20 Tips On How to Have a Successful Yard Sale

With the start of spring comes the onset of the Yard Sale. A few days before any given weekend you will start to see the familiar neon colored signs posted on street signs and stuck into the ground with directions to a nearby yard or garage sale. 

A yard sale, for those who are moving, is an easy way to get rid of any excess items that haven’t been used in over a year or two. The more you sell, the fewer items you have to move – bonus!

Charlottesville Yard Sale

For those not familiar with the concept, a yard sale (also known as a garage, attic, moving, rummage, tag or thrift sale) is an informal, irregularly scheduled event for the sale of newer or used goods by private individuals, in which sellers are not required to obtain a business license or collect sales tax.

At present, the city of Charlottesville does not require a permit to hold a yard sale. In 2009, there was talk of instituting a $5 per sale fee, but it appears those discussions have not materialized again. Albemarle County also appears to not require a permit.

Before preparing signs to post around the neighborhood, check your local ordinances again. Charlottesville regulates signage and where you can place them. Do not post signs on telephone poles.

The key to a successful sale, first and foremost, is the weather. Decide what you will do if it rains. Some people have it anyhow, if it’s all contained in a garage, as die-hard garage-salers go to sales in the rain.

The second is to have your items gathered, neatly laid out and priced, and ready to go. Choose your start time carefully – make sure you have friends and family members ready to go at least an hour before your start time for the early birds that will invariably show up hours before a posted start time.

Most sales take place in our area on Saturdays, but you will find some Friday and Sunday sales.

If it’s at all possible, try and find out if any of your neighbors are also planning on having a yard/garage sale so you can promote a multi-family version in the local paper and draw in more buyers.

Below are a 20 steps to keep in mind if you’re planning a yard/garage sale.

  1.  Advertise like crazy. Put an ad on Craigslist or in your local paper and detail what you’ll be selling. Be creative! Give yourself plenty of time to get ready. A month will give you time to get everything you need organized. Start collecting bags and boxes to pack merchandise in, along with newspaper for breakables.
  2. As you find items to sell, make sure everything is in clean and good working order. If it’s broken or unrepairable, throw it out. Make sure you indicate if an item requires batteries or if there is a minor problem, but it still works. Be honest about the condition. For example: “TV is black and white.” or “Answering machine works, but needs new battery.”
  3. Make repairs to clothing and or press and hang on hangers. Infant and toddler clothing should be neatly folded and laid flat. Don’t forget that storage shed you pay rent on. Better to make money on those items than to continue paying more rent than what the stuff is worth.
  4. Are you a haggler or do you prefer to set a price and stick with it? If you don’t mind answering questions every time someone picks up an item, don’t bother with pricing every piece. If you’d rather sit in the shade, make sure every item has a clearly marked price.
  5. Be realistic with your prices. Very few buyers are expecting to spend a lot of money. If you have time before your sale, visit a couple of other sales to gauge prices for popular items like books, DVDs, furniture, housewares and tools. A good rule-of-thumb for pricing is 1/2 to 1/3 of retail prices. You can find inexpensive colorful stickers at any grocery or home goods store. Mark your prices clearly. Don’t write directly on an item and make sure the price is on the top or side.
  6. The day before the sale, make a run to the bank to get small bills and change. Make sure you have the following items ready: note pad or paper for figuring and for placing price stickers on after sale, pens, calculator, money box or better yet, a fanny pack, large pockets or apron.
  7. Put up signs – black ink used on bright neon colors really stand out – on busy streets and around your neighborhood that will lead buyers to your place. On the signs, keep your message simple and easy to read.
  8. The day of the sale, greet your customers and let them know you’re there to answer any questions. A genuine smile goes a long way in encouraging sales.
  9. How you display your items is key. Borrow tables from everyone – the more display space the better. If you have a creative streak or lots of friends, come up with tables arranged with your wares to pique the interest of buyers. Take your stuff out of boxes and group items in a visually appealing way.
  10. Put big-ticket items such as furniture, electronics or eye-catching pieces of art closest to the street or in a prominent spot for maximum visibility for those driving past trying to decide if they want to stop.
  11. Put together a catch-all box of “Free Stuff” and place on the curb. Most shoppers driving by a sale can’t resist the allure of the lowest possible price point.
  12. Create pathways through your sale items. Shoppers who feel comfortable that they won’t knock something over or trip over a box will spend more time browsing and buying.
  13. Keep in mind that you’re trying to get rid of stuff and that low-ball offers are a part of the game. If you have truly valuable items, try selling them through eBay or Craigslist. Get flexible with your pricing as the day goes by. Offer package deals to folks buying multiple items. You want to end the day with minimal leftovers.
  14. Arrange to donate the leftover items at the end of the day. Make sure to get a receipt for your donation for a tax write-off. Goodwill and The Salvation Army are two good options.
  15. If you have history on family items like the year you acquired it (especially if it’s an antique – built before 1840 or so), this information can be valuable to the buyer. For example: “Aunt Margaret’s sewing table – been in family since 1959.”
  16. If you live in a hot climate area, you might want to borrow a fan or two if you’re having a garage sale. The more comfortable you make your shoppers, the longer they will browse. If you have children, they can set up a lemonade and snacks stand in the shade.
  17. Make sure electronic items have access to an electrical outlet for testing. Bring out extension cords if necessary to plug inside the house. Have batteries available to show items work such as radios, toys and other items you might sell that need them. Have a tape measure or yardstick available for those needing one to see if something fits before they buy. This could clinch your sale!
  18. Put up an “ALL SALES FINAL” sign. Have “SOLD” signs available to tag those items someone may need to come back with a truck for.
  19. Stay open until your advertised time. Nothing is as irritating as driving to a sale or following a sign only to find it closed early. At the end of your sale – close up, pack up, and take all your signs down so that no one comes knocking at your door.
  20. Make sure you thank people for coming whether they buy anything or not. Have fun and let the Yard Sale Season begin!
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Charles McDonald
Charles McDonald
Charlottesville Solutions
2013 Woodbrook Court, Charlottesville VA 22901
REALTOR® - Licensed to sell Real Estate in Virginia
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