Throwing a garage sale is the best way to get rid of all your old stuff and make some extra cash at the same time.
Anyone can put their old stuff on the lawn and call it a garage sale…
…but if you want to have a successful, profitable garage sale, one that actually gets rid of your old stuff and makes you a ton of money, you need to know how to have a garage sale like the pros.
There are countless things first timers mess up:
- Garage sale pricing
- Advertising their sale
- Setting up the sale to drive sales
- Sales tactics (that are effective at a garage sale)
Here’s the thing:
When you mess these things up, you’re not only going to be left with a bunch of items at the end of the day… you’re going to be throwing away money you could have easily made.
In this post, I put together the ultimate guide to garage sales. It’s packed with 39 easy-to-follow garage sale tips and is guaranteed to turn any garage sale beginner into an expert.
How to Have a Successful Garage Sale: 39 Garage Sale Tips
These expert garage sale tips are broken down into chronological order (based on how far away your sale is). I highly suggest you first read through the whole article, then bookmark it and revisit it as you get closer to hosting your garage sale.
Garage sale and yard sale are synonymous… the main difference being the location where the sale is hosted (the garage vs the yard).
In this guide, I’ll use the two terms interchangeably.
A tag sale, a term often used on the East Coast, is a garage or yard sale where each item has a “tag” displaying a price on it.
A community sale is a garage sale/yard sale when neighbors and/or friends get together and pool their items to host a larger, more substantial sale.
This guide is specifically talking about garage/yard sale tips, but this advice can be applied to any of the above sale types.
Here’s the thing:
Whatever you call it, there are a lot of them and they make a lot of money:
According to research done by StatisticBrain.com:
- There are more than 165,000 sales each week in the U.S.
- Collectively, they bring in more than $4.4 million each week.]
Here’s something a lot of first-time garage sellers don’t realize:
A garage sale isn’t necessarily the best, most profitable way to sell your items.
There are certain types of items that if you sell them at a yard sale, you’ll be throwing away money. For example…
Type #1. Rare or collectible
Things like an original issue of Fantastic Four #1 or a baseball signed by Babe Ruth.
Sell these items on eBay, Craigslist, or via an auction house. While it might be a little more work…
…you’ll get considerably more money than you would selling them at a garage sale.
Type #2. Vintage or antique
Do you own furniture that’s been handed down through generations or older, more unique items?
Sell these items at a consignment shop or on Craigslist… again, you’ll make substantially more.
Type #3. Any item worth more than $100
Anything you think is worth more than $100 should be sold elsewhere (again, Craigslist or eBay).
Think about it:
When you go to a yard sale, do you even bring $100 in cash?
People go to yard sales looking for discounted treasures… not nicer, more expensive items.
The more planning you do before your garage sale, the smoother everything will go the day of.
What’s more, certain things (like #2 below), should be done over an extended period of time. So… three months before you plan to host your garage sale, it’s important to take care of these 6 garage sale tips:
1. Ensure you can host a garage sale and that you don’t need a permit
Local cities and homeowners associations often have laws and rules surrounding garage and yard sales.
- You may need a permit
- You may need to give a certain amount of notice
- You might not be able to host a garage sale at all
There are two places you need to check for garage sale rules, laws and regulations:
- Local city government – Check their website or visit a local police station.
- Home owners association (HOA) – Call your HOA or visit their office.
Step #1: Start collecting all the items you want to sell in one place
In a dedicated area of your living space, start a pile of the items you want to sell at your yard sale.
I’ve found the best place to use is the garage for three main reasons…
- There’s more open space than other places in the house.
- It’s out of your way… conversely, if you put it somewhere like your living room, you’d have a big pile of stuff sitting in your living room for 3 months.
- It makes things easier on the day of your sale. Just open your garage and move your items to your driveway or yard.
Throwing a garage sale is much more than just getting rid of your junk…
…when you host a garage sale, you become the temporary owner of a store. Just like any store owner would, you need to be sure that each item in your store is something people will be willing to spend money on.
So… when you’re considering selling an item at your yard sale, ask yourself these questions:
Is this item junk or a treasure?
If you think an item should go in the trash, then throw it away now because you won’t sell it.
Be objective, but understand that this is going to be a tough call… what you may regard as junk…
…might be someone else’s treasure.
Is this item clean?
The better your items look, the better they’ll sell.
- Imagine you’re deciding between two identical items: one is clean and one has dirt all over it. Which would you buy?
- If your stuff is clean, people will assume you took care of. If people assume you took care of it, they’ll be much more likely to buy it.
Pro Tip: No one will buy clothes that are dirty or in poor condition. Wash all clothes and throw out any garments with permanent stains or rips and holes!
Are there any problems with this item?
Would you buy a TV that doesn’t turn on or a DVD that doesn’t play?
Of course not, and neither will your customers.
So… be sure that all your items are in good working condition. Here are some items to check:
- CD’s and DVD’s – make sure they play properly.
- Battery-operated items – pop in the necessary batteries and be sure everything is working.
- Electronic devices that have cords – plug them in and be sure they work.
- Books – any sign of water damage, missing pages or written notes, throw them away.
One of the most important sales tactics you can employ at your garage sale is bundling.
Bundling is Marketing 101. If you want to sell something…
…bundle it with an item that’s related to it.
For example, if you have a DVD player, package it with all of your old DVDs. While you might only get a few bucks for the DVDs, they’ll help you sell the more expensive DVD player.
Pro Tip: Find the original instruction manual for as many items as you can, and display them with the item. It makes the product feel more complete and, gives the customer confidence that you were a careful owner.
So… you have your items in one place, you’ve bundled them into groups and you’re ready to add a price to everything.
Knowing how to price items at a garage sale is probably the most important step to garage sale preparation, so closely follow these three steps:
Step #1: Make a list of everything you have to sell
For your list, I highly suggest you create an Excel Spreadsheet or a Google Sheet. Not only will this keep things organized, it creates a searchable database of all your items.
Make three columns:
- A name for the item (try to make it something simple so you can quickly find it via a search)
- A price for the item
- A notes section (add any thoughts on how you’re going to sell the item (bundling, discounted price, etc.)
Step #2: Price your items
The most important thing with yard sale pricing is to be realistic. Customers go to garage sales expecting to find bargains. If you don’t give them any, they’ll quickly leave.
Keep in mind:
While you’re hosting this garage sale to make to make money…
…you also want to get rid of this stuff. Anything you don’t sell has to be taken somewhere like Goodwill or packed back up and taken into your house.
So… be objective and set a price you think someone will realistically pay.
While you want to keep your prices realistic, it’s also important to remember that people will undoubtedly haggle at your sale.
In my experience with garage sale pricing:
Sticker price should be 10% – 20% higher to offset the price drop you’ll take from haggling.
Step #3: Estimate how much you’ll make
Estimating how much you stand to make at your yard sale will help you set a budget for your expenses (promotion, set-up materials, etc.) To estimate your revenue, follow these two simple steps:
Step #1: Using your Excel or Google spreadsheet, sum all the prices you set for your items (see this page if you’re unsure how to do this).
Step #2: To give yourself a conservative estimate, reduce the number from step #1 above by 40%. While this percentage seems high, it accounts for things like items that don’t sell and prices that were unconsciously, unrealistically set.
By clearly marking prices, you won’t have customers continually asking you how much each item costs. Not only will this make running your garage sale considerably easier, it creates a much better shopping experience for your customers.
First, invest in labels that come pre-printed with prices from your local office supply store or online ($ @ Amazon.com). This will make your sale look more polished and professional.
Now, aside from adding prices, there are a few other labels you’ll want to add or have on hand:
- “Ask for Price” – Use these labels for any item you know a lot about (like a laptop, custom golf clubs, specialized tools, etc.). When they ask for the price, it’ll give you a chance to sell the value of the item and will make them more receptive to paying a higher price.
- “SOLD” sticker – Customers may not always be able to immediately take the item they’ve bought home (common with bigger items like a lawn mower or exercise bike). Have some “SOLD” stickers handy that you can place on items that were bought, but not immediately taken.
- Printouts – For more expensive or obscure items, find the item on eBay or Amazon, and print out the details page. When you set up your yard sale, put this detail page next to the item. Your prices will be way lower, and it’ll make customers feel you’re charging a fair price.
5. Get helpers for your sale
The day of the garage sale, you’re going to have a lot of things to do:
- Greeting customers
- Answering questions on items
- Handling transactions
- Bagging items
- Acting as security
If there was only one person at your sale at a time…
…you’d probably be able to handle all of these on your own… but imagine if there are three or four people all there at the same time. It’d be a chaotic mess.
One of my best garage sale tips:
You need at least three people to help you on the day of your sale. This will help things run smoothly and will ensure that all of your customers are taken care.
You’re not going to sell everything at your garage sale.
One of the main reasons to host a garage sale is to get rid of your extra stuff. If you don’t sell everything, you don’t want to stuff them back in the garage… you want to get rid of them. Here are a few good options:
- Research online for charities like Goodwill, find out when you can drop items off.
- Find out if you have any local hospitals or missions that might want donations.
- Look up your local waste services, recycling centers and dumps, and see what they’ll take.
PS: Below, I’ll give you some strategies to help maximize sales as your garage sale is winding down.
You have you’ve finished your garage sale pricing, you’ve signed up a few potential helpers, and you’re ready to start finalizing your yard sale plans.
1. Set the official date for your garage sale
Here’s the deal:
While picking the date is an important decision, it shouldn’t be stressful or difficult. Here are a few general guidelines:
- Pick a Saturday or Sunday – most of your prospective customers will have the day off.
- Avoid holiday weekends – your potential customers will likely be traveling.
- Check with neighbors – make sure they aren’t having an event the same day that will take your limited parking spots.
- Check the long-term weather forecast and find a sunny day – while these forecasts aren’t 100% accurate, they’ll give you a good idea of what to expect.
Here’s the bottom line:
Don’t overthink it. You’re looking for a sunny Saturday that’s not on a holiday weekend and doesn’t conflict with any of your neighbor’s events.
Garage sales start early, 7 AM or 8 AM, and stay open late, often until 6 PM.
In my experience… you will have “Early Birds.” These are customers who ignore your set start time…
…and arrive early, often during you’re set up.
Here’s the thing:
Early Birds are usually your best, most enthusiastic buyers. Think about it… they’re there early, hoping to snap up bargains before everyone else.
So… capitalize on this prime opportunity with a little planning:
Set the official opening at 8 AM, but start setting up the sale at 6 AM. That way, you and your helpers can set up, relax with coffee, and be ready at 7 AM when your first customers, the Early Birds, arrive.
3. Set the location for your garage sale
Where you host your garage sale is hugely important.
Again, think of yourself like a store owner… would you rather your store be on a busy street with easy parking, or on a remote alley with nowhere to park?
When you choose your location, try to find a place with these characteristics:
- Easy to find
- Close to a main road
- Away from any road construction
- Large enough to display all your goods
- Plenty of area for your customers to park
Once you pick a location, discuss it with your helpers… they might know a better spot or a reason why yours won’t work.
Only a week before the big day… it’s time to get the word out:
1. Advertise on relevant websites
To find garage sales online, most people will do a Google search like, “garage sale + [their location]”.
Very few people look past the first page of results.
Knowing this, do the same Google search your potential customers would, “garage sale + [your location]”, and focus your time advertising your sale on the websites you see listed on this page.
Step #2: Create your garage sale ad
The ad format will change slightly for each different site (Craigslist versus gsalr), but I recommend you create one “master” ad and adjust it as needed.
Creating an effective online garage sale ad is easy…
…you just need to know is what information people are looking for:
- Clearly stated location and times – something like, “Garage Sale, Saturday, 8 AM-6PM at 72 ABC Street.”
- A general idea of the items you’re selling – for example, “Kitchen supplies, electronics, DVD’s, car parts, etc.”
- The big items you’re selling – for example, “Brand new Kenmore microwave and Crosley record player.” These will effectively draw people in.
- Post images of your most popular items – make sure your photos are well lit and in focus.
Step #3: Post and repost your ad
To maximize your ad’s exposure, post it on all the websites you found in step #1 above both seven and again three days before your garage sale.
When you repost your ad, to keep things fresh, it’s a good idea to add a few new photos and slightly mix up the order.
2. Advertise on social media
To reach the largest possible audience, post your garage sale ad on as many social media sites as you belong to (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
As your friends “like” your post, your ad will also reach their friends and family.
3. Advertise in your local newspaper
Pick a smaller, more local newspaper to advertise with.
With this, not only will advertising be more affordable, but these papers will also sent to your target garage sale customers: your neighbors and the people living closest to where you’re hosting your sale.
Pro tip: The cost of advertising can be high if you get too wordy or add images. Stick to the main details like the location, time and a few of your big-ticket items.
4. Prepare your garage sale signs
Even though you know your neighborhood like the back of your hand, take a drive and look for the busiest routes and the best places to set signs.
Print a map of your area and mark the locations where you want your garage sale signs to be.
Not only will this will tell you how many signs you need to make, but it will also be a great reminder of where to post your signs the day of your sale.
Step #2: Make your signs
Your signs are the most important physical piece of the advertising you have. Not only do they actually advertise your sale, but they also help your customers find its location.
Garage sale signs don’t need to be anything fancy… but there are a few guidelines you should follow:
- Use thick cardstock or cardboard
- Use a bright color to draw attention
- Use arrows to direct and guide customers to your garage sale
- Make your message short, in big letters and very legible (remember… most of the people that will see your signs will be quickly driving by in a car)
PS: It’s tempting, but don’t let young kids help you make your signs. Remember, these are the most important piece of your physical advertising.
Step #3: Make an extra-large sign
Construct a large sign (that looks similar to the signs you created above) to tell customers that they’ve arrived at the right place.
Make it simple, friendly and inviting… something like, “Welcome to our Garage Sale!”
Keep in mind:
This is the sign that actually gets people out of their cars. It’s the most important sign you’ll make… so take your time.
Pro Tip: Buy a few colorful balloons to place on your mailbox to draw attention and help people find your garage sale.
5. Prepare the location for your garage sale
The week before your garage sale, take some time to inspect the location and imagine how you want it to look the day of.
Ask yourself these two questions:
Does the location look presentable?
A good overall appearance shows customers that you take good care of your home… and that’ll give them confidence to buy from you.
Plan to do the following:
- Cut the grass
- Sweep the driveway
- Clear up any dog poop
- Move anything that you don’t want to sell, like a kid’s swing or a wheelbarrow
Do I have enough table space?
First, I highly recommend you use waist-high tables to display your items. They’re easy, look professional and allow people to see the items on both the front and back of the table.
Depending on the size of your garage sale, you’re going to need quite a few tables.
Ask friends and relatives if you can borrow their tables or rent tables from a party store.
6. Prepare to handle cash and make change
Even though you priced your items in easier increments, you’re still going to need to give change
Not only is it going to be a long day, but people will also frequently hand you a $20 and expect you to have change.
Here’s an important garage sale tip:
It’s best to start the day with at least $100 in singles and fives and $10 in quarters.
Keep an eye on your cash levels throughout the day…
…and make sure one of your helpers has their car close in case you need them to make a quick run to an ATM.
Rather than using a cash box, I suggest you get a few inexpensive money belts ($ @ Amazon.com). This way, you won’t have to worry about someone snatching the cash box while you’re helping customers.
The big day is finally here!
There are just a few final preparations to set your yard sale up for success:
1. Get ready for your helpers
If you used my start-time recommendation, your garage sale setup is starting early (around 6 AM.) At this early hour, your helpers will be tired and may not have even eaten.
So… have some coffee and something to eat ready for them.
Next, make a to-do list for each of your helpers so they can hit the ground running when they arrive (it’s a good idea to send one to hang the signs, while the rest help you with different parts of the setup).
Your garage sale might last 8-10 hours… be sure to have some food and refreshments ready to keep your helpers going (you can also order delivery).
2. Post your garage sale signs (and balloons)
As early as possible, give one of your helpers the sign-location map you created here, and ask them to carefully and securely hang your garage sale signs.
Once they’ve hung the signs, ask them to a to do a final drive-by check to be sure all the signs are visible and guiding arrows are easy to follow.
Put your big sign up at the entrance of your garage sale and add your balloons to your mailbox.
Your garage sale is your temporary store… and if your store doesn’t look clean, organized, and highly professional, your customers will be turned off and less likely to buy.
So… pay close attention to these 1 garage sale set-up tips…
…they will make or break your garage sale:
1. Set up your tables in a large U-shape
This will help create a path that funnels customers from one section of your sale to the next.
2. Cover your table with sheets or tablecloths
These will help make your sale (and items) look more attractive and professional. Use the same color sheets/tablecloths if possible.
3. Group products together based on their general type
For example… garden tools with garden tools, household goods with household goods, technology with technology, etc.
Like I mentioned above, bundling is one of the easiest and most effective ways to increase sales.
4. Sell package deals
Sell items that match together (CD’s and a CD player, tennis balls and a racket, ties and a suit) as a package deal.
5. Create a logical journey
Arrange your different sections to create a logical journey from one section to the next (for example: car parts, next to tools, next to gardening supplies). Just like your U-shape setup, this will help move customers from one section of your sale to the next.
6. Use informative signs
Use large, easy-to-read signs to tell people what you’re selling in different locations.
Pro tip: Create some fast signage with a mason jar. Simply write your message on a piece of paper with a Sharpie, thread it through the prongs of a fork, and place it in the jar.
7. Arrange items based on their size
Put taller/larger items towards the back of the table and shorter/smaller items towards the front. This will ensure all your items are visible and easy to see.
8. Space out your items
Don’t put too much on each table. If you do, customers will miss items, and it makes for an unattractive display.
9. Carefully position breakables
Put “breakables” near the center of a table, with space around them, so they can be picked up and put down easily, without falling off.
10. Intelligently position big-ticket items
Locate big-ticket items (like furniture or exercise equipment) near the front of the sales area. They provide curb appeal and will attract buyers who are driving by.
11. Sell clothing effectively
Don’t just throw your clothes in a box for people to rummage through… it’ll be a mess, and you won’t sell a single thing.
Instead, create a makeshift garment rack to hang your clothes on by running some rope between two trees.
Keep in mind:
Your customers will expect to get the hanger as part of their purchase, so use cheap wire hangers.
12. Prove electronics work
Most people won’t buy electronics without first seeing them work.
So… to prove that your electronics are in good working condition:
- Run an extension cord from the house so you can turn on plug-in items. Be sure to tape down the extension cord so no one trips.
- Keep a handful of batteries close for battery-operated gadgets.
13. Dress up your items
Set up any item that compresses or folds up. For example… pitch a tent so customers can look inside, or open up chairs so people can sit down on them.
Show people what you have and they’ll be more likely to buy it.
14. Mark everything that’s not for sale
If you don’t do this, your customers will want to buy your tables, your chairs, and anything else that’s not nailed down.
15. Post a greeter/security deterrent
Have one of your helpers stand near the entrance of your garage sale. They’ll welcome newcomers and say farewell to those leaving, but will also be a presence to discourage thieves.
16. Play Music
Fill your iPod or phone with some classic pop hits to play in the background (just like a real store).
The right music will relax your customers and make them feel more comfortable.
17. Keep your dog in the house
Not everyone (especially those with small children) loves dogs… no matter how awesome, friendly and fun they are.
Your garage sale is underway… your customers are starting to arrive… things are going well.
If you want to maximize your sales…
…closely follow these 8 garage sale selling tips:
1. Let customers wander around
Your customers should know you’re there, and that you’re available for questions…
…but shouldn’t feel like they’re being followed and pressured to buy.
2. Let your customers rummage
During your sale, people will pick up your items and move them around.
After all that setup, I know it’s frustrating…
…but it’s important to let people go through your stuff, even if they’re making a mess of everything.
If you treat your garage sale like a museum, you won’t sell a thing.
Pro Tip: Periodically reorganize things to keep your display looking its best.
3. Talk to customers
Here’s one of the most important things you and your helpers can do can do to maximize sales:
- Greet your customers… ask them how their day is going.
- Ask if they need any help… if there’s anything in particular they’re looking for.
If someone is relaxed and comfortable, they’ll be more likely to buy.
4. Emphasize the positive
Even though you may no longer want an item… it may well be the perfect purchase for your customer.
With that, here’s one of the most commonly overlooked garage sale tips:
Be positive about what you’re selling…
…and if they ask you why you’re selling something… a good standard response is that you were given a new one for your birthday.
5. Negotiate tactfully
People go to garage sales assuming prices are negotiable.
A customer may make an offer that’s perfectly acceptable… or they might make one that’s unreasonably low. Just know that you can always:
- Counter offer
- Simply say no
If you’re looking for a way to tactfully, but firmly say no, I suggest something like, “I can’t drop the price that low, I’m selling it for a friend.”
6. Replace items as they’re sold
Would you buy something from a store with mostly empty shelves?
No… and neither will your garage sale customers.
As your items sell, move things around to keep your tables looking full. If you need to… consolidate the items from two or three tables onto one table.
7. Check your signs
Around 11 AM, ask one of your helpers to drive around the neighborhood again and check to make sure your signs are still up.
Have them take a couple of extra signs in case any have blown away or been moved.
8. Offer impromptu deals during your garage sale
Inevitably, at any garage sale, there will be items that aren’t selling well.
Most first-time garage sellers do nothing to increase sales of these items…
…but the experts use a simple, yet incredibly effective strategy to sell them like hotcakes:
This strategy is even incredibly easy to do:
- Pick an item or section that hasn’t been selling well.
- On a small blackboard or a piece of paper, write something like, “Now 50% Off!”
- Place the sign on the table where the deal is happening and announce the deal to your customers.
Customers love it, it adds some excitement to your yard sale, and it will jump-start the sales of items that weren’t selling well.
You did it! You hosted a fun, successful and profitable garage sale!
There are two remaining things to do: clean up and get rid of whatever didn’t sell.
PS: As a rule of thumb, I like to start closing down about an hour before it gets dark.
Garage Sale Clean Up
Aside from cleaning up your yard or your driveway, the biggest thing to take care of is the signs.
Give one of your helpers the garage sale sign-location map you made and ask them to take down and collect your signs.
Getting rid of remaining items
With whatever didn’t sell, you have four options:
- Keep it
- Give it away – Post a message to Craigslist that says “Curb Alert”, with a brief description of the items, and local people will come pick them up.
- Donate it – Drop your remaining items off at a Goodwill, local charity or church.
- Trash it – Take it to a dumpster or the local dump.
I suggest you first give away and donate what you can, and then throw away anything you don’t want to keep.
If you want to throw a garage sale like a pro, you have to avoid the common first timer mistakes. Follow these 39 garage sale tips and you’ll have a successful, profitable sale.
Have any other great tips? Help fellow garage sellers and share them in the comments section below.