Have a Monster Garage Sale
By Kate Kelly
A garage sale is a great way to bring in some extra cash, clear out clutter and do some good for the environment. But it also takes a lot of work to organize it, and the last thing you want after all your trouble is to be stuck with lots of stuff that didn’t sell.
“For your garage sale to make money, you need to get people there, price your items correctly and show them to their best advantage,” says Aaron LaPedis, co-author of The Garage Sale Millionaire and host of “Garage Sale Millionaire” on Rocky Mountain PBS. Here’s how to maximize your efforts and get the biggest payoff possible.
1. Time it right.
Spring and fall are the best times to have a tag sale -- the weather’s nice, people are out and about, and for many die-hard shoppers, making the rounds is a seasonal form of entertainment. Plus, fall has the added benefit of attracting college kids looking for cheap furnishings and household items.
2. Advertise (for free!).
Start promoting your sale on Craigslist and local Web sites two to three weeks in advance. Give lots of examples of what you’ll be selling. “The top three categories that draw people to tag sales are antiques, stuff for kids and tools, so be sure to highlight those in your ad,” says LaPedis. Don’t give out your phone number but do provide an email address for questions.
3. Post signs.
Make your own using white poster board -- the bigger the better -- and red marker, suggests LaPedis. Post signs on busy street corners and intersections, and near places where there’s a lot of foot traffic. “Put up your signs late the night before your tag sale, or early on the morning of the event,” says LaPedis. This way, they’re less likely to be ruined by inclement weather (and if there are restrictions against signs in your town, you’ll be less likely to get caught).
4. Price carefully.
“One of the biggest mistakes I see is people thinking their stuff is worth more than it actually is. You’ll be lucky to get 30 to 45 percent of what you originally paid for it, and that's if the item's in good condition,” says LaPedis. Knock the original price down by 60 percent and charge no more than 50 cents to $1 for paperback books and VHS tapes.
5. But don’t price everything.
“If you’d be willing to sell an item for $10 or less, don’t put a price on it. Let people ask how much it is or make an offer,” says LaPedis. “People like to bargain. That’s part of the fun of garage sales.” Plus, when someone has to ask what an item costs, it starts a conversation, which means it’s more likely the person will buy something, says LaPedis.
6. Set your early-bird policy.
It’s likely that some people will come before the official start to scope out the best stuff. Megan Cash, a yard-sale veteran from Brooklyn, (politely) turns early birds away. “It’s very disruptive to have people milling around and asking questions when you’re trying to set up.” But LaPedis accommodates those who show up before the appointed start time: If he’s still carrying out boxes from the garage, he’ll let customers preview what’s already out. After all, the sooner he starts making money, the better!