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Get the Most from Your Stuff: Maximizing Yard Sale Profits

by Jonathon Papsin (08/13/12).

How much did you make the last time you hosted one? Was it worth the effort? Preparing for a garage or yard sale can seem overwhelming at first, but if you plan smart, your yard sale can be both fun and very profitable

While they may seem like small potatoes if you look at them one at a time, garage sales are a multi-billion-dollar industry in this country. How much did you make the last time you hosted one? Was it worth the effort? Preparing for a garage or yard sale can seem overwhelming at first, but if you plan smart, your yard sale can be both fun and very profitable!

Hosting a great yard sale begins with solid planning and we recommend you start preparing three weeks in advance. However, before you even begin thinking about sorting through your stuff and setting up tables, there are two very important things you need to do first:

1. Be sure to check with your local city or town officials to find out if yard sales and garage sales are regulated in your community. Some municipalities will require a permit for your sale while others may have restrictions on the timing of yard sales. Also, make sure to check with your Home Owners Association, as the covenants may also regulate when you can host a sale. Knowing this ahead of time will save you time, money and trouble down the road.

2. Call your insurance agent. You might be asking why I need to do this. Your homeowner’s insurance policy may be limiting in what liabilities it covers. If you have shoppers at your home and someone suffers an injury, you may be liable. Be sure you have provisions in your policy that cover you.

Organization is Key
Next, get the easy stuff out of the way by getting organized. Collect everything that you’re planning to sell at the yard sale and put it all in one room in your home where it’s easily accessible (the garage, a spare bedroom, basement, etc.). Make sure you have family and friends available to help during your sale, as it’s nearly impossible to pull off a garage sale on your own without help from others. Your family and friends can recruit you later to help out with their sales. Lastly, get the supplies you need for your sale. We always recommend using string-tags to identify and price your items, and neon-color poster board is great for creating signs to post in your neighborhood to direct traffic to your sale. These items can be found at dollar stores.

Pricing and Researching Your Items
Pricing your items is probably the most important and time-consuming part of your yard sale. Garage sale experts constantly debate over how to price items and which items to price, but this is your sale, not theirs, so it’s up to you on how you want to price your items. If you’re planning a multi-day sale, you might consider having a “half-price” special on the last day or the last few hours of your sale. This will not only draw attention to your sale from serious bargain hunters but you may even get a few returning customers to see how flexible you are on price.

The goal of your yard sale is to sell all your items, so price general items accordingly.

The goal of your yard sale is to sell all your items, so price general items accordingly. When it comes to bigger-ticket items, you need to do your homework if you want to maximize your profits. Perhaps you inherited a furniture set or own some artwork? You may have a small collection or pieces of a collection you wish to sell and you don’t know where to begin on how to price it appropriately. It’s time to do some pricing research. There are some awesome resources to help you out with this, and one of the best is WorthPoint, the leading online resource for collectors. Its Worthopedia provides current market data on more than 100 million sales records aggregated from online sales.

We also recommend that you use an inventory and pricing organizer for your sale. This will help you keep track of items that you’ve priced in the event a tag/sticker falls off during your sale or you just need a quick reference for ball-park prices if someone makes an offer on an item you haven’t priced.

Presentation is just as important as being organized for your sale. Weather should always be something you keep in mind before your sale, so hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Being able to quickly cover tables outside will not only save your items but also money! Be sure your items are clean and dust-free before the sale. You know what they say about appearance, first impressions never get a second chance. If your items are clean and presented well, people will think you took care of them and perhaps not haggle quite as much.

An organized setup allows easy browsing and makes your items look better.

An organized setup allows easy browsing and makes your items look better. More tables with less “clutter” on them will make it easier for buyers to shop. Try to cover any tables with a white disposable (preferably recycled paper) tablecloth. This will help your items show better and reflect the sun. Keep items such as electronics and candles in the shade. Be sure to dust and clean your items, present them well, and package items as necessary. Keep pairs of clothing together if they’re complete and use re-sealable bags for jewelry and small items that sell as sets. For electronics, have an extension cord running from inside to a surge protector outside so people can test items before they purchase them.

These are just a handful of tips we’ve written about and published in our book, “The Ultimate Garage Sale Guide.”

When it comes to pulling off a great garage sale, remember that preparation is most important aspect. Planning each move from start to finish will keep the stress down and the excitement high. While you want your shoppers to have an awesome experience, following some basic guidelines will leave your pockets lined with cash and your shoppers thrilled with their new second hand treasures!

Jonathon Papsin, CEO of Tag Sell It Inc., along with co-founder Matthew Dorman, is the co-author of “The Ultimate Garage Sale Guide.” Both founders have a passion for frequenting yard sales and flea markets and had experience running Estate Sales and Yard Sales. They saw there was an opportunity to bring garage sales online through virtual sales and mobile technology. Tag Sell It is an online marketplace that brings second-hand buyers and sellers to come together and haggle through virtual garage sales.


WorthPoint—Discover Your Hidden Wealth


9 Responses to “Get the Most from Your Stuff: Maximizing Yard Sale Profits”

  1. godsotherson says:

    amazing! not a single word about the reason people flock to yard sales. They are looking for a bargain in most cases. Price your items as low as you can and you will actually sell them. Paying to research the values online will result in placing prices too high for most buyers as the price shown represents only what the highest bidder paid at auction. All of the other bidders who did not buy anything, so they are still looking to buy, were not willing to pay that price. They can only be tempted to buy at a price level below that and in many instances, well below.
    No one ever says, “That was a great sale. Everything was priced at what the item was sold for at auction.” They usually say, “That was a great sale. I bought several items at bargain prices.”

  2. Larry Quirk says:

    This article neglected to stress the most important part of a good yard sale – advertising. I see people putting up small signs with small lettering, no directional arrows and most importantly no date. You must remember that most potential customers are driving so your signs have to be in large letters with clear info and placed far enough back so a driver can safely turn onto your street. An arrow lets a driver know immediatly which way to go. Keep all your signs the same color with the same color lettering so that a driver can recognize it at a distance if they have to follow a route to get to your house. And put a date. Many people do not take old signs down and I will not follow a trail unless I know the sale is that day.

  3. nick ryan says:

    I think this article was meant to be a taster to the Book and that they really want you to purchase the book rather than give you all the tips.

    You know you need big signs and good prices, then do just that, & take the customers from other yard sales that don’t advertise properly or have ridiculous prices, may the best man win.

    Good Luck, Nick

  4. Bradd Smith says:

    The advice to use Worthpoint’s worthless auction service is very bad advice. Sell high end stuff at an auction, not a yard or garage sale. Keep collections for the auction house as well. Garage sales are all about getting rid of clutter and making a few bucks. “Professional” garage sellers have another agenda. There are some people that have sales at least once a month and some once a week, poor neighbors. They spend the week scouring the thrift shops for “garage sale items and sell them at 100% markup, tax free for now. On the street I live on, a single sale will block traffic for hours. People park in your driveway and have little consideration for anyone but themselves and their insatiable desire to get more clutter. Since the current administration, there have been a lot more sales, thank you obummer. I still see it as a mom and pops thing and anyone that needs a book to hold a garage sale is a mega boob.

    • Larry Quirk says:

      While I know that in the coming months we will hear at lot of strange political assertions, I find the allegation that President Obama is responsible for an increase in garage sales (perhaps only on Mr. Smith’s street?) to be one of the silliest yet.

      • The opposition has made claims that the current administration has increased welfare benefits. Would that not then decrease garage sale selling? Or would it increase the number of buyers now having more disposable income? Politics are so confusing.

        • I’ll simplify it for you! It means that us middle class folks who are footing the bill for those extra benefits are now forced to hold yard sales to get our money back from the cash-fat welfare recipients.

          • Larry Quirk says:

            What you middle class folks are missing is that you are losing much more income from the corporate welfare favored by the Tea Party Republicans than any alledged welfare dodge ever did. Your income and more importantly your kids future incomes are being destroyed by the Bush tax cuts adn Romneys pledge to give the rich more tax cuts, the assault on the unions and their desire to destroy social securtiy and medicare. And what gets me is that you are happily going along with your own economic destruction because you have bought into this myth that welfare queens are the cause of your economic despair.

  5. Emily Stevens says:

    Great read. I wish more people who were hosting yard sales took the time to organize and clean some of their stuff up a bit. I wouldn’t mind paying a little more when things are presented well, it helps in the decision making process – that is my opinion.

    As for pricing, I think it’s all about common sense. Sure, you may have some big ticket items, but it’s doubtful you’ll be selling a rare piece of art or a popular collectible. I think it’s good that people do a little homework ahead of time on some of the stuff they sell. There are stories of people selling Picasso Paintings for a couple bucks at yard sales and others making out with incredible treasures – it’s the seller’s loss if they don’t put a little time into the sale. If it’s a weekend-long event, make it worth your time and financial return.

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