Nothing makes you take stock of the value of everything in your home like moving. If you have to bubble wrap it, put it in a box and haul it around (or pay a pretty penny for someone else to do it), you may be more likely to consider parting with it. And if you’re going to lighten the load for your move, you may as well make a little money in the process.
While there are lots of ways to sell your belongings before you move — online auctions, classified ads, estate sales, etc. — a garage sale has some key advantages. You don’t have to ship anything or move items farther than your driveway, since the buyers come to you. You can also deal entirely in cash, sparing you the hassle of electronic transactions. And garage sales are the ideal selling method for encouraging impulse purchases and haggling with customers to close a sale.
That said, there’s a right way and a wrong way to hold a garage sale before you move. This guide covers the most important steps to ensure your sale is a success.
When to Have a Garage Sale
The first important decision is to choose a month and date (or dates) for your garage sale. If you’re planning your sale around an upcoming move, you might be limited in this area. But if you anticipate a move several months away, it’s best to schedule your sale for the mild weather months in spring or fall.
If you only want a one-day sale, make it a Saturday or Sunday. But you might consider being open both days or even Friday through Sunday, especially if you have a lot of things to sell.
When you set your hours, start early — ideally at 6 a.m. Even if that’s earlier than you’d like to open, garage sale enthusiasts like to shop early and may even stop at a sale on their way to work. If you have the energy for it, stay open until 6 p.m. to maximize your chances to make sales.
What to Sell at a Garage Sale
When it comes to choosing your wares, just about anything goes at a garage sale. For the purposes of paring down for your relocation, you may want to lean toward selling furniture and other items that will be difficult or expensive to move. You can always apply your garage sale revenues toward buying replacements after you arrive at your new home.
Go through your entire house, including the basement, attic, garage and closets. Anytime you come across something you don’t want or need, throw it in the sale bin. Don’t assume something is garbage that no one will buy — you might be surprised at what sells, and the worst that can happen is that you’ll have to get rid of it after the sale.
What sells best at a garage sale? Tools, furniture, gently used clothes and shoes, toys, jewelry, cheap books, dishes and fitness equipment are some of the most popular categories among the garage sale crowd.
Where to Post About Your Garage Sale
There are four important methods for advertising your garage sale, and you should use them all to attract as many buyers as possible:
- Place a classified ad in your local paper. Garage sale regulars know to look for these, and they’re often very inexpensive. Be sure to include your address, the dates and times of your sale and a brief list of the categories of items you’re selling.
- Post online classified ads, which are often free. Craigslist is a great place to post a free ad that will reach lots of buyers, but garage sale addicts also cruise sites like PostMyGarageSale.com, GarageSaleFinder.com, YardSaleSearch.com and PennySaverUSA.com.
- Spread the word to your local friends with public posts on Facebook, and encourage them to share with their contacts.
- Post brightly colored signs around your neighborhood a few days in advance. Make sure every sign lists your address and the dates and times of the sale. You may also want to include an arrow pointing in the direction of your house.
What You’ll Need for a Garage Sale
In addition to the items you plan to sell, you’ll need some essential supplies:
- Display spaces. Folding tables are ideal, but if you don’t have enough of them, get creative. Drag out every table in the house, temporarily empty your bookshelves, use your TV trays, and throw a few picnic blankets on the driveway if you need more space for your treasures. If you’re selling clothes, hang them on a portable clothing rack.
- Cash box. If you plan to have one person “working the register” all day, a slotted cash box is ideal, but even an old lunchbox will do. Cash belts or fanny packs work well if you’ll be doing transactions while also trying to promote sales with your customers. Whatever you choose, keep an eye on your profits!
- Change. Stop at the bank before the sale to get at least $50 in ones and fives and $20 in quarters, dimes and nickels.
- Price tags. Small, blank stickers work great, and you may even find a few of those while cleaning out your office supply drawer. But a cheap and easy alternative is a marker and a roll of masking tape.
There are a few optional supplies, too. If you have a canopy tent or two, you can use those to provide your customers with extra shade. Fill up a big dispenser cooler with lemonade and buy a stack of cups if you want to offer refreshments. And if you want to make sure you don’t miss out on a sale due to a buyer’s lack of funds, consider getting a credit card reader for your tablet or smartphone so that you can take plastic.
How to Price Items at Your Garage Sale
This is your sale, and there are no rules, but it’s a good idea to price things to move. After all, you’re trying to get rid of this stuff before you pack up!
An easy pricing strategy is to price everything at 25% of what you estimate you originally paid for each item. For antiques or specialty items, you might want to browse online auction prices for similar items or get them appraised so that you don’t offer too big of a bargain. You should also have a minimum price in mind for everything in the likely event you hear counter-offers from haggling customers.
Plan for Bad Weather
If the forecast shows a downpour during the weekend of your garage sale, you might want to consider canceling and rescheduling. Even if it costs you a few lost dollars on ads, signs and permits, it’s better than having no customers and a bunch of wet, ruined stuff.
But even if the forecast looks clear, it doesn’t hurt to have a few tarps on hand so that you can quickly cover your tables if the skies suddenly darken.
Check Your Local Garage Sale Laws
Many municipalities require sellers to buy temporary permits for garage sales. If you’re not sure what your local laws are, start by looking for the information on your city or town’s official website. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, call your local city hall.
While you’re at it, ask about local laws pertaining to posting temporary signs. You’re going to want to advertise your sale in several different ways.
Donate What You Can’t Sell
Since your objective is to move light, it doesn’t make sense to keep unsold items that you’ve already committed to giving up. The charitable thing to do is to give them away, and most nonprofit thrift stores would love to have your leftovers.
If you’re looking for local charities that will help you clean house, online directories like DonationTown can give you some leads. Some charities will even come to you with a truck, and you can make things easy on yourself by scheduling a pickup for closing time on the last day of your sale.
Holding a successful garage sale takes a good bit of work and preparation, but if you do it right, you’ll make your upcoming move easier and your wallet fatter.