Having a yard sale is pretty much the next best thing to winning the lottery—if by lottery you mean a five dollar win on a scratch-and-win. With a yard sale, you get to take all your junk, put it in front of your house, and let strangers pay you to take it away. How awesome is that? However, if you want to make top dollar for your no-longer-prized possessions, you can’t just toss it all onto the dewy morning grass and hope for the best. A successful yard sale requires planning, strategy, and attention to detail. So gather up all the items you no longer want in your basement, closets, and self storage unit and get busy.
Location, Location, Location
You can’t have a yard sale without a yard, so like any real estate-dependent event, location is everything. You wouldn’t hold a black-tie gala in a church basement, would you? If your current living quarters is a brownstone in Manhattan, a monastery, a halfway house, or any other place without so much as a square inch of grass in front of it, then you’ll need to find a more suitable spot. Perhaps a sober, heathen, suburbanite friend could let you use her artificial grass surface. It might be a pain in the AstroTurf to haul your stuff across town, but the extra cash in your pocket at the end of the day will make it worthwhile.
Pair Up with a Friend
If two heads are better than one, then it stands to reason that two toaster ovens are also better than one. To make this a financial affair to remember, pair up with a friend or neighbor who has a basement full of stuff to sell. It’s a scientifically documented fact that people are drawn to large quantities of useless crap they can get for a steal: they’re called shopaholics. (Hey, who are we to judge?) Not only will there be a larger selection of items for potential buyers, but you have someone to cover you when you need a bathroom break.
Advertising is Key
Just because you’re not a Fortune 500 company doesn’t mean you should overlook advertising for your yard sale. You don’t need to rent a billboard on Sunset Boulevard (especially if you don’t live in L.A.), but you should at least place an ad on Craigslist or an event posting on your Facebook page. Always say it’s a moving sale, even if you aren’t really moving; these sales tend to attract more buyers because they think you will be inclined to negotiate. List a few of your more expensive items—like bookcase, sofa, and the laserdisc player you were foolish enough to purchase between the VCR and DVD player—in the ad to lure in the serious shoppers.
I Saw the Sign!
Besides being an awesome Ace of Base song, it is imperative to the success of your yard sale that people see your signage. How many times have you driven past a homemade sign tacked to a telephone pole composed of yellow ink on white paper? Don’t be that knucklehead. Make your signs from flashing neon words stolen from a cheap Vegas dive—or at least from pieces of cardboard box or colored poster board backed with sticks so it doesn’t flap around in the wind. Make several signs that say something like “MOVING SALE” with a giant arrow instructing the driver where to turn, and post them around your neighborhood.
Make it User Friendly
Call us crazy, but most people don’t enjoy digging through boxes of sharp trinkets or heaps of rumpled clothing. Instead of driving off potential buyers with your insanity-inducing yard sale, beg, borrow or steal a few tables from friends and family and set up nice displays. Organize your items by their use (e.g. kitchen, bathroom, bedside goody drawer) to make them easy to find. Invest in a garment rack or two and hang up the clothes, putting a few of your best outfits at the front to attract shoppers.
Free Is the Best Price
Consider having at least one box of free stuff. Not only does everyone love getting something for nothing, but it’s a great way to avoid pricing and sorting your most random knick-knacks. And honestly, do you think anyone is really going to pay for the egg peeler thing-a-ma-jig your grandma bequeathed you in her will? For bonus points, you can even save up your empty grocery bags for your customers’ purchases and pretend you work in a supermarket: “Paper or plastic, ma’am?”
Curb Your Enthusiasm
No, we’re not advocating you abandon your yard sale to watch the Larry David television series. Making money at a yard sale is all about attracting as many potential buyers as possible. Even if you lure them in with your contraband Vegas signage, you still need to convince them to get out of their car (for those of you in Los Angeles, good luck). So how do you do this? By placing all the shiny, eye-catching items—like your gold lamé pants, sparkly eyeshadow you forgot to leave back in the ‘80s, and fairy wings—at the front of your yard.
Be Willing to Negotiate
Even if your prices are low enough to make the dollar store go out of business, you will still encounter people who feel obliged to negotiate. To them, that’s half the fun. You should still set fair prices from the get-go—because if you are too overpriced people won’t even waste their time—and you should never turn down a reasonable offer. There is no guarantee that another person is going to be interested in what you have, so you better take it while the taking is hot.
As the saying goes, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. So at the end of the day, your goal is to get rid of everything that was cluttering up your self storage unit, basement, closets, purse, mind—okay, this one you’re stuck with.