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. Last summer, Mike and I wanted to do an overhaul. We took every single unnecessary belonging in our house and set them out on tables in our front yard. Then? We put up a really huge sign that said…

    “EVERYTHING IN THE YARD IS $1…EVERYTHING”

    I sold brand new shirts with tags for a dollar, and I sold dog-eared books that were only worth a penny for a dollar. Our buyers seemed to think that, in the end, it all balanced out, and I agreed.

    We put our big items or more valuable items (futon, dining room set, cradle, bassinet, Pampered Chef wares) on the driveway and priced them according to their value.

    At the end of the day, we had made over $1500, and I had heard this phrase more times than I could keep track of:

    “This is the best yard sale I’ve ever visited.”

    My advice? Make it simple.

    Organize your wares in categories and make the pricing easy. Pick out everything that you can part with for $1, and put it in your yard. Take everything else and put it in your garage/driveway and price it out.

    Good luck and have fun!! :)

    • Attention world, please ignore my entire post because this, my friends, is sheer brilliance. I LOVE this idea!!!

      I would be afraid that after 20 minutes all my good things for $1 would be gone and all I would have left is the bad things for $1? But still, smart idea.

    • Ok Lindsey & Nester – loved, loved, loved, L-O-O-O-VED this post & comment :)
      Fall Neighborhood Yard Sale – here I come…

  2. SimplyLKJ says

    We had a yard sale about a month ago, and it was nice to weed out (we are remodeling a few rooms) and only keep what we truly loved. We made some money and saw things we no longer needed go to good homes.

  3. This is just what I needed – we are planning on having our very first yard sale this summer and I’m a bit nervous about getting it all together. This will be so helpful!

  4. So far I’ve only been out once this year (but it was the local town garage sale day, so I hit a lot of different sales), but I snagged a really cute mirror for $2 and most of my 2 year old’s summer clothes (most at 25 cents each). Also, a crazy big vase that will totally stretch my limited floral arranging skillz.

    Great tips! I tend to just take off and follow my nose as well… sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t… ;)

  5. Oh, dear Nester, you are so right!!

    Have you ever noticed that the yard sales with the best signs have the worst stuff.

    Maybe it’s an inverse thing — bad signs, good stuff — but it makes it hard for us buyers!!

    Happy hunting!!

  6. Great tips! I am not really good at hosting a garage sale, I want too much for everything! (Craigslist pricing is one step up from a garage sale, and use that to move things often.) But…our neighborhood is having a big garage sale this Sat., if anyone is the Portland area! :) The kids are selling off LOTS of toys…the best part, the social aspect and walking around seeing everyone’s “junk”!
    Janell

  7. I hate yard sales where nothing is priced. How much is this? How much is that? 10 women asking 1 person “How much…”. It’s a pain, especially when it’s a multi sale. If I see no prices… I leave.

    • Thank you, Teri! I feel exactly the same way. If you can’t take the time to price it- I will not waste my time looking. I don’t mind if you price it in bulk (verything here $1) but do something.

  8. I’m planning my first yard sale ever….so nervous….. What a neat idea from your 1st commenter…whoa! :o)

  9. I have only had one yard sale and I was a nervous wreck…what if no one comes…what if no one buys…what if people kidnap my children…why in the world was I fearing rejection from a yard sale :)!?!?! I made $1,200….couldn’t believe it!!

  10. We just had a multi-family (8) garage sale during a city wide garage sale and was surprised at how little we made. We had a ton of stuff and priced it cheap kept it displayed neatly but we didn’t advertise because we figured everyone else would. We only made $175 but the kids made $30 selling snow cones! We’re going to try it again with what’s left in another neighborhood and advertise, advertise, advertise!!!
    Great post! Thanks for all the info!
    ☺ Celeste

  11. The fanny pack comment made me laugh out loud! :D

    My biggest tip for sellers, PLEASE make signs that are big enough to read! You know from like the car or something. I cannot stand it when I see signs so small at an intersection that I’d have to park and get out to read what it actually says.

    Otherwise, great tips you have here.

  12. Oh…you have SO much more energy than I do!

    I think…oh, I need a little something for that corner, I could go garage sale surfing this weekend.

    Then I get tired thinking about it and have a doughnut. ;)

  13. I’m going go garage saling (sp?) now, and I promise I won’t whine. Thanks!

  14. Yard sales are a professional sport here. People stalk your house and they usually begin around 6am. Most even begin on Fri. afternoons. They have trailers on back of their pickups and have scoured the town before I am even awake.

  15. I know it’s dumb, but my dad’s nylon woven old school lawn chairs died this year and I put that on my list to find at a yard sale since they don’t make them anymore and I found them! For $5! It was a high, a thrill! I went to about 10 yard sales, but having a goal does pay off :)

  16. Love the tips! Thanks!
    http://www.mybluesofa.com

  17. Thanks for sharing your yardsaling tips! You have certainly made some wonderful finds and I love when you post about your yardsale makeovers!

  18. These are great tips! Every Saturday I promise myself that I’m going to get out and scour the ‘burbs for sales only to be lured back to sleep by my comfy bed. But I do envy those who grab awesome finds.

    And when I DO go to yard sales, I definitely prefer that everything be priced. I HATE HATE HATE having to ask the price of everything I’m interested in. If the items aren’t priced, I’m likely to just leave.

  19. I really love this post. :) I think yard saling with a friend is waaaay more fun! My friend (or sister-in-law) always have good ideas for things that I might sometimes pass up. And vice versa.

    My town must still be in the 1800s b/c I have tried GST before and have never come up with a single listing. Our paper always has a page or two each weekend though. For now, I’ll stick with paper. ;)

  20. Thanks for putting this all in one post. I’m going to tag it so I can refer back often. I’ve got a yard sale in my future. ;) Thanks.

  21. My wife and I have furnished almost our entire home with yard sale findings. You are right you need to go early , and go to a lot of sales, every sale will not have what you are looking for. You need to be willing to haggle a price, most people just want to get rid of the stuff. I agree with another posting , if you are going to have a garage, yard sale PRICE the items, nothing is more irritating that trying to get the owners attention when there are 10 people all asking ” How much?” We just leave if the items are not priced…… well that is unless there is something that I just have to have… My entire pation is furnished from yard sales, including cushions and umbrellas…. you can find anything you just have to be persistent and patient. In these difficult economic times yard sales can offer you a chance to change things up for a small amount of cash…. Our friends come into our home and are always amazed at the things we find at yard sales…. Go forth and bargin hunt I say!!!! Blessings to you Curtis and Sherrie

  22. Great article, Nester! I think you touched on all the key things. Garage sales are such a great source of fun and finds. In our area, Craig’s List has become quite popular for listing garage sales as well. (Garage Sales Tracker never has any listings here…bummer!)

    Amy

    P.S. I posted a link to this post on my Junkologie blog…
    http://www.junkologie.com/2010/06/nester-how-to-yard-sale.html

  23. In high school, my best friend and I skipped band to go garage sailing. It was so worth the detention later. : ) I found the most awesomely hideous handmade seashell glitter lamp. While my tastes have changed dramatically, I still love garage sales and am even tempted to use my precious PTO and go on a Friday afternoon sometime.

    Happy sailing!

  24. SO worth repeating!!!!!!!!!!! I am prepping for my own long-overdue yard sale and I can use this advice!! I also want to get out and do more yard-sale-ing this summer. Great info!! Thanks!! Blessings!!

  25. I love going to garage/tag sales but I would die if I had to host my own. Way too much interaction with purchasers, standing there, evaluating my stuff. That’s what Craiglist is for.

    Great post!

  26. I love all this yard sale talk! Great tips! I love finding furniture at sales. I found beds for my kids. One was a four poster bed that I paid $20 for plus another $15 for spray paint. Looks brand spankin’ new! And a set of bunk beds for $15 for my son, plus the cost of paint. I’ll have to blog that deal!

    http://meyerfamilylovenotes.blogspot.com/search/label/Garage%20Sale%20tips

  27. My husband and I LOVE yard sales. We usually hop on our bikes and take pictures of all the address signs on our phones and just cruise all over town hitting them all up. We take our backpacks and fill them with books we find for super cheap and other silly fun things (like a brand new Mr. Potato head for next to nothing!.. no we don’t have kids yet, my husband just loves toys:)). My family usually does a yard sale every few years and if we have stuff we’ll sale it there and make a few bucks. We’ll have to get the fam together to get one planned this year. I love summer for so many reasons and a big one is yard ‘sailing’!

  28. love this post…and yard sale-ing with friends is the best!

  29. Oh my GOODNESS!!! This is the best “yard sale” bible I have ever read. Thank you! thank you! thank you! I read your blog all the time and see all of the neat yard sale finds you pick up. I’m glad to know you aren’t just lucky, but you put a lot of time into finding that perfect thing. I guess that is my problem, I don’t spend enough time hunting :) and YES I am the person who feels really bad if I don’t find something I need or want. Sometimes I feel like I should just give them a $1 and get on my way :) We just moved into a new house and we don’t really have the best yard for a yard sale, but after reading this post, I really want to have one….I might just have to have it at my sisters house. Great post!

  30. Sales without *any* price stickers drive me crazy. I don’t want to waste time wandering around trying to figure out who’s the seller and then ask about my item and then have them see that I don’t want it because they’re charging too much! I’d rather make that decision quickly when I see the price.

  31. I first want to tell you how much I love to read your blog – you give me so many great ideas! Secondly, my son has been bugging me to have a yard sale and after reading this post, I’m seriously thinking about it. Thanks for the great advice!

  32. Love this post, and you’ve got some GREAT tips! My mom and I wrote a 4 part series last year called “Yardsales 101”! It was supposed to be on the fun side, but serious at the same time! You can see it here if you’re interested!

    http://thevintagedresser.blogspot.com/2009/06/yard-sales-101-part-4.html

    Tania

  33. We raised about $3,000 at a sale once and we’ve helped others do the same.
    We do all of your things except the pricing. We do a donations only yard sale and ask people not to rob us, but to pay what they want to. It goes towards our adoption. We have raised at least $500 each time, usually $1,000. We have friends donate and help run the sale and have a fantastic location. LOCATION is everything. I love your blog!! it’s one of my faves

  34. I make my living selling vintage items found from thrifts, and garage sales. Just this week I was donating a few things back that had not sold when my little eyes spied a very old bevel edge mirror. Truthfully, it was hot out, I was irked my husband had pulled in a long line to donate just a tiny box. But I was thrilled when we found the mirror outside for $5.99 minus 25% senior discount! I have trained my eyes to look over the massive piles wherever they are and do it quickly so that I can find the treasure, or move on. It’s just a learned habit of mine. Just beside the door are four mirrors, all found this way, all needing to go to the booth. I love garage sales and I would go anytime, anywhere. :)

  35. Great post! Should redo it every summer. Have to agree that multi sales are best when you are either having or going to a garage sale. The best ones I have been to and had have been when they involved neighbors, family, school, club, church or any group getting together. It takes a bit more organizing, if you’re having one but is way more fun and successful.

    And if anyone is interested, I found this site was pretty good for more tips – http://www.bestgaragesaletips.com

    Wendy

  36. Loved this post! I’m inspired. It is going to be a hectic summer (I’ve got a baby due in Sept, work every other weekend and plenty other weekend plans) but I will make time for at least one full morning of hitting up the garage sales. It is now my summer goal.

  37. Here’s a tip that I thought you might like that I got from a friend. At her last garage sale, she gave away Bibles. A lady asked how much she was selling the Bibles for, and Dorothy said that they were free. The shopper said she didn’t have a Bible but had been praying for someone to study with. Dorothy offered her the Bible and to study with her. I love this story! I thought if I ever have a garage sale I’ll give away Bibles, too!

  38. I really really like your blog.

  39. I think the biggest thing is CLEANING your items. You can ask a higher price for clean items. When selling, I always take the time to make sure things are polished and clean. When buying I always ask for money off and point to the condition of the item.

  40. I also leave when things aren’t priced. I hate it. It’s a pain and I don’t have time. Oh and I also hate when people trying to tell me how awesome their stuff is. Just let me browse and I’ll be the judge of whether or not I like something. I love the hunt at garage sales and going with a girlfriend or two definitely makes it more fun.

  41. Thanks for the 20% hits and 80% misses info. I am the whiner who goes to a sale or two and doesn’t find anything. I’ll be more persistent, promise.

  42. Kathy Dale says

    I just have to tell you that I have the exact birdcage that is in the back of the vehicle. Mine was purchased new in Guam. It originally came from Bali. Just thought you might want to know.

  43. You should also list stuff for sale online on http://www.privategaragesale.com
    It’s totally free, you get to keep all the money.

  44. Our church just had a rummage sale to raise money for some remodeling projects. We priced nothing but said please pay what you feel is appropriate – it all was going to charity. It worked out well. We made a good deal of money and only had a few people who took a carload and gave a few bucks. Still, well worth it!

  45. Sellers–Please, please, please be friendly to your customers!
    If you are too busy yaking at your co–seller to greet someone
    close up and go for coffee.
    I went to sale this am and ran into this–4 women and a sale. So much yaking and not one smile or thank you! Might be why they are still having the same sale that they had this past weekend–didn’t go then. If this sounds snotty sorry but it doesn’t take much to be friendly!!!!!

    Melinda

  46. Dear Nester~ Your tips are wonderful, the only thing we do differently is that we sell everything in .25 increments. This makes it SO easy to count up at the end of the sale.
    Love your blog!

  47. Great article. Both from the buyers’ side and the sellers’ side. I run a site similar to the one mentioned in the article: http://garagesalefinder.com — one of the biggest differences is that my maps let you see all the sales on one page (for your area) and the sales are color coded: green=multi-family sale, pink=neighborhood-wide sale, etc. I’ve got someone working on an iApp, but the system already lets you download the sales to your GPS device (the only site that lets you do that, as far as I know).

    Keep up the good work! Love your articles.

Trackbacks

  1. […]   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. via thenester.com […]

  2. […] Nesting Place has a great how-to article for this time of year, How to Yard Sale. […]

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