How to Yard Sale :: For Buyers and Sellers

a tiny percentage of my precious wooden hanger collection

When I would go home from college, instead of getting together with friends or going out at night, I’d wake up early and ride in the backseat while my parents drove with me to various yard and estate sales. It was thrilling. Seriously. I’m not being sarcastic. Like, I really, really enjoyed it. I was no where near cool and I did not care because I was able to collect enough wooden hangers to last the next 17 years, hangers that no one will ever see or care about. Who’s cool now, suckers? Yeah, I showed them.

Since I consider myself somewhat edjumakted in the school of yard sale hard knocks learning the ropes one quarter at a time, I thought I would bestow on you my plethora of yard sale-ing smarts.

For Shoppers:

1. Find Out Where the Sales Are

Check out sites like craigslist, garage sales tracker, and as a last resort, if you are from the 1800’s, the newspaper.  Most of the time, I live on the edge and just drive around looking for signs.  Did you hear that yard sale sign people?  MAKE signs!

my boys enjoying the touchable bubbles I got from a yard sale, unopened 25 cents

2. Find the multi sales

Once you find all the listings for sales, if you are lucky, you’ll have to decide what sales to hit. Look for neighborhood sales, multi family sales, school fund raiser sales, church sales…anything that includes a group of people will tremendously up the odds of you finding great stuff. The more time you can spend shopping and not in your car trying to find a sale, the better.

I had to come back and pick this dresser up later, I taped my business card to it just in case.  If you ever have to come back to pick something up, make sure you remember to write down the address or leave your card so they can find you.

3. Start early

The best stuff goes fast. I like to be in my car before the sales are scheduled to open which ’round these parts is 7am. But, if you are out later in the morning don’t fret, sellers are wanting to dump their junk on you by that time so you are likely to get something for a much lower price.  I don’t try to get to sales way before they open though, that annoys me.


4. Be ye prepared

Here’s what I try to have with me:

  • room in the car to put stuff
  • map
  • cash {ones if possible}
  • drinks & snacks
  • friend
  • fabric file
  • small tape measure

5. Ask for a lower price.

Just ask. Unless it’s 7am. To me, it’s bad yard sale etiquette to ask if someone will take lower for something too early. Unless it’s a big ticket item, I usually pay asking price for the small things the first 30 minutes or so. Don’t be afraid to ask. Remember, it’s more about the attitude then the price someone wants. Being genuinely kind and encouraging can go a long way.

6. You do not have to buy something.

Sellers don’t {shouldn’t} get their feelings hurt if there’s nothing you need that they are selling. You don’t owe it to them to stand around for at least 3 minutes loitering and acting like you might buy something. You are stealth, your time is limited, get in, give it a good look see and get out if you don’t see anything. A quick “thank you” or “good luck” can be added if you feel really bad. Always remember, that every minute you spend taking your sweet time is a minute someone else somewhere is buying exactly what you are looking for at a killer price.

7. Have a goal

I like to find case goods {tables/dressers/book cases} that I can paint, and sturdy, cleanish upholstered pieces that I can slipcover. I’m always in the market for kid’s toys that could be gifts, housewares that I fall in love with and feel sure I can use and fabric. Tell your friend what you are looking for too, you know for accountability. That way when you see another huge birdcage for a bird you won’t ever have she can remind you that you don’t need it.

The Secret No One Talks About :: How to Find Good Stuff

Be willing to go to lots of sales and see lots of junk.  I only buy something at 20% of the sales I go to.  You have to be the kind of person who’s committed to spend the morning finding mostly nothing in order to be rewarded with one amazing find.  It’s a self selecting group and we don’t like to hear people whine about how they never find something at the two sales they went to this year.

For Sellers:

1. Advertise.

I hear that people usually look at craigslist and garage sale tracker {both free to list} and if they are from the 1800’s the newspaper to find sales to visit. Use them all to get the word out and PUT UP SIGNS! Please, please, please. I cannot tell you how many times I have given up on finding a sale because of lack of signage. My dad has some huge red arrows that he cut out of heavy duty cardboard. No words, just the arrow. He places them at intersections pointing out the way every year during the neighborhood sale and people always comment on them saying they were compelled to follow the arrows just to see where they led. Quite clever.  And don’t write too much on your signs.  And don’t write too small.

2. Have a group sale

Plan a sale with others for optimal customers–people look for group sales so it’s worth it to wait for the neighborhood sale. You’ll attract more people and can share any of the advertising costs.

3. Start early

Don’t try to be all fancy and start at 8:30am. Unless that’s the time that everyone else in your town starts. I have passed up sales before never to come back because I was there at 7:30 as they were setting up and was told that I needed to come back at 8. As if. Make it easy on people, start at 7am.

Trays: 2/$1

4. Be prepared

Here’s what I like to have when I have a sale

  • tables to set stuff on and sheets laid out with stuff organized on it
  • clear prices or signs with prices
  • food
  • phone
  • money box {or if you don’t mind looking dorky and 98 years old, a fanny pack}
  • change–lots of ones and quarters
  • a few grocery bags for your big spenders
  • SIGNS
  • kids selling drinks in a cooler and prepackaged snacks
  • good company to sell with, I prefer my mom and sister

5. Take lower than your asking price

Stick to your prices for a little while but count the cost of being stuck with something as opposed to selling it for 50 cents less. Decide before hand the lowest price that you will sell something for and if someone tries to get you to take less tell them you are still on the fence about selling it and are only willing to sell it if you can get x amount out of it. There’s no arguing with that answer.

6. Don’t take it personal

Not everyone will buy something. Remember, this is your used stuff. If it’s something great you can always sell it on craigslist or ebay. Don’t expect to sell a dusty, dirty unfinished dollhouse for $300 at a yard sale because it was once worth it to you. Not that I’ve seen that or anything. People are looking for great deals, and you get to get rid of your junk, it’s a win win.

armoire I bought with yard sale monies

7. Set a goal.

For one yard sale I wanted to make enough to buy a goose neck faucet for my kitchen. In another sale, I sold our old furniture and my goal was to be able to pay for a new armoire with cash. I met both goals. It’s much more fun when you have a goal and see all your old stuff leave in exchange for something you’ve been wanting. And, it frees you up to adjust your prices as the day passes.

On Pricing:

There are all kinds of schools of thought on pricing. I usually price all my stuff since I have sales with my mom and my sister and if I go in for a potty break I don’t want them to not know a price if someone asks. Every year we swear it’s not worth it and every year, we have another sale. We each use a different color tag/sticker or we at least put our initial on the tag so we can keep track. All the money goes into one pot and we take all the tags off the items and stick them on a notebook that has three columns–one for each of us. At the end we add up the amounts in each column and divvy the monies up. Doesn’t it sound like more when I say monies?

Some people like to just tell the prices as people ask. As a buyer that doesn’t bother me at all and I could see how that would be easier. As a control freak that totally bothers me because I wouldn’t want my husband to sell something for $3 when I was gonna ask $30. But I’m always happy when someone else’s husband sells me the $30 item for three dollars.

I’m sure I forgot like a hundred things, feel free to add your 25 cents to the list.

This post originally aired last year and the year before but, I think it’s worth repeating.

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Comments

  1. My husband and I just had 2 back to back yard sales to raise money for our adoption. Our first sale we made over $2,100 and the second over $1,700. I linked to your blog when explaining our tips. Thanks for your great advice, we definitely put it to use.

    http://yestoadoption.blogspot.com/2010/08/yard-sale-tips-from-non-professional.html

  2. SIGNS!!! Amen sister. I’m a working mom so I can’t have a sale on Fridays. I do Saturdays only. So here’s my best ever attempt at signs – I make simple printed signs that say “Yard Sale Saturday”. I leave a little room at the bottom to draw an arrow by hand. LARGE ARROW. I print my signs on bright yellow/green paper. Then I laminate them. I know, sounds like too much but here’s the advantage. Paper alone will curl and ‘wilt’ if you leave it out overnight. The dew does bad things to paper alone. But laminated paper holds up well to the weather. Use a staple gun to attach your laminated paper to both sides of a scrap of wood and (this is major imortant) put them out the Friday before. That way people will see your signs the day before and be prepared to come find you the next day. One of the best things about this method – you can keep your signs for years and years. By not putting a specific date, you can have your ‘Saturday Only’ sale each year. A bit of work one time will last for a long time.
    PS – take your signs down when done people. I hate driving around looking for a sale that was really 3 weeks ago.

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  4. Great advice! And I agree, my friends always say, I do to a garage sale or two, but I NEVER find anything. Well, your right about having to do a lot of hunting through a lot of junk to find that pearl.

  5. Im ready to start hitting the sales again!

  6. I’m looking forward to gsale season which won’t start till May here. We still have snow on the ground! Sigh.

  7. Great post. I am laughing at the picture of your yard sale though.
    Is the chalked message at the end of the driveway a warning to those who leave with nothing?? “You die” ! lol :)

  8. I have been eagerly awaiting yard sale season to start…here in IN we are supposed to get 4 in of snow tomorrow! Spring is delayed and so are yard sales. Thank goodness we have GW stores! Last year I started dragging my 11 YO son to yard sales…my 14 YO daughter is too cool for this…and he is a great shopping partner. He finds things that I would never see. Before we get out of the car, I tell him I am looking for a particular item, for example, lamps…last year I got 2 brand new with tags brass lamps for $3 for the pair. They are beautiful in my bedroom. His incentive is to pick out something at each sale that he cannot love without…like a 50 cent walking cane and a baggie of shower curtain rings that he turned in to a game. Oh the imagination. I love going with him and am so blessed to have him. Come on SPRING!!!!!

  9. I can’t wait till it’s warm enough here for the garage sale season to start! I’m will be armed with dollar bills, checklist of items wanted, and donut with extra sprinkles! I love sprinkles!

  10. Man, now you’ve got me thinking about yard sales – both going and having! BUT, I think the only things I could sell right now are baby/kids clothing and other baby stuff. EXCEPT, I’m due in four weeks. So maybe I should hold off. And then, as for going to yard sales, not sure how I’m going to get that done with a newborn and my three other small kids! I guess I’ll just save my money and not make any … for this summer. Thanks for helping me look ahead past the snow we got last night!

  11. No need to be condescending about people that read newspapers. We don’t all live in a big city with a Craiglisting or such. Our only way of advertising, and finding, garage sales in our area is through the newspaper. Just a thought!!!

    • Yep, me too AND I use a tool apron for my money, so it is with me as I walk around and not have to go back to the table etc……but I am not 98. :o)

  12. I totally agree about putting up signs! Nothing is more annoying than driving around trying to find a Wonderful sale listed in the paper only to find nothing. I love BIG signs.

  13. This post was definitely worth repeating. Thank you for posting it again.

    I really like yard sales, but I don’t know if I’m dedicated enough to be a good yard saler. Or yard salee. Whatever the right term, I’m not sure I’m up to it. I’m a Saturday sleeper-inner, especially now that my boys are all teenagers and they all sleep in. I appreciate your honesty in saying that you only find great things at about 20% of the sales you hit. That helps me to have appropriate expectations in case I do decide to get out of bed early some Saturday morning. :)

  14. Definitely worth the repost! We’re already planning to have a garage sale this summer, and my parents always leave it to me to organize! So intimidating! Also, it’s always good to hear again that it’s okay not to buy anything. I always want to, not even out of guilt, but because it’s all so cheap!

  15. Great tips! I seriously cannot wait until I start seeing Garage Sale signs around. Come on people, start selling me your stuff!

    Shelley

  16. We still live in the 1800’s here in the midwest for everybody I know puts ads in the local newspaper. SmallTown, America is (near) where I live. Signs are the best!

    good tips.

    Jody

  17. Carol Ann says:

    Best sign for garage sale:

    G. R. O. J.* Sale this Saturday!

    *get rid of junk

  18. Great tips. I love yard sales and can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I can hit the pavement! Thanks for such an informative post.

  19. I love to garage sale. Can’t wait for it to warm up! I usually have more luck at flea markets though and luckily I live in a good area for those! I always put up flea market tips for the summer season. My first flea of the season is tomorrow!

    One thing I don’t do at a yard sale is barter. Just personal choice. Usually most of the things I am interested in at garage sales are at a good price already. If not, I’ll pass. At my mom’s estate sale, I had pillowcases that they could fill with her vintage fabrics for $1.00 per bag and I had people stuffing collectibles inside the middle of the fabric! It was priced to sell to avoid the questions but when they took advantage of it, that’s where I had to draw the line.

    I will barter with dealers of course because that is how you play the game!

    One thing sellers DO is bundle. I ask if I can start my pile somewhere and keep adding to it. When it’s time to pay, they’re apt to just give you a price for the whole thing which is always better than individual pricing.
    Just some thoughts, thanks!

  20. I am not a yard sale expert, but the one thing I HAVE learned, is to never have a money box — always use a fanny pack or pockets. I have been witness to a whole money box being taken from a garage sale — awful! You think you won’t leave your table, but you might forget or get called away, and it’s just not worth it. You can also get the money bags that vendors wear at Home Depot or Lowes or such . . . just my two cents!

  21. Was that Lysa TerKeurst in the photo?

  22. I’ve been a diehard yard sale shopper for decades, (except I’m not *that* old, lol!) and your post is SPOT ON. Brilliant! I hope you don’t mind if I link to it from my blog. Thanks!

  23. Thanks for the tips – it’s great to learn from an experienced seller! One tip I would add: make sure that none of the items you’re selling were recalled. Selling recalled items is illegal and of course you wouldn’t want to pass on unsafe items. You can use Simply Check (http://wemakeitsafer.com/SimplyCheck) to check for recalls & to show your buyers that you checked. Hope you and your readers find it useful!

  24. Dante Cooke says:

    This is an excellent list of tips. I just put many of them to good use last weekend at a neighborhood garage sale.

    Another great list of advice (some of which is the same): http://experimentalsoup.com/8-tips-to-get-the-best-out-of-garage-sales/ It is very helpful for a nice, summer weekend of garage sailing!

  25. I got hat you intend,saved to favorites, verdy decent website.

Trackbacks

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