5 tips for a profitable yard sale
Many people see spring and summer as a time to de-clutter and clean house, and they're glad to make a few bucks selling the extras. But there are more and less effective ways to sell castoffs.
Hint: Probably avoid the example of Will Ferrell's character in "Everything Must Go"!
Here are five tips for profiting from your treasures.
The more people know about your sale, the more will come. Pepper the neighborhood with brightly colored signs, and advertise on Craiglist and websites like yardsalesearch.com, in your local newspaper and on bulletin boards.
"The most important thing is getting people to your yard sale," says Chris Heiska, founder of yardsalequeen.com, one of the oldest yard sale sites on the Web. "Even if you have the best-organized yard sale, if you don't have customers, that's a problem."
Newspaper and Web ads should run five or six days before a sale, and they'll attract the most seasoned shoppers. But don't underestimate the importance of neighborhood signs.
"Signage is key and important," says Louise Kurzeka of Minneapolis, who founded Everything's Together organizing service and advises professional organizers.
Just don't spend a lot on the signs. Keep them one bright color, with the date and large arrows to catch drivers' eyes, Kurzeka says: "People only have a couple of seconds at best to see the signs."
Balloons can add freshness.
"If you have balloons in the air, that's an indication you probably put up the sign today," says Atlanta-based organizational expert Monica Ricci.
She recommends applying the same thinking to the way you display your wares. A sign by the fridge saying, "Works like a champ, cools great," or a sticker on a game that reads, "All pieces included," will answer shoppers' questions and give them the confidence to buy.
Make sure you have small bills and quarters on hand to make change and a fanny pack or apron to keep your money secure. Have a power strip and batteries at the ready to show people that electrical items work. Remember to offer your shoppers bags: Plastic, paper, even old tote bags you never use, Ricci says.
And think competitively. Set your event at a time and on a day when yard sales typically occur in your area, and make sure you're ready at your promised start time.
"People don't want to wait around when they know other yard sales are going on," Heiska says.
Price things right
Remember that, even though the items you're selling have sentimental value for you (or you remember what you paid for them), you can't count on getting a lot for them at a yard sale. Your customers are expecting a good deal. Anything you hope to sell for more than $25 or $30 probably has better chances on Craigslist.
"If you have a lot of customers and no one is buying anything, that might be a clue your prices are too high," says Heiska.
So before the big day, try visiting other yard sales and checking prices online for items you're selling.
Some general rules apply: Books are usually 50 cents or $1 and CDs are $1. Most things go for 12 to 15 percent of their original price, says Kurzeka, though you may get 30 percent to 35 percent of what you paid for drinking glasses, dishes and some linens.
Kurzeka recommends pricing as you de-clutter your home and grouping similar items together in boxes.
"Otherwise, you have to do it when you're emptying boxes (the day of the sale), and that's when you're tight on time," she says.
Know what sells
The things that do best tend to be furniture, sporting goods, kitchen wares and tools. Toys and games can be good sellers if they are in good condition, and kids' clothes can be a draw, but only for children younger than 6 or 7, Kurzeka says.
Collectibles don't usually do well at yard sales anymore because it's more efficient to find them online. And most adult clothing isn't likely to sell very well.
"People are always disappointed; they want to sell their suits from the 1990s," Kurzeka says. She recommends donating clothes instead. Or you can take the best to a consignment shop.
"It doesn't matter if you spent $150 on the suit, you'll be lucky to get $10 at a yard sale," she says.
Don't try to sell children's products that have been recalled or anything illegal. And toss the things that belong in the trash, Heiska says.
"Don't sell a sack of old Cool Whip containers," she says, recalling something she's actually seen at a yard sale.
Tidy your act, and don't invade people's space while they shop.
"You don't want bed bugs at the bottom of boxes or spider webs on things," Heiska says.
She recommends displaying smaller items on a table and being available to answer questions — but not hovering: "Be friendly but don't be overbearing."
Ricci recommends putting price stickers on the top of everything, rather than on the bottom, so shoppers don't have to pick up every item they're interested in.
Kurzeka recommends a general weeding — and organizing your offerings by category.
"Make sure your lawn is mowed, and your flower garden looks nice," said Kurzeka. "The better your home looks, the more attractive the merchandise is."
Remember, people are used to shopping in stores that do all this and much more.