Monday, August 22, 2011

How to Have a Successful Yard Sale - Pro Tips

My husband and I are pro yard salers - from both the buying and selling perspective.  We love to load our pockets down with quarters and head out on a Saturday morning for treasures.

Yard Sale Flyers for Free
At our own Yard Sale this month, we put all of our years of experience to good use and raked in $913!! What's even more incredible about that is that we didn't have any big-ticket items.  Our most expensive items were
  • $40 - Gigantic framed art piece
  • $15 - Toro weedeater
  • $10 - Toro lawn blower
  • $5 - Headboard/footboard for full-size bed
  • $5 - Collector Barbies, in boxes but obviously opened and LOVED!
  • $1 - 0.50 each for almost everything else
I know you can do just as good or better taking our collective wisdom and running with it.

Here are our tips for for a successful yard sale!

Garage Sale Sign

  • Decide on your #1 Yard Sale goal
    In yard sale speak, this is either to 1) get rid of unwanted things or 2) make money.  Ideally, you want to do both, but knowing what your top priority is ahead of time will help you set a strategy for all of your yard sale preparations, stay focused at the sale, and have no regrets once its over.  If your #1 goal is to get the top price for each of your items, you won't feel bad turning away low-ball offers in the morning.  However, if you ultimately want everything gone, let that stack of books go for $2.  That's better than having to box them back up at the end of the day...why risk not finding another buyer to take them off your lawn?

    Our goal was ultimately to get rid of clutter and not bring anything (well, almost anything) back inside our house, while having a little fun and making some cash in the process.  That's why when we later noticed that a small stereo had been stolen from our sale, our goal kept us from getting upset because we ultimately wanted to get rid of it...besides if someone is so desperate that they need to steal from a yard sale, more power to them! Having a sense of humor is good to have, too!

  • Have way more than you expect to sell
    If you want people to pull over at your sale, you need a lot of stuff to make it worth their while...more than you think you'll sell.  Looking picked over will not be to your advantage, especially late in the day.  Keeping your #1 goal in mind, scour you house with a rutheless eye for stuff to help you reach your target, especially in the last week or two before your sale.  I like to always keep a bag stashed in cabinets or a box hidden under cloth-covered tables around my house for holding yard sale items throughout the year.  When these stashes become unmanageable, it's Yard Sale time!  Then a few weeks before the sale, my husband and I clean out closets, cabinets, and drawers throughout the house. When you start to feel wishy-washy about what should stay or go, break out your #1 priority for the sale, and ask yourself how that item fits with the goal.  That will help you decided whether it goes in the yard sale pile or not. If you still don't have enough stuff for a yard sale, ask a few friends to join in and yard sale with you.

  • One man's trash is another man's treasure - So true!
    You may think to yourself, "This will never sell," or "I'd be embarrassed to put this out...who would want it?" Don't doubt yourself, and just put it out anyway.  Some items that surprisingly have sold well at my yard sales are Martha Stewart Living magazines, half used body sprays and lotions, technical books on dated subjects/concepts, and dingy white t-shirts and dress shirts with ring around the collar.  I always feel the later is a reflection on my poor laundry skills...totally embarrassing to me. Somebody, let me in on that ancient Chinese secret! However, at our sale, I was glad I put them out anyway because almost all of them sold...crazy!  Those shirts alone probably made us at least $20 richer.

  • Look cute, festive, and tidy
    You can really differentiate yourself from other sales here and make it impossible for people to drive by without stopping. Doing this will help you attract a better clientelle, too...people who don't normally yard sale will be willing to stop, and often, they have more cash to spend.  Create a bright, coordinated atmosphere by covering your mis-matched folding tables with dollar-store table cloths.  I'm a cheapsake, so I trimmed some of the plastic table cloths in half to cover smaller tables.  This alone goes a long way.  You can do even more by making a party-style Yard Sale banner to hang (download my free Yard Sale Printables for a template) or by tying a few balloons from Dollar Tree to your mailbox.  When you get your items ready to put out, wipe off any dust or cobwebs...I recommend doing this a week or so before on your bigger items, especially ones that have been in the attic or garage.  I've been known to ignore some interesting items at Yard Sales solely because they were too yucky to put in my car, so I definitely didn't want any deterrents like this at my yard sale. 

    Yard Sale How To Instructions

  • Plan your Yard Sale display ahead of time
    Don't just think you're going to string a line from two trees to hang clothes at the yard sale.  The week before, get the rope out and give it a try.  Often times, you'll find you need a different plan...or wonder, "Where in the world did I put that rope?" These are not mysteries you want to try to solve on the morning of your yard sale.  Maybe you'll want to borrow some extra tables from friends.  We've found that a broom stick between a tree's branches and a ladder makes a really sturdy clothes rack (won't sag all of the clothes together in the middle like a rope).  A piece of paneling or plywood on upside-down buckets or recycling bins can make really nice low tables, too...great for putting toys at kid-level!

  • Merchandise - pretend like you're opening your own Macy's department store for the day
    Think like a store merchandiser, and put some thought into where items should be placed.  I like to put something good like furniture close to the street as a draw, and then have a large, eye-catching item at the back of the driveway to draw people from the street all the way back through my entire stock of goods.  Ever wondered why grocery stores put the milk and eggs at the back of the store?  They want you to walk through the cookie and potato chip isle first, so you'll load up your cart on the way.  Learn from their example!  I had a gigantic framed art piece that I placed toward the back of my yard sale, and it worked like a charm to draw people back to get a good look.  Don't be afraid to rearrange items during the sale to get this effect once you figure out what items keep attracting attention.

    Yard Sale Stickers Price Tags

    If you have the luxury of being able to set everything up for your yard sale in your garage the night before, that's the way to go because you can get super organized! Of course, does that make it a garage sale and not a yard sale? worries, these tips still apply!  You want to group like items together to make them easy to find: women's clothes, men's clothes, craft supplies/tools, books, kitchen gadgets, picture frames, electronics, etc. We didn't have that luxury, so our sale was a big disorganized mess at the beginning.  No problem, because that leads to my next tip...

  • Don't let early birds get you frazzled
    In fact, use those early birds to your advantage...they're more than willing to help you bring out and unpack boxes. These people are professionals!  I don't care how early you try to set up before the start-time of your sale, these people will be lurking and ready to pounce.  This can be a little stressful because things won't get put out and organized the way you want, but you'll have all day to get things sorted out...rearranging and looking busy actually attracts more people to stop by.  When dealing with early birds, you'll also be glad you had a #1 goal in mind.  If your main goal is to make money, you won't feel bad turning away low-ball offers.  But, be smart about it!  Be polite and offer to take down their name and number in case that item is still available at the end of the might both come out really happy in this case.

  • Price with your Yard Sale goal in mind
    I'm a big fan of not having anything priced at your yard sale because when people go to negotiate, a lot of times they name a price higher than what I have in mind...SCORE!  Plus, this makes less work for you because you don't have to tag every single thing or reduce the tagged prices as the day goes on. On some big ticket items, you may want to mark a dollar value if you're not willing to accept less than a certain price.  Even if you don't tag, it's good to have some general price guidelines in mind ahead of time, which you can note on signs, such as Books - $1, Magazines $0.25, etc. if you want.  If your #1 goal is to make money, you probably do want to go through the extra trouble to price tag all of your items, though, so you can put some thought into how much each item should sell for.  This makes things fool-proof if you need to step inside and let someone else man the register for a few minutes, too.

    How to Have a Yard Sale

  • Knowing what to say to improve sales
    After years of yard sales shopping, I've witnessed a few techniques that caused me to hand over a little extra cash for items, so of course, I made note!  Apply these in a warm, polite manner, and you'll do well. I don't recommend doing anything that would make you feel smarmy at the end of the day, so ultimately, do what feels comfortable for you.

    • "Whatever you think is fair..." or "Just name a fair price..."
      You may find it hard go with an un-marked pricing style. For cases like this, I recommend placing a few signs up around your sale that say, "Make an offer," to let people know how to approach you.  Then if someone asks you the price of something, break out a variation of, "Whatever you think is fair."  This can stop a low-ball offer in its like a charm!  Be prepared for them to say, "I don't know..." To this I just continue with, "Oh, just make an offer that you think is fair." A yard sale customer feels happy when they get something at a price that pleases them, and if they name the price, that is generally what happens.  Plus, remember I said earlier that if I let the customer name the price, they'll generally offer more than I had in mind.

    • "No reasonable offer refused"
      This can really create a buying frenzy, so whether you verbalize this phrase or just put up a few signs at your entrance and "cash register", absolutely use it! (See my free Printable Yard Sales Signs for these.) Keep in mind, you get to decided what's reasonable. If someone throws out an offer that's too low, just politely decline.  In these cases, I might give them a counter offer to let them know where I expect the price to be.

      Yard Sale Signs to Print

    • "Hmmm..." and a ton of awkward silence
      You'll have some customers that won't name a price; use this phrase.  Or if someone names a low-ball price; use it here, too.  This is just a good all-purpose way to encourage them to make an offer or up their price.  I like to throw in a "no" head shake or maybe a crazy confused face along with this for good measure to give the buyer some visual clues as to what I think about their price...seriously, try it.  You'll be shocked at some of the nice offers you get, as a result...the awkward silence is really the key.

    • Use some positive customer quotes to your advantage
      If someone tells you something positive about the sale, use this to whip up a buyer frenzy.  I do this by loudly saying, "Thanks!" in response, and then shouting back to my husband across the entire yard sale, "Did you hear that, Rog?  She said we have the best yard sale prices, she's seen all year."  This with get other yard salers excited, and lets them know that good things are happening right NOW.  Encourage them to snatch things up before they are gone.

    • "Are you looking for anything in particular?"
      Be as helpful as you can to your customers.  I'm not a very pushy person by nature, but if I notice someone is holding a skirt and I have a top that matches perfectly, I'd be doing them a disservice if I didn't at least point it out to them...who am I to keep them from finding their new favorite outfit?! ( ;  This phrase is particularly good to use with early birds, especially if you haven't had a chance to unpack and set every thing up.  Chances are they saw something in your yard sale ad that piqued their interest, so be sure to find out what it is and unpack those things first....whatever they're looking for, help them find it.  A lot of people don't feel comfortable saying that they came solely for XYZ and will just leave...don't let them.

  • Identify unknown or confusing items
    It may be hard for your customers to figure out what something is. Give them some visual clues if you can, and then place a little sign or tag on it stating what it is.  This will go a long way in facilitating the sale of these things, as you won't always have the time to notice someone staring at this item and get the opportunity to explain.  For example, I had a fold-able rack for wrapping paper and ribbon.  Who knows what it is when it's just sitting bare, so I put an almost-gone roll of wrapping paper on it, along with a tag explaining that it was great for Christmas wrapping. I included some large blank price tags and tent signs in my free Printable Yard Sale Signs & Price Tags package precisely for this reason. Noting the history of an item might be helpful for adding value, too...people like a good story. 

    Printable Yard Sale Price Tags for Free

  • Be prepared
    A little preparation will make the big day go a lot smoother and help you sell more.

    • Have a lot of small change on hand...more than you think you'll need.  For our sale, I withdrew $50 from the bank - 1-$10, 2- $5, and 30 - $1 bills.  Then I pulled a bunch of quarters out of my husband's change stash.  Be sure to note how much change you have on hand, so you won't count this in your profit at the end of the day. Also, know that a lot of people will pay with $20 bills.
    • Save up lots of plastic shopping bags, as well as some newspaper for wrapping breakables.  Having some spare boxes can help people carry off their treasures.  Offer boxes to customers holding a lot of items, too, to encourage them to buy more than they can easily carry.
    • Keep a roll of paper towels or Swiffers around for wiping off dust or cobwebs you might have missed.
    • Have an extension cord, power strip, or plug around, so people can try things before they buy.  When people ask if something works, offer them the plug....this will go a long way toward buyer confidence and help you fetch a better price.
  • Create the yard sale you'd want to go to
    When it comes to all other yard sale decisions, just put yourself in your clients shoes to help you come to a conclusion.  For example, I'm not a morning person, so I usually hit yard sales up late in the day. If the ad or sign says, it extends until 1:00 or later, then it will make my cut of places to go that day.  Of course, we didn't want to miss out on those early birds either, so we set our yard sale hours for 7:00 am - 2:00 pm.

  • Get creative with your Yard Sale goal - our "FREE HOUR"
    Throughout your sale, make sure you're hitting your goal. Yard Sales are fluid, so don't be afraid to change your strategy midstream.  If something isn't working, try something else.  Toward the end of the sale, we realized we still had a lot of stuff that we'd have to pack up and haul away.  Keeping in mind our #1 goal was to get rid of  clutter, my husband came up with the brilliant idea to do a Free Hour for the last hour of our sale. At this point, we took out a few items that we decided we'd keep or sell on Craigslist. Then when people walked up, we just told them whatever they wanted was free and to take as much as they wanted. I wish we could have bottled the joy people expressed!!  It was absolutely incredible to watch people light up when we told them. We helped them, and they helped us. Such an awesome feeling that I can't even describe it....absolutely one of the best things we've ever done.

    Garage Sale Tips

  • Advertise your Yard Sale
    This is such an important piece of the yard sale puzzle that I'll be devoting an entire post to advertising and signage in the future! (Did I mention my full-time job is in marketing, and that I have a degree in advertising?) But for now the basics...create a Craigslist post, or if your area doesn't have Craigslist, an ad in your local newspaper might be a good bet. Try to think of other advertising options you have, such as classified listings at work or your church bulletin.

  • Schedule end-of-sale charity pick-ups earlier in the week
    It's pretty hard to find a charity that will do same-day pick up of your leftover items, at least it was in our area. From talking with many operators, I learned it's best to schedule these at least a week in advance, so they'll show up shortly after your sale ends.  If you don't mind making a delivery, our Salvation Army had the most convenient Saturday drop-off hours for us, as they were open a lot later into the afternoon.

  • Have fun!
    We met lots of great people at our yard sale and had a great time chatting. Plus, I always enjoy seeing something I really like find a new home that will love and enjoy it...sometimes, that makes it a lot easier to let things go.
Do you have any great Yard Sale tips and tricks?  I'd love to hear them!!  Please post a comment, share on Facebook or Twitter, or shoot me an email at

Printable Yard Sale Signs Free 11x17 inches

Be sure to download my cute Printable Yard Sale Signs and Price Tags, too!  They're FREE!


  1. Wow, that is a TON of great yard sale advice!!! Truly written like a pro (which you are)! And who could resist such adorable printables?

  2. just found your site and I ♥ it!!! Your yard sale printables are perfect for my next yard sale!!!!

  3. Thanks, Jenny! I'd love to see photos of how you use the printables.

    So glad you have you as a new reader! I enjoyed checking out your party blog, too.

  4. Thanks so much, Lissa! My husband and I truly love yard sales. Glad you like the printables, too!

  5. Hey Betsy! :) I love your party ideas and your whole blog! :))

    I recently decided to throw a retro party and found lots of useful tips to start, here

    I'd love to here your ideas as well! :)

  6. super cute, thank you so much for the adorable printables

    congrats on rocking the yard sale world

  7. I raised $2000 for my wedding in garage sales alone id add to these tips the days of your sale thursday and fridays we did great saturday not so good and sunday wasnt worth the trouble (exception if your doing it during a city wide sale). Also putting signs out a day or so ahead with the dates of your sale attracts people they see it on their way to work and they know to grab some change that day. Last if you cant dind enough of your own stuff to sale get some other other people to donate stuff or put their own stuff in (just keep track of who earns what and what)


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