“I brake for yard sales.” almost anyone
The fall season means two things to me - football and yard sales. I could never write with any sense about football which leaves me to go on for paragraphs about yard sales.
Over the years I have held or participated in many yard sales. Some have been good, some have been fantastic and others have been bombs. I have learned from my mistakes and after you read this post, I hope you will also.
The first thing to be decided is why you are having the sale. This completely predetermines your approach to the sale. Is the purpose to make a whole bunch of money or is it to get rid of as much stuff as possible?
If your purpose is to make a whole bunch of money then your mind set should be to put your top price on the stuff and then be prepared to settle for less.
If your purpose is to get rid of as much as you can and make a few bucks then your mind set should be to price low and watch it fly out of your yard.
Remember my pal, Kathy? Last January she had an enormous sale. She had some valuable things that probably would have raised a pretty penny on Ebay or wherever, but she chose to let the stuff fly. She made about $2k on the sale and got rid of soooo much stuff. It was a win-win situation for her.
Once you have your mind settled on how you are going to deal with pricing, it is time to start the preparations.
- Decide on the date and time. I believe that it wise not to schedule a sale when there are many Fall Festivals and such scheduled for the same day. If they are scheduled for a Saturday, schedule the sale for Friday or Friday and Saturday. This cuts down on the competition and/or gives you stragglers for the second day.
Scheduling the time involves many factors. What is the norm in your community? How early do you want to get up and how hot/cold is it at that time of the morning? My living in Florida does not change the temperature question. By Florida standards it can be pretty darn cold at 8 a.m. during some months. I prefer not to wear gloves while running a yard sale. I mean, really……!
One more thing about the time scheduling - no matter what you state as the start time - early birds will be there earlier. No matter how many times you publish “No Early birds” they will come earlier. Decide in advance how you are going to handle them and stick to it.
- Do you have enough stuff to warrant having a sale? If you have enough only to fill one or two tables - it is not worth it. There will be a lot of drive-bys (not shootings - shoppers) and if they do not see enough stuff out they will not want to waste their time to pull over and get out. Wait until you have a sizable amount of items that will entice people to stop.
- Advertise and they will come. Do not skimp on the advertising. Put it in your local paper, Craigslist, notices in supermarkets (if that is allowed) and signs.
Keep the signs simple. Do not use white board because it reflects the sun and often cannot be read. Use colors that contrast - the board and the printing. List the address, date, time. Have the print as big and bold as possible. If you put arrows on the signs, make sure they are pointing in the right direction. I recommend not putting the arrows on the sign until the sign is hung. Put the biggest sign you can in your yard with some balloons or streamers so it can be seen from way down the street. Put signs on either end and at intersections. Put signs on the biggest main street near you. Again - make sure the arrows are pointing in the right direction.
When writing the ad for the newspaper or online site, keep it simple and specific. Do not list everything you have but list categories (tools, furniture, etc.) and some of the bigger, more interesting things. Be sure to list any collectibles, vintage and antique items. These things are so desirable and buyers scout the ads just for these.
- Supplies you will need are simple but important.
Sheets, blankets, tablecloths to spread on the tables or ground
Measuring tape for customers to be sure the item is small or large enough
Calculator to add up purchases. I can no longer multiply in my head.
Pad of paper in case someone has placed a low offer. Take their name and phone number that you can get back to them at the end of the sale if the item is still there and negotiate.
An extension cord so that buyers may test anything electrical. Use and outside outlet so there is no need to allow people in your home.
Fanny pack to hold the money. Unfortunately, it is not wise to have a cash box because someone could easily snatch it and run. Also, the box is often too awkward to keep track of or carry around all day. Keep it simple.
Cash. I suggest having about $100 in quarters, $1’s, $5’s, and $10’s. If you have big ticketed items it would also be wise to have a bunch of $20’s. Some buyers come with big bills if they know they will be buying higher priced items.
- Merchandising - as if it were a store. Put as many things as possible on tables or waist-high boxes. It is easier for buyers to look at things if they do not have to bend over and rummage. Organize like items together. Keep it simple. If you do place things on the ground be sure to leave ample room to walk around the spaces. Use shallow boxes, laundry baskets or tubs to display glassware. This prevents their falling over on a table while someone is reaching across. Apparent as this may be, this is worth noting - keep kids’ items away from the breakables. Beg or borrow clothes racks if you have none. Much easier for buyers to find just what they are looking for.
- Volunteer help is essential. The ideal number of people to be used in a sale is three. One to keep the cash, one who knows all the prices and will do the big negotiating and one to help people to their vehicles with their purchases and fetch more bags, etc.
- Pricing. Price items in increments of 25 cents. Be very reasonable when you price things that you paid good money for three years ago. A hand-held mixer that you paid $15 for will not now sell for $12. Price it to sell. What would you pay if you were the buyer? Put a price on everything. Bundle like items and have a sign that reads “All Glassware $1” Keep it simple. Do some research on big ticketed items to get the going market price. Don’t be greedy or be prepared to reduce the price.
As you get to the end time of the sale post a sign that states that everything is 50% off. That should clear out a lot of items.
- Close of sale. Assign someone to get all posted signs removed. A good idea that may get you a tax deduction is to pre-arrange with a thrift shop to have them come by and remove everything that did not sell (with, perhaps, the exception of the big ticketed items). If those items are furniture you may bring them to a consignment shop (my favorite place to shop). My motto is “I don’t want it back in the house!”
Okay, are you ready? Let’s play some