Permanent Hiatus - Don't Be Afraid to Have a Garage Sale

Our Sixth Garage Sale…

How to Sell It

We found that our items fell into 3 groups for resale:

  • We had great success putting anything we wanted to sell for more than $20 on craigslist.  We sold appliances (large and small), furniture, household goods, paintings and artwork via craigslist. We've all heard the horror stories about using craigslist, but out of approximately 75 transactions, we only had 1 person get a little squirrelly.  Just use your best judgement and be safe.
  • Items that were very specialized, vintage or antique with a value over $20, we sold through ebay. We seemed to get more interest which meant most items sold for more than we could get locally.
  • Anything valued below $20 – we had multiple garage sales as we continued to move things out of the house.  Many people feel that garage sales are too much work for too little return. Our experience is that if you have good stuff, good help and the right tools, a garage sale is well worth your time.

Pricing

  • Our starting price for each item was 1/2 of MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) and then adjusted for condition and age.
  • Craigslist purchasers were willing to pay more and dicker less than garage salers.
  • For specialized and vintage items with no current MSRP, we used ebay to gauge pricing.
  • Decide if you are willing to negotiate – if you are, leave room in your price for negotiation.
  • Price based on the location of your sale – people will pay more for items sold in a higher end neighborhood.
  • Don't mess with anything priced below $1. If necessary, bag or group items together to be sold for $1.

Make the Most of Your Efforts

  • Post your garage sale to craigslist with pictures at least 3-4 days prior to your sale. Update the listing with new pictures every day. There are apps garage salers use that pull from craigslist listings, so its important to include as much accurate, helpful and up-to-date information as you can about your sale to entice people to attend your sale.
  • Makes sure you have plenty of signage leading passersby to your location. Use the same style and color of sign so people can easily find your sale.
  • Be clean and organized – make it easy for people to buy things from you. Keep similar products in the same area at your sale. Mark everything or have legible large signs explaining bulk pricing.
  • Enlist good help – you should have at least two people working the sale at all times.  One should manage the checkout process and the other should watch for shoplifting (sad, but true). Ideally, you would have 1-2 more people during heavy traffic times to help answer questions and actively sell your items.
  • Cross sell – Since we had the garage sale set up in our garage for several weeks, we had people come for something from our craigslist postings and end up shopping the garage sale items too – we sold hundreds of dollars in garage sale items in this manner.  Items posted on craigslist were also displayed at our garage sales.
  • Suggestive selling – ask people what they are looking for and if you don't have that, suggest something similar. If there are items you really want to get rid of, talk them up to the crowd. We had a lot of fun doing this – and most people responded in kind.
  • Different neighborhoods pull different garage salers.  Don't be afraid to price according to the neighborhood. We had 4 garage sales in throughout the spring and summer and also took many items to sales held by other family members.  Each neighborhood had different pricing tolerances and there were items that sold better in one neighbor hood than others.
  • Buy a good garage sale app and use it. Pen, paper and calculators are no longer needed. There are multiple apps available that do all of the hard work for you and give you great statistics/analysis of your sales.
  • Know your bottom dollar – if you aren't comfortable negotiating, find someone to represent you. Don't be bullied into selling something if you aren't comfortable. Its your stuff; you should have the control at all times.
  • If someone is buying multiple items, offer to take 10%-25% off their total bill instead of negotiating on each item. The math is easier to keep track of and you will usually come out more profitable.
  • Consider marking items 1/2 price the last day of the sale. 1/2 of something is better than 100% of nothing.
  • Nothing goes home after the sale – everything is boxed and scheduled for donation.

Grow a Thick Skin

We had multiple people come through our garage sales who

  • made fun of items (some things very understandably so, but others not so much);
  • complained (loudly) that our prices were unreasonably high; or
  • just scurried away after a cursory glance at our stuff like our house was on fire.

Its so hard to not take it personally sometimes.  This is all of our stuff.  Stuff we loved enough to buy and keep in our house.  Stuff we would probably still keep if we weren't moving. There is a specially piercing insult of these people nit-picking and/or dickering over the remains of our life we had so diligently built over the last 13 years. They don't realize that though. To them, your sale is just one more stop on a list of 20 sales they will probably hit today.

Know When to Call it Quits

By the 6th garage sale we determined our profit from the sale did not cover our hourly rate working for our business, so it was time to donate the remainders. Loading up the last box for donation was one of the most freeing things I have ever done.