Growing up, going to garage sales was something we did quite often. In junior high I even had a summer school class where we would all pile in the bus and go to garage sales on Fridays. So I think its safe to say that I have been shopping at garage sales for most of my life, in fact, any one who knows my family, particularly my mom's side of the family, would have no trouble agreeing with me when I say that garage sales are in my blood.
This past weekend, Deven and I hit a few garage sales. It was probably the first time I had been on a dedicated trip for garage sales in years, but really got me thinking about what you could do to hold a really successful garage sale. These are a few of the things that I have come up with, but if you have any others, please feel free to leave them in the comments below!
My top suggestion for advertising your garage sale would be craigslist. It's free and it's easy. Clearly list the dates and times of the sale and provide an address. If your house is hard to find, provide some simple directions.
One thing I would really recommend is DO NOT OVERSELL your sale. Don't say it's a huge, multi-family sale when it isn't. Be realistic about the size of your sale. Nothing irritates me more than some one telling me the sale is huge and I show up to find maybe three tables and a couple of larger items. That isn't huge. A small sale is ok, as long as I'm not expecting something bigger.
If your sale is a smaller one, don't be discouraged. In your ad, list some of the items you have available. Upload photos as well. If people are looking for something specific, you might have just what they want! I will still stop at small sales because you never know what you might find.
Post signs to help direct people to your sale. This is often how I find most of the garage sales I go to. Just like with the advertising, provide an address and dates of the sale. Make it neat and easy to read!
Following your garage sale, remove the signs from where you posted them. This may seem silly, but its frustrating for people to track down a sale only to find out it happened the week before. Don't be that jerk.
3. Combine forces with a friend.
Maybe your house is way out in the middle of nowhere or you really only have a few items to sell. Pair up with a friend. We have done this before with some friends who were having a neighborhood garage sale and had much better luck than we did just on our own.
4. Stay organized!
This covers quite a few different facets. First and foremost, make sure you have enough change and a place to keep it. We used a lock box Deven had, but really any kind of small box will work, particularly if it has dividers for the change.
Particularly when you are pairing up with a friend or other family members it can be helpful to keep a notebook with you so you can keep track of how much each person is making. Some people use different colored tags on their items or put their initials on the tags and remove the tag to stick in the notebook when the item is sold. Use whatever method works best for you.
As far as the items you are selling go, try to keep like items together. This isn't always totally feasible, but do your best. It makes it much easier for your shoppers. Place items on tables when you can as opposed to the ground.
5. Clean your items.
No one wants to dig through a big pile of items that look like they have been in your garage for years or buried under a pile of leaves in your yard for who knows how long. A least take the time to dust things off or wipe them down. You don't have to go into full on restoration mode here (in fact, where antiques are concerned, you shouldn't do that), but just clean off visible dirt and dust. A little dirt is not going to discourage a hardcore garage sale shopper from digging in, but it might scare away some more casual shoppers.
6. Don't fancy up items so that you can ask a higher price.
This is pretty self explanatory. Many people going to garage sales are looking for items they can upcycle or use in some DIY decor. At one sale I picked up a painted shelf and asked about it. The homeowner told me $12 and said that his wife had just painted it the night before. The paint was alright, but was A) fresh and B) flat finish. If I had liked the shelf for the paint it would have totally chipped before it ever got into the door of our house. As it was, I wanted the shelf to paint myself and would have wanted it for far less than they were asking. Not worth it. Leave your items as is.
7. Be realistic with pricing.
With shows like Antiques Roadshow, American Pickers, Pawn Stars and similar shows all over TV and websites like eBay, a lot of people feel very savvy about what their junk is worth. Unfortunately, the truth is this: it's worth what people are willing to pay for it. I go to garage sales looking for deals. I'm not expecting to pay what someone on TV says some piece of glassware is worth. Unless you have had an antiques appraiser look at your items and can offer me proof that an item is worth a certain amount, I'm not going to consider paying a premium on something. Just telling me that you saw the same thing sell on some show for a certain amount is not good enough for me. Sorry.
You should be willing to negotiate most of your prices. If an item is too dear for you to sell at a somewhat lower price, don't sell it at your garage sale.
Keep in mind, this is a garage sale. You are probably not going to make enough to fund your next family vacation. Be real.
Keep an eye out later this week and I will post some tips for you garage sale shoppers!