Today is my third installment in my hometown series on “Four Best Ways to Sell Your Old Things.” If you missed the first two, click on the links below:
These days, I can’t help but notice all the yard sales, garage sales, and block sales posted all over the place. It must be the fall weather, or people wanting to clear out stuff before the cold winter weather begins to set in. I don’t know about you, but yard sales/garage sales are whole new territory for me. A couple of years ago when some of my neighbors wanted to host a neighborhood sale, I jumped at the opportunity to have many of our baby items make a mass exodus from our basement.
Four families on my street got together, and we held a multi-family, neighborhood garage sale. It was the best coordination effort ever! Each family placed a sticky (masking tape or blue painter’s tape) with our initials and price for the item. I went a step further and actually labeled each item like this:
|HB||$1||Gap 2T shirt|
During the early morning hours, we offered coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts to entice potential buyers to stop and shop at our sale. Once a buyer purchased an item(s), we stuck each label inside an old spiral notebook, which was used as a ledger for record keeping. For example, a buyer would pick up four items from each of family, paying one lump sum amount. We had to keep track of each sale so that the appropriate family received the correct amount at the end of the sale.
We held our multi-family garage sale in conjunction with our neighborhood sale from Thursday 9 am to 5 pm, Friday 9 am to 5 pm, Saturday 9 am to 12 pm. At the end of the three-day weekend sale, between our four families, we made over $800! It rained and got colder each day we held the multi-family neighborhood garage sale, but we huddled together and pulled off a great sale.
Here Are 10 Tips We Learned From Our Multi-Family Garage Sale:
1. Tag every item you want to sell. People may try to pull a bait-n-switch on items in a garage sale. But if you specifically label each item or sets of items, then it makes it difficult to change a price tag for one item over another.
2. Know your target buying audience. The buying mentality of a garage sale/yard sale hunter is much different than a potential buyer on eBay or Craigslist. It’s hard to describe other than the veteran garage sale hunter wants to low-ball every dollar amount possible, no matter the condition of the item. It must be the nature of a garage sale. Several articles mentioned this during my research, including one from Garage Sale Tips.
3. Price items reasonably lower than you would expect on eBay or Craigslist. Once you know how buyers act during a sale, it makes sense to lower your pricing expectations. And if you’re a new garage sale seller, like I was, then here are some general pricing tips to help you get started on appropriately pricing your items for a successful garage sale/yard sale. You can also find general pricing lists from the Denver Post, Wikihow, Garage Sale Source, and Sonoma Family Life Magazine.
4. Organize your items and label each table. It helps buyers to see what items are available when they are neatly organized. People will more likely look through items when they are neatly stacked on tables.
(Photo Above: Notice how baby girl clothes are stacked neatly in small stacks, organized by size.)
5. Use bookshelves, tables, and clothing racks to showcase your items. Essentially, this is an add-on to #3. You want to showcase your items for sale like you would in a store. People don’t want to be rummaging on the ground in boxes on the ground. Buyers want to walk through seeing items at waist or eye-level. Think like a well-trained marketer. You want to move bigger merchandise, such as furniture pieces, baby high chairs, etc. to the front of the yard. This helps to draw in potential buyers who drive by your sale.
(Photo Above: Notice how clothes are organized by size and grouped in small stacks. Also, take note that there are hardly any boxes stacked below the tables. Most of the items were at waist level.)
6. Place large, legible signs at the entrance(s) to your neighborhood with balloons. Make sure the handwriting is legible and easily seen from all directions of traffic. If you place additional signs from larger/major streets, make sure you are within city guidelines (or have city permits) to place those signs. And make sure to take down signs after the sale is over.
7. Use free advertising when possible. Place an ad on Craigslist about the multi-family sale of the dates your neighborhood plans to hold a sale. In our case, one of our other neighbors placed an ad about the neighborhood sale, but didn’t show case specific items. So we placed another Craigslist ad specifically giving directions to the house for our four family multi-garage sale. We took pictures and listed big ticket and name brand items for sale.
8. Use Craigslist to advertise big-ticket items individually. Much like posting an ad on Craigslist, you want to attract buyers from all angles. A neighbor told me that she placed individual Craigslist ads for larger/highly sought after items in addition to the general garage sale/yard sale ad. If buyers were interested in the item, the neighbor would direct the potential buyer to the garage sale to check out the item(s). I ended up doing that for a baby feeding high chair. No one was particularly interested in it at the garage sale/yard sale. But there was the one family that was looking for that specific feeding chair and came by to pick up the item!
9. Optional: Give away or sell coffee and donuts at the check out table. Since the weather turned cold over the course of weekend, offering coffee and donuts at 50 cents drew in quite a crowd. Remember, the goal of selling coffee and donuts is not to make money but to get buyers to stay and look around at the merchandise. Buyers typically will do a quick walk through and may assess there is nothing of interest to them within minutes. But when there is a hot beverage and something to snack on, you can strike up a friendly conversation, thereby getting to know your buyer and see if there is something you can help them in his/her search.
10. Coordinate with the other family/families about roles and responsibilities. In our case, we trusted everyone in our group, so there was no issue or worry about anyone being short-changed or not helping out with the sale. We discussed who would hold the money, who would work the morning shift and afternoon shifts. We all participated and shared in the work together. It made the whole garage sale experience all the more fun.
Pros When Selling Items at a Garage/Yard Sale:
– You can rid of several items at once. No need to individual price and list several items for sale on Craigslist or eBay.
– No need to mail off anything at the post office. The sale is complete at the garage/yard sale.
– You can get a chance to know more neighbors. That’s one serious way to build community!
Cons When Selling Items at a Garage/Yard Sale:
– It’s a lot of work upfront, during, and afterwards. For some, the amount of time spent from beginning to end of a garage sale/yard sale outweighs the cost of donating or giving items away.
– People will try to negotiate a lower price on an item(s). You have to be willing to go lower on your item(s) or risk losing a sale.
– Some people may try to steal or take your money while you’re not looking, especially at the beginning of the sale when it is the busiest.
My Personal Story
Since this was the first time I had ever participated in our multi-family garage sale, I did a lot of research:
– How much to price items?
– How to stage your yard sale/garage sale?
– Best strategies for holding a successful sale
– When to hold a sale?
– How to deal with customers?
– What are their buying habits? How to attract buyers to your sale?
I wasn’t sure if my neighbors would think I was overzealous about the process, but they were happy that I did some of the research because we were pretty new to the whole process of hosting a garage sale/yard sale. After arming ourselves with all the information that we find on the Internet, we spent hours tagging each item, organizing items into boxes, transferring items from our basements to our neighbor’s garage, working the cash register, moving items up off the floor to the tables as other items sold, etc.
One of my neighbor’s friend asked to sell a very dirty, old Pottery Barn Kids girl rug for $60 at the garage sale. We’re talking dirt and grime everywhere, stains from who knows what, and a stench you wished you didn’t have to smell. Personally, it wouldn’t matter if it was Pottery Barn Kids or not, the condition of that rug looked like the Department of Health and Human Services needed to take that thing away. Needless to say, the rug went back into our neighbor’s van and was taken back to her friend’s house. This lesson tells you that if you want to sell an item, a seller has got to do his/her part and prepare the item in sellable condition.
On the morning of our first day of sale, eager garage sale hunters were canvasing our garage sale outside of my neighbor’s yard like horses readying themselves at the starting line for a big race. We had to politely tell them that they can wait in their cars or come back at 9 am when the garage door opens for the sale because we were still setting up big ticket items in front of the yard.
I had read that you should never have a money box during a sale because you don’t want to ever keep your eyes off your money for one second. Essentially, you want to have it held very close to your body using such things like travel money pouch or one of those garden aprons.
Thankfully, we had used one of these aprons/pouches because we found buyers who were caught trying to remove labeled tags, as well as hiding unpurchased items into other items they were purchasing. However, we did make one mistake during our sale. We pulled out some nicer baseball cards from a box to showcase the contents in the box. However, during the rush of the early morning sale, someone decided to take the baseball cards while we were busy working with other buyers. The box full of baseball cards were sold at the sale price, but the actual buyer lost out on all the contents because someone decided it was okay to steal.
So why go through all the fuss? Well, we got rid of stuff, which was the point of the garage sale. But I gained a valuable, unintended positive consequence. After three-busy days with my neighbors, I really got to know my neighbors very well that weekend. The value of community and building friendships is something you cannot put a price tag on. So go ahead and plan for that amazing garage or yard sale! It’s a great way to build community in your neighborhood!
How about you? If you have held a garage/yard sale, what have your experiences been like? What are some of your recommendations when holding a garage/yard sale?