9 secrets to yard sale success

Growing up in a small, New England town meant summers were spent “tag sailing” with grandma. We poured through antiques, found kitchen gadgets for pennies, and brought home knick knacks that my father would remind me are a waste. Still, those days are some of my fondest and I can’t help but peruse a good yard sale when I come across one.

If you’re on the other end of the yard sale – the one hosting it – the day can turn out to be much more stressful. How soon should you advertise? What if it rains? Is the china set priced too high?

Here are a few secrets to ensure yard sale success:

1. Team Up with Family and Friends: One way to boost yard sale attendance is by hosting a mega yard sale with family and friends. Just recently, a friend told me that she and her sisters were going to a yard sale hosted by the local Boy Scouts troop. It was held at a community center and anyone in the neighborhood was welcome to join, as long as a small portion of the proceeds were donated to the troop. I thought this was such a terrific idea! My friend mentioned that it’s a yearly event that she and her sisters have made it a habit to attend. Imagine that? Sometimes, bigger really is better.

2. When to Schedule:  Timing your yard sale is key! Weekends during the spring and early summer tend to be the most popular times to hold a yard sale. In urban areas, late summer and early fall are also good choices – as students and young professionals bargain hunt for their apartments and dorm rooms. Within any given weekend, Friday tends to be a seller’s market because fewer people are out shopping; Saturday tends to be a buyer’s market. You might consider trying to make profits on Friday and then unloading your unwanted items at a discount on Saturday. By Sunday, most tag salers assume the goods are picked over and often pass up stopping by. Lastly, start early! Hard core tag salers will be out in force by 6:30 or 7am!

3. How to Spread the Word: Think about your target audience—do you have items that young people would be interested in? Or do you have goods that appeal to an older crowd? If the latter, you’ll want to use traditional advertising through your local newspaper, on community boards in local grocery stores/libraries/etc., and perhaps an ad on CraigsList. Younger people, though, are best reached through social media and in-person advertising. That’s right…break out your best cardboard boxes (poster board is too flimsy) and throw up signs through the neighborhood! Young people are more likely to make an impulse trip to a yard sale if they pass by a brightly-colored or funny sign that catches their attention.

4. What You’ll Need: Head to the bank and get plenty of small change – at least $50 worth – in a mix of quarters and dollar bills. Keep all cash in a secure box. You might also consider using a notepad to track sales, particularly if you’re selling items in conjunction with family and friends. This will help you divvy up who’s owed what at the end of the day. Keep a handful of paper or plastic bags (or even cardboard boxes) on hand for people who buy a load of goods. We also recommend setting up a small outdoor stereo to play music. Some light-hearted music puts people at ease while they shop. Just think of your favorite department store as example!

5. Our Two Cents on Pricing: There are different schools of thoughts when it comes to pricing items. Some urge the host to clearly mark each item with its own sticker aheadof the tag sale (e.g. in the week leading up to the sale, or as you set aside items to include in the sale). Others say it’s acceptable to have tables marked with prices so that everything on that table sells for that price. But of course, people pick things up, wander around and sometimes change their mind – so there’s no guarantee that item ends up on its proper table. Our two cents? Don’t put price tags on anything. State that all prices are negotiable, and let people come tell you what they’re willing to pay. In our experience, you’ll end up making more money this way! Nobody wants to tell you that they’re only willing to pay $3 for that still-in-the-bag comforter set. They’re likely to offer much higher if you let them!

6. Keep Fido Inside: If it’s a nice day, it can be especially torturous to keep your furry friends inside the house. But no matter how much you love your pets, not everyone will feel the same way. My folks had a yard sale a few years back and I wanted to keep their dog outside. He’s the friendliest, most loving pup. He’s also nearly 100 pounds—and for an unsuspecting visitor, he can catch people off guard. We see him wanting to play, but other might feel anxious. It’s best to keep pets inside for the day to eliminate unwanted distractions.

7. Go Above and Beyond: Tag sales are a great way for people to get to know their neighbors and to help others in need. Two quick stories for you. During one yard sale, a mother asked the homeowner if she could do better on the prices of the boys clothing she was selling. The mom mentioned she was on a tight budget. The homeowner offered to sell her a grocery store-sized bag of clothes for $5 – anything that could fit in the bag was hers to keep. The mother’s face lit up and she explained that her husband had recently been laid off and they were struggling to buy new clothes for her growing boys. She came back later in the day and asked if she could buy a second bag for $5. They had to scrape together the money, but the family was so grateful for the opportunity to bring another bag of clothes, toys and books home to her boys. The homeowner waived the second $5 fee. That’s what community’s all about. In my own (much less heart-wrenching) situation, I came across an antique book case that I wanted to buy. But as you can imagine, solid-wood antiques aren’t easy to lug home. I didn’t have a truck but the homeowner offered to deliver it to my house and help me carry it inside. I threw him an extra $20 for the effort and it all worked out for the both of us. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

8. Getting the Little Entrepreneurs Involved: If you’ve got little kids running around, get them to pitch in and help. Sure, you could have them help make change for customers. We’ve even seen people let their children run their own little table selling toys (and this is a great idea for getting rid of toy clutter that so often takes over our homes!). But here’s another strategy to consider—have the kids set up a cookie or lemonade stand. If it’s a balmy day, opt for coffee or hot chocolate. One time we got started first thing in the morning and set up a pancake griddle outside and sold fresh, hot pancakes made to order. At $5 a plate, it was a bargain for visitors and we made over $150! It’s a great learning opportunity for children, and teaches them the value of money and how to conduct themselves in a polite, professional manner.

9. Commit to Purge: Once you’ve made the decision that you’re willing to get rid of an item, do it! Pending truly remarkable circumstances (e.g. an air conditioner that’s in perfect condition that you think you can sell on CraigsList), if something doesn’t sell by the end of your tag sale then haul it off to a local thrift store or donate to charity. You’ve spent so much time cleaning out your home in preparation for the tag sale—don’t bring those things back in!

Follow these simple steps and you’ll be sure to have a successful day. After a few go-arounds, you’ll be hosting yard sales like a well-oiled machine! (On that note…I’m going to start scouring CraigsList for tag sales in my neighborhood. Writing this up has me in the mood for some good tag saling myself!)

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