1. Life & Culture

Learn the basics before having a garage sale

Published Sep. 15, 2012

If your closets are stuffed, your home is cluttered and your garage is filled with items you don't use, one solution is to hold a yard or garage sale. With the right planning and strategy, you can end up with a couple of hundred dollars. But it can be a lot of work. If you don't like haggling with strangers and having them paw over your discards, then don't even consider it. You can expect annoying people who want to give you 25 cents for something you've priced at $10. Keep an eye on small items or they will disappear.

Christie Hardcastle, a community development officer with CredAbility, a nonprofit credit counseling and education agency in West Palm Beach, said a yard sale is a great way to put extra money in your pockets. If you're paying to keep furniture or other possessions in a storage unit, and you get rid of those, you could actually save money.

Hardcastle participates in a neighborhood yard sale once a year, and says she has learned a lot. "As far as garage sales, I love them," Hardcastle said. "You get to meet your neighbors."

And keeping the garage cleared of unwanted items means there's actually room to park cars in it.

First of all, don't try to run the sale by yourself. It takes at least three or four people to handle the crowd that might show up. Recruit a friend or two to help. They might want to bring some of their own castoffs to sell, too.

"People want to think about having a safety plan," Hardcastle said.

That means making sure your house is locked, and not letting anyone in to use the restroom.

Keep watch to make sure no one shoplifts. Shoppers have been known to distract the seller with questions while another shopper steals. Just like stores do, check the inside of suitcases to see whether a purchaser has hidden items in it.

Hardcastle suggests keeping small items close and putting up a sign that says, "Jewelry or trinkets, ask me."

If something is truly valuable, a yard sale might not be the best place to sell it. Selling jewelry, antiques or collectibles through a classified ad or eBay might make more sense.

Preparation is key, and it starts with picking a non-holiday weekend day for the sale. Check with your homeowners' association or local government to see if you need permission and to make sure such sales are allowed. Advertise in advance through the newspaper or signs. Set hours for the sale, which probably should not extend past early afternoon.

Be prepared for early birds. "If your sale starts at 8 a.m., people will show up at 7:30 a.m.," Hardcastle said.

Decide in advance whether you will let the shoppers begin the hunt, or if you will have an "early birds pay double" policy.

Instead of marking every item with a price tag that someone can remove or switch, group items on tables. For example, have an "Each item is $1" table or an "Each item is $5." Tag major items such as furniture, Hardcastle said.

It's best to hang clothing on a rack rather than in boxes. Simplify clothing prices by pricing all shirts the same, all shorts the same, etc.

"Make sure you have enough change, singles and quarters and all that good stuff," Hardcastle said. Keep the money in a fanny pack rather than in a box on the table.

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CredAbility advises pricing items in good condition at 25 to 30 percent of their retail value. Find suggested pricing guides by doing an Internet search for "garage sale pricing."

Figure out what you will do with the goods that don't sell.

"You are not going to sell everything, just like a store," Hardcastle said.

Since you have gone through the job of getting everything out, she recommends donating what's left to a charity.


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