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Tuesday, April 24, 2018
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Selecting the Items to Sell at Your Yard Sale

If you haven't used an item for over a year, you should consider it for the sale. Is it really worth the space it is taking up, or, would you rather have a little cash in its place?

Test each item that can be tested so that you can honestly answer any questions someone may have about it. Remember, your customers know where you live. It is not wise to deceive a yard sale customer, plus it is the right thing to do.

Consider selling things out of compassion for others. Baby equipment that your kids have grown out of could mean a lot to someone with limited resources.

Items that have been recalled should not be sold at a yard sale. Check with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to see if an item you are considering selling has been recalled. Baby equipment and toys are particularly important to check out to protect our little ones. To see a listing of recalled car seats, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


Advertising Your Yard Sale

If your yard sale is going to be successful, you have to let people know about it, bring them to your sale, and get them out of their cars.

Signs leading to your sale on the local streets are a must. Make sure there are large arrows on the signs. Words are hard to read by people in passing cars so use them sparingly and make sure the letters are THICK. It is very hard to read letters made of skinny lines as you drive by in a car. Learn more on our Sign Tips page.

Advertisements should be placed in your local paper. These can be expensive, but they can also pay off with more visitors to your sale.

Getting people to drive to your sale is only half of the battle (OK, maybe 3/4 of the battle). If they don't get out of the car, they can't buy from you. Sometimes people will just drive up to your sale and look your sale over from their car to see if there is anything worth getting out of their car to look at. If you have some larger unique and interesting item, consider placing it so that it is visible from the road. It could just be the thing that gets them out of their car.

I know a guy who has used one of those giant-spiral gumball machines effectively this way. This same guy has also parked his Lamborghini Countach Replica (it looks like an exotic italian sports car) at the bottom of his driveway with the doors open pointing up for one of his sales (it sure was effective getting the guys out of their cars). Even if you aren't interested in selling the item, having it visible from the street can be a great tool to help increase the number of your visitors and your sales.


Preparing For Early Birds

No matter what time you have clearly published that your yard sale will begin, there will usually be someone at your door an hour or two before that time. This person is called an 'early bird' (from the phrase 'The early bird catches the worm'). An early bird is trying to get the advantage over others by seeing your stuff before the general public does. This way, if you have a hot item, they can have the first chance to buy it.

On one hand, early birds can be helpful since they can give you your first sales of the day and make you feel encouraged that your yard sale is headed for success. On the other hand, if you let them browse during the time you need to be setting up your stuff, they can use up this limited time with questions and haggling and prevent you from having all your stuff displayed when the general public shows up.

You can deter early birds from coming by putting 'No Early Birds' in your advertisements. If one does show up, and you feel like they would distract you from critical preparations, just politely tell them that out of fairness to those coming at the advertised time, you will not be selling until then.


Getting Change

One thing that can be easily overlooked while preparing for a yard sale is to make sure you have enough change to give your customers. It's frustrating (and costly) to lose a sale just because you can't break your potential customer's $50 bill.

Here is a suggested breakdown:

  • $20 bills - 2
  • $10 bills - 2
  • $5 bills - 3
  • $1 bills - 10
  • Quarters - 10
  • Dimes - 10
  • Nickels - 10
  • Pennies - 50

You can eliminate the use of the smaller coins if you price your items so that they only end in .25, .50, .75, and .00.


Organizing Items

Laying out your items for sale in an organized fashion will increase the success of your sale. Group similar items together so that someone looking for a particular type of item will be sure to see everything you have.

Hang clothing up, if possible. It will catch your customer's eyes from a distance, especially if it is in good condition.


Pricing Items

In general, a used item for sale in decent condition at a yard sale should be priced at around 30% of its new price. Items that are actually new and look new can get a higher price.

CLEARLY mark each item with a legible price label. Many people do not like to go go to the effort of asking how much you want for an item because it is awkward for them. Items that are pre-priced will help make more sales. It is also a good idea to indicate the size of an item (shoes, dresses, kid's, clothes, etc.) on a label so every customer doesn't have to fumble with tags.

For multi-family sales, you can use different colored price labels for each family's stuff and have the cashier credit the correct family when an item is sold based on the color of it's label.


Obtaining Permission

Many people are not aware and do not follow their local ordinances regarding holding a yard sale. You may be required to have a permit, for example. It is common for local laws to govern things like:

  • Whether a yard sale permit is required.
  • The number of sales permitted in a year.
  • The size of signs you can put up.
  • The number of signs you can put up.
  • What you can put your sign on.
  • When you can put your sign up.
  • When you have to take your sign down.

It is your responsibility to find out and follow the rules pertaining to your local area for your sale.


Setting Dates and Times

The most popular day to hold a one-day sale is by far Saturday. Two-day sales are usually Saturday and Sunday. The obvious reason for the popularity of these dates is that most people don't have to go to work on the weekends. The more people that are available to come to your sale the better your sales should be.

A common time to start a sale is 9:00 AM. Be warned though, that whatever time you pick, people will show up one to one-and-a-half hours before your advertised start time (See the Preparing For Early Birds section).

Ending times are more varied, but things can slow down considerably by 1:00 or 2:00 PM.


Testing Items

Items that actually work will receive more money at your sale. Test items that can be tested before your sale so that you can honestly answer the inevitable question "Does it work?".

If you are selling a TV, test it to see if it receives stations, the sound works, the color is good, etc. For VCRs and DVD Players - How clear is the picture? Does the remote work? Think about why a person would be buying a particular item and test it to see if it will do what they expect it to do.

Mention any quirks that you discover about an item to a potential customer so that they don't come back complaining after the sale. Use disclosure labels on your items marked with "WORKS", "NEEDS WORK", "AS-IS", "MISSING PARTS", etc. to communicate their condition.

It is a good idea to have an electrical outlet or extension cord available at your sale so that people can see with their own eyes that an item works. Also, keep DVDs, CDs, video tapes, cassette tapes, etc. on-hand so that you can demonstrate how well your items operate.


Preparing Items

Nice-looking items will turn more heads at your sale than trashy-looking ones. Whenever possible, clean an item the best you can to increase the chance it will sell and the money you get for it.

If you are selling clothes, wash them before the sale. Wipe the dust off of items that have been in storage for a long time.


Picking a Place to Hold Your Sale

If the sale will be held at your home, the best place to set up your sale is one that will be easily seen from the closest road. This is usually your front yard, driveway, or garage. The key here is to make it easy for your customers to see and get to your sale.

If you are holding a multi-family sale at one home, try to pick the home with the best location qualities such as: visibility, size, access, parking, etc. Use a different colored price label on the items for each household so that your cashier can credit the correct family with each sale.

Large common areas are also good for multi-family sales. Just check with your neighborhood association for details on obtaining permission to use the area first.

Whatever place you choose, make sure it is a safe place free of hazards. If necessary, pick up a roll of "CAUTION" tape from your local hardware store to mark off any areas that you don't want your customers to wander into.


Choosing Display Fixtures

Folding tables come in real handy when displaying your stuff at your sale. These can be obtained at your local office supply store for a reasonable price. Picnic tables are also good.

Clothing can be hung on a fence. Use hangers to put clothes on a chain link fence or the kind with lattice work at the top. A dowel rod hung by two wires can also work with other fence types.

Whatever fixture you decide to use, make sure that it is sturdy and won't collapse and fall down on your customers. It is your responsibility to make sure that everyone is kept safe at your sale (See the Protecting Your Customers section).


Involving Your Neighbors

If you are having a sale anyway, why not ask your neighbors to join in? The more stuff you can offer at a sale, the more people will flock to it.

You can divide responsibilities up so that one person takes the money and credits the appropriate household with the sale. Another person could group similar items together and display them in an organized fashion. Still another could be responsible for setting up and taking down the signs.

The ability to share the cost of advertising for your sale is a big plus with multi-family sales. One ad in the Maryland area in our local metropolitan newspaper and one ad in a suburban newspaper can easily be over $60. If you can get your whole community involved, you can take out a bigger display ad and share the costs. Bigger sales mean bigger crowds.


Collecting Shopping Bags

It is a nice courtesy to provide customers with shopping bags. After all, they are doing you a favor by hauling your stuff away and paying you for it.

You can save up the bags you get from the grocery store instead of throwing them away or putting them out for recycling (You actually are recycling them at your sale). Either plastic or paper seem to work fine.

If you are a little short, you may ask a neighbor if they have any extras laying around that you could have (Some people save most of the bags they get).


Consigning Items

You may have neighbors that have just one or two items to sell and don't want to sit out all day waiting for someone to buy them. You can offer to sell these items for them on consignment. This is where you get a nominal fixed-fee or percentage of what the item sells for in return for you handling the sale.

Make sure that both parties understand the terms of the consignment. It's a good idea to write the terms down so they are clear.


Protecting Your Customers

Since you are inviting the general public onto your private property, it is very important that they be kept as safe as possible. If any kind of contsruction on your property is in progress while your sale is held, make sure it is clearly marked off limits so no one accidently gets hurt.

Sharp items for sale such as steak knives should be kept out of the reach of small children. Same goes for items made of glass.


Hiding Items Not For Sale

If a customer can see an item, they will think that it is available for sale. Put out of sight all items that you do not intend to sell to avoid answering the same question over and over again.

If your garage is filled with stuff that you are not trying to sell and your garage door is open during the sale, just put a sign out saying that "Items in garage are not for sale".


Providing Refreshments

On a hot summer's day, it is a nice touch to have cold sodas available for your customers. Chances are, they have been out in the heat that morning looking at other sales and could use a cold drink.

If you are a member of one of those club warehouses, you can pick up a case (24 to 36 cans) of sodas for about 25 to 30 cents per can. Also, grocery stores sometimes run specials on half-cases for about the same price range.

Put the sodas in a cooler full of ice about an hour before your sale. You should be able to sell them for 75 cents to one dollar each and add to your bottom line.

Sell only drinks and snacks that are pre-packaged from the manufacturer. We do not recommend baking cookies or cakes yourself and selling them at your yard sale. If someone gets sick, who do you think they will hold responsible?


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