best price’ for your items or think you’ll get back what you paid for an item,” he says. “While you occasionally sell a high-priced item (someone covets your brand new camera and knows it’s cheaper than in the store), most buyers want big deals. Sellers must learn to price their items “to sell” or they may not budge. »

If you can’t bring yourself to lower the price, consider selling the item in a different way, such as a consignment store.

5. Advertise

“Start promoting the sale a week before, but not sooner,” advises Kelleher. “If your sale is on a Saturday, you want to start advertising that Sunday or Monday. If you do it before that, people might not know which Saturday you’re referring to in the ad.

Kelleher suggests advertising with a combination of social media (Craigslist, Instagram, local community sites) and old-fashioned signs posted throughout your neighborhood.

“Use a real billboard with obscene letters so people can read it if they drive past in their car,” he says. “If they can’t read it, it probably won’t be worth it for them to turn around to see what’s being said.”

Keep it simple: date, time, phone number and address, perhaps with an arrow pointing to the yard. Also let people know if the event is “rain or shine” or if there is a rain date. If it is a multi-family sale, advertise that fact.

6. Settle in early

Plan to set up early the morning of the day of the sale or the night before. Ask friends or neighbors to help you during installation, disassembly and sale.

Kelleher says, “Set up walkways to make it easier for people to pass. Do not overload commodity tables. Buyers need to be able to access things, so you don’t want to make it difficult to navigate. »

Kelleher also suggests placing “similar” items together. “Arrange things like small rooms in your home,” he says. “Bundle kitchen items, garden tools, bedding and towels, clothes, etc. You’re selling the dream and convincing buyers that these items will work in their lives.”

Another tip is to place expensive or valuable items closer to where you can see them. “I hate to say it, but there are thieves who attend tag sales,” Sultanoff says. “Once I saw a van stop and steal a crib.”

Also see: How to value the things you have inherited

7. Pricing — Part 2

If possible, mark each item with its price. It can get confusing if you set it up as “everything on this table is $5”, and things get moving.

A good option is to place stickers of different colors on each item and display a master key for shoppers. all things with a blue sticker are $5, red stickers are $10, and so on.

“Make sure you have at least a few items displayed at bargain prices,” Sultanoff suggests. “It will encourage buyers to believe that your prices are good.”

Consider reserving a table for items you are willing to give away for free. “Free stuff makes people happy,” Kelleher says.

Make payment easier for buyers. Have small bills handy for change. If you use Venmo, PayPal PYPL,
or Zelle, display the handful or scannable QR code in multiple places so shoppers don’t have to constantly ask.

8. Prepare to negotiate

“You have to be prepared to negotiate,” Kelleher says. “People like to haggle. That’s part of why they go to a tag sale.

A yard sale is not the time to get overly sentimental about an item or be insulted by a buyer’s comment. “That’s why you want to set a goal ahead of time,” Kelleher says. “You may be more willing to take 25% or 50% off depending on the item if you remember that getting rid of it means you can finally put your car in the garage.”

Know your price limit. “If you don’t want to sell it cheap, then don’t,” Sultanoff says, “and be prepared whether it sells or not.”

9. Keep your cool

Expect some buyers to arrive before the start time (and others to arrive at or after the listed end time). Greet people when they arrive, but don’t get high. Make sure you have enough help when selling, so buyers don’t have to wait long.

Again, don’t get angry if buyers offer you less than the set price for an item. “You should have already said goodbye to the item when you put it up for sale,” Kelleher says. “That said, if the person is aggressive or rude, walk away from the situation. Say firmly, ‘No, I can’t sell’ and move on.”

After: Three expert tips for a successful and lucrative garage sale

10. Be nice

This last tip is for customers. “It’s easier to take less money from someone polite,” Kelleher says. “I’ve sold people items for less than I expected just because they were such nice people and I liked them.

Randi Mazzella is a freelance writer specializing in a wide range of topics from parenthood to pop culture to life after 50. She is a mother of three and lives in New Jersey with her husband and teenage son. Learn more about his work at randimazzella.com.

This article is reproduced with permission from NextAvenue.org© 2022 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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