Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Yard Sale Tips From A Seasoned Pro

Last year we sold 99% of what we owned, packed the rest in our car, and moved across the country.  Before we moved we sold a lot of things at yard sales.  Through trial and error I learned some great tips for selling things successfully.  That's what I'm sharing today.

Note: I have previously written about this same subject.  (See HERE.)  What I'm sharing today may overlap on what I shared previously or it might be new information.  I encourage you to read both posts for maximum helpful information.  :)

Use price tags:  If I could only give one piece of yard sale advice, it would be to put a price tag on every single thing you put out to sell.  Most people don't want to ask how much something is.  And nobody wants to make an offer before they know how much you're hoping to get for an item.  Too low and you're insulted, too high and they'll leave feeling scammed.  I guarantee you'll sell more items if you put a price tag on everything.

My personal favorite way to add price tags is with yellow electrical tape and a black Sharpie marker.  Write the price on the tape with the Sharpie, cut it off the roll, and stick it in a prominent place on the item.  The combination of yellow electrical tape and black Sharpie marker is both eye-catching and clean.  It helps people spot the price easily (and from a distance) and it helps keep your yard sale looking tidy and neat.  Another added bonus?  Electrical tape comes off cleanly from almost* everything.

*Don't put electrical tape on top of other stickers (such as the decal stickers that are often on kids toys).  I learned this the hard way.

Cleanliness matters:  Take a few moments to give dirty items a good cleaning.  Even just wiping a damp cloth over dusty items can boost their value.  Dirty and dingy items are likely to be overlooked or undervalued.  Clean items increase the value not only by looking more presentable, but by conveying to buyers that you are the kind of person who takes good care of your things and, therefore, what you're selling is something that they can feel happy about buying.

Price things optimistically, but be realistic:  Look at the item you plan to sell.  How much do you hope to get for it?  Is that realistic?  If the answer is "yes" or even "maybe," write that price on the price tag and hope you're right.  If not, lower your price a little.  It's better to sell an item for something than have a yard full of your same old junk left over and the end of the day.

If there are items that were possibly priced too high, pay attention to potential buyers.  If several people have picked it up and then put it back down because the price was too high, change the price verbally.  Next time you see someone pick it up, say something like, "It's marked at $5.00, but you can have it for $3.00 if you want."  They just might take you up on it.  Or it may open up conversation and make them comfortable enough to make you a counter-offer.

Group like items:  As you're going through things, you'll probably find several items that are really only worth 25 or 50 cents.  These items probably won't be great attention-grabbing items and it's not really worth your time to give each item its own price tag.  Save time and energy and increase interest by putting these things in a box that says, "All items in this box are 25 cents each."  This may attract buyers to come in for a closer look to see what treasures they may find there.  Customers are also more likely to buy more than one of these items when they're grouped together like this.

Give yourself plenty of prep time: When we were getting ready to sell most of our earthly possessions before we moved last year, I spent hours sorting through things, cleaning those things, thinking about how much to charge for them, and then labeling them with price tags or putting them in the appropriate "This entire box is ____" box.

Putting on any kind of yard sale takes time, even if you're only planning to sell a few items.  Start prepping a week or two in advance to give yourself plenty of time to do all the prep work that's needed.  And an added bonus of starting a week or two in advance?  Throughout the week you'll notice more items throughout the house that need to be added to the yard sale pile.  And since you've already prepped most of what you plan to sell, you'll have time to add on these last few items.

Don't put anything on the ground: What you're selling will instantly drop in value the moment it touches the bare ground.  Putting things straight onto the grass (or cement or dirt, etc.) sends the message that what you're selling is of little value and, therefore, is lying on the ground.  Add value and class to your yard sale by taking things up a notch with a clean sheet or folding table.  People are always willing to pay a little more for things even if they're just on top of a clean sheet or blanket.**  And they'll pay even a little more if you display things on a raised surface like a table.

**Plain, solid, light-colored sheets/blankets are best because items will show up better and customers will be able to sort through things visually from far away.  Using plain, light-colored sheets or blankets will also help keep your yard sale visually clean, which adds value to what you sell.

Put best things up front and up top: Obviously you want to sell the blender you're trying to sell for $5.00 more than the random old toys in the 25 cent box.  So put the blender in a place of prominence.  If you have a table, put the things you want to sell most on the table.  If everything is on sheets or blankets on the ground, put the things you want to sell most at the front of the sheet or blanket, closest to where your customers will walk by.

These items will sell more quickly when customers can see and reach them easily.  And by placing them in a prominent spot in the yard sale, customers will know that these items are more valuable and be more enticed to snatch them up quickly.

Then, once one of these hot items sells, move another item up to take its place.  You may be surprised by how much faster things sell when placed in prominent easy-to-see and easy-to-reach places.

Have plenty of change: Don't put things out to sell if you don't have plenty of change.  You'll either annoy your customers by making them feel like you're trying to push them into paying more for items, or they won't bother looking at what you have to sell because they know they won't get exact change back. Either way, you're not going to sell much.

A day or two before the yard sale, go to your bank and get out several $1.00, a few $5.00, and a roll of quarters.  (A roll of quarters from the bank is $10.00 worth of quarters.)  My rule of thumb is to always get at least $50 in change (in $1.00 bills and quarters), even if I'm only selling a few things.  If you're selling a lot of items, get enough change to last you through several transactions.  This may mean getting hundreds of dollars out in change.  If you do, be sure to keep all money on your person at all times.

Most people will walk into a yard sale with $20.00 bills.  So even if they only buy $3.00 or $4.00 worth of items, you'll be stuck giving them a huge amount of change.  Try to make sure you'll have enough to get you through several transactions like this so you don't run out of all your $1.00 bills in the first 30 minutes.

And, in the event that you do run out of small bills, send someone to the bank to exchange the $20.00 bills for $1.00 bills.  It's a pain to have to run this extra errand, but definitely worth your time.

Advertise: My last great piece of advice for you all today is to advertise your yard sale in every possible way you can.  Try the following mediums:

  • Local signs staked in yards and/or taped to street signs
  • Craigslist ads
  • Facebook
  • An informative e-mail to friends an family in the area
  • Fliers at church or community centers
  • Fliers at local grocery stores
  • Fliers next to mailboxes in your apartment complex (if applicable)

It is important that ALL forms of advertisement include ALL of the following pieces of information:
  • The address of the yard sale (as well as arrows pointing people in the right direction on the signs you put up around the neighborhood)
  • The date of the yard sale (Don't just put "Saturday" since people won't know whether you mean last Saturday or next Saturday.)
  • The start time of the yard sale
  • What general categories of items you are selling (i.e. baby stuff, clothes, appliances, home decor, etc.--On physical yard signs just mention one or two of these categories, but be more detailed in your online postings.)
Also, I know this is old-school, but adding balloons to the signs you put around town is still a great way to attract customers!

I hope these tips will be helpful to you as you host yard sales throughout the coming spring and summer months!  If you have any questions or additional tips, please feel free to leave them in the comments!


Rachael said...

We've just started going to yard sales and I couldn't agree more with having prices on everything. So many times we've seen things with no prices on and there's no on in that room to ask and you feel silly for asking. It's certainly a must.

Kathy Haynie said...

Reading this post made me feel like cleaning out all my closets...and the basement...and the attic...and holding a yard sale! Thanks for these really helpful tips.