Monday, 30 April 2012

How to host a successful garage sale

We just held a massive garage sale yesterday and I have to say it’s the best one we’ve ever hosted.  We usually hold a garage sale every 2-3 years to purge all of that accumulated stuff we no longer need; followed by a trip to our local op shop to off-load things which haven’t sold at the garage sale.  It’s such an incredible lightening feeling to purge and clear out unwanted clutter.  It’s like a fresh start!

As this weekend’s sale was such a success for us, I thought I’d share some tips on how to host a successful garage sale of your own. For our friends in the USA this is what you refer to as a Yard Sale.

First things first.  Decide on a date and trading times for your sale!

Check to see if there are important events on your intended sale date as this will mean less potential customers.

Work out whether a Saturday or a Sunday will work better in your area.  For instance we live in an area densely populated by Jewish families so it wouldn’t make sense for us to hold our sale on a Saturday as Jewish people celebrate Sabbath (day of rest) on Saturdays which means they aren’t allowed to buy anything.  So we made our sale on a Sunday in order to not exclude the Jewish customers in our area.

Or maybe you will hold your garage sale over two days if you’re really keen and have heaps of stuff to sell.  But in my experience you won’t get as many customers on the second day, so weigh up your time and effort to run your sale over two consecutive days.

It’s one thing to have a bunch of great stuff to sell that people would be quite happy to take off your hands, but it’s another thing to actually get bodies to your sale.

1-2 weeks out from your intended garage sale date, look at placing ads on a mix of paid and free online sites which are either dedicated to advertising garage sales or have a specific garage sale category for you to post your ad within.

Here are a couple of sites which are great and worked well for us (please note these are Australian sites):

What Garage Sale – PAID – for a small price of $5 you can advertise your garage sale. Weekly on a Friday morning they send out an email to their database of subscribers who have opted to receive a list of garage sales in their area.  I’ve been a subscriber for a couple of years now and regularly attend garage sales I’ve found out about through their emails.

Gumtree – FREE – I’m sure you’ve heard of Gumtree if you live in Australia.  They have a Garage Sale section under their ‘events’ category.  It’s free to advertise with them which is very cost effective as a complimentary ad to a paid one elsewhere!

Facebook – FREE – set up an event for your garage sale and invite your (local) friends.  Make sure you set it up as a public event so that other people can not only view it, but can opt to attend and share it with their friends.  Post photos of some of your items for sale.  This will start getting people excited about what you’ll have on offer on the day.

Twitter – FREE – Start tweeting details the week leading up to your garage sale.  Include a link to either your Facebook event page or one of your paid or free online ads so that people can add it to their list. You can also tweet photos of items that will be included in your sale.

The night before or the morning of the sale, stick up some signs around the neighbourhood on light posts and anywhere that is legally ok.  Check with your local council if you’re not sure.  The last thing you want is for a council fine to eat into your profits!

Make sure your signs are clear, easily readable by passing-by traffic and include the basic details of how, where and when people can find you.  Make sure at the very least to include these things:
  • The words “GARAGE SALE”
  • Date
  • Time
  • Address
My suggestion is to type up signs in a word-processing program in a simple font (try to only use one if you can) as some hand-writing can be difficult to read, especially if you’re a passing-by-car.

Create a few different versions with directional arrows pointing in the direction of your sale so that when you stick them on poles of the nearest intersections, people know to turn to find you!  And if your lungs are feeling up to it, blow up some balloons and attach them above the signs to attract attention.

I’ve included a link to a template of the sign which I create for our own garage sale to make things easier for you.  Feel free to use this as is (with your own details of course) or amend it as you wish.

You’ll also want a big sign out the front of your place to alert passing-by traffic and neighbours of your sale on the day.  This can be a poster, A-frame sign or anything you can find to write on in big letters.

My husband and I love stopping at garage sales to see if we can find a bargain. But gone are the days where you can find a bargain easily.  Remember that a garage sale is a cleansing and purging experience for you just as much as it should be a bargain for your potential customers.  So price things wisely.

Be prepared to accept less than the asking price, especially if a person is purchasing multiple items.  Remember that you are trying to get rid of these things rather than hold onto them and that they are the ones who have to lug things home with them – especially if they are purchasing a large item.  So make it worth their while and price it accordingly.

Also consider offering a multiple same-item discount on DVD’s, CD’s, books and clothing.  So you might price things at $2 each or 3 for $5 thereby enticing customers to purchase multiple items at the same time giving them a discount.

And make sure everything has a price sticker on it.  You don’t want to miss out on a sale because you have not made it easy for a customer.  In some instances people will be too shy to ask in case it is more than what they are prepared to pay.

Remember the key word here is: BARGAINS!

Think about how things are laid out in shops.  They are generally in sections such as clothing, shoes and accessories grouped together.  Toys, baby and kids stuff together.  Kitchenalia all displayed together.

This is how your sale tables should be set up so that people who are interested in tools are not looking through handbags and ladies torture implements (read: eyelash curlers).  Make it easy for your customers to shop and they will purchase more.

Also, if you find that once you’ve priced your items you have many items for 50c, $1 and $2 consider creating a bargain table and putting up a sign that reads “everything on this table under $2”.  People will flock to it, so position it at the back of your set-up to ensure they are not just looking at the bargain table and leaving without perusing all the other goodies.

Make sure you give everything a good dust/clean.  There’s nothing more unappealing than picking up some grimy filthy item which could have been cleaned in a couple of minutes.  It will greatly improve the chance of a sale if it’s in good clean working order.

Lastly, try not to clutter your display and tables too much.  If people have to look at table with too many things on it, they might miss the treasures!  Leave enough room in between items so that people can clearly identify what it is that they’re looking at.

Here’s a little checklist for what to have ready for your big sale day:
  • Signage – put up around the neighbourhood before the start time and out the front of your property
  • Change – make sure you have plenty of change to give out – coins and small notes are key!
  • Money pouch – don’t leave your money unattended. It’s best to have it on you at all times in the form of a money pouch or fanny pack
  • Music – create a friendly environment by providing some music for shoppers.  Just make sure it’s not offensive and appeals to the mass.  One suggestion is to pop on a local radio station. That way you don’t have to monitor what’s being played for offensive language
  • Bags – have a bunch of plastic bags on hand to place multiple customer purchases in
  • Newspapers – these are handy for wrapping fragile items before you bag or box them
  • Price stickers – have some of these on hand just in case you’ve missed pricing any items
  • Marker – also handy if you need to change any pricing signs or mark things down
  • Have your happy pants on!  Nobody likes being served by a grumpy looking person
So that’s it.  My tips on how to host the best garage sale.  I hope this helps you to host your next sale or maybe it’s even given you the courage to host your first?  Go on, you know you will feel better purging all that clutter.  And the money you make can go towards that next coveted purchase!

Whether you’re a seller or a customer just remember to have fun with the garage sale-ing!

And if you’re not one for having strangers rummaging through your goods, you can try your hand at picking up some bargains of your own.  Check out the Garage Sale Trail which is taking place this Saturday 5 May around Australia.  At the time of publishing there were just over 4,800 garage sales registered to take place on the one day!  I can just smell the bargains!

If you have any handy tips to add, I’d love to hear them and I’m sure others would too. 


  1. As a garage sale shopper (aka first one there in the morning with coffee in hand and a list of where I'm going next) Please dear host put the arrows on the sign facing the right way, please, please!!!!

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


I like reading your comments, so thanks for taking the time to write something. I try to respond to each and every comment, but please be patient as I'm not always online.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...