Tips for Sellers

Choosing a Time and Date

There is no “best day” to hold a garage sale; however you will find that most garage sales are held on the weekend take advantage of people not having to go to work. Saturdays are quite popular, as this seems to be the day where most people want to get out and about before relaxing on Sunday.  This being said, don’t be put off by having your sale on a Sunday, public holiday, or even during a weekday, as this will give you the benefit of not having competing garage sales happening at the same time as yours. 

There are a few points that you should consider when planning what time and day to hold your sale. These include:

  • Is there anything else on that may impact on the number of people who will attend your garage sale? Sports matches (televised or live), major holidays, limited public transport, election days, and local shows or organised events may all limit the number of people through your gate. 
  • What’s the weather going to be like? While it’s difficult to predict the weather with any great accuracy more than two weeks out, it’s a good idea to get an indication of what you can expect on the day of the sale. Obviously you want to avoid days where it is raining, windy, or otherwise inclement weather, and try to hold your sale on days that will encourage people to be outdoors. If you are having your sale in the cooler months you may want to start your sale later in the morning to avoid losing potential buyers because of the early morning cold and thinking that all the “good stuff” will be gone by the time they do get there. Similarly, you may want to start your garage sale earlier in the morning if having your sale in the warmer months before the day gets too hot. 

Advertising Your Sale

There are a number of ways to advertise you garage sale, and all you have to do is decide which will give you the best bang for your buck! Local newspapers have traditionally been the main way of advertising a garage sale and these are great if you only want to target buyers who live in your local area.  If you are using a traditional print-media advertisement, make your advert short and to the point. List the time and date of the sale, the street and suburb, and any other information you think will attract potential buyers to your garage sale. This includes and large or unusual items, and a reason for the sale; “Moving Overseas!” for example would indicate that everything is to go, where as a “Demolition Sale!” may indicate that building materials will be on offer. Also include any additional “draw card” activities that you will be holding (see Draw-Cards later in Tips and Hints) link?

When you list your sale on MyGarageSale.com use the power if word-of-mouth advertising and take advantage of our sharing on social media functionality. This function lets you post your sale to your social media pages, as well as post details of sales that you like. Similarly, if you’re selling items that will appeal to certain groups (car parts, vintage clothes etc.) you’ll be able to post your MyGaragesale.com listing straight into the group’s social media pages. 

Putting up signs around your local area can also be a great way of attracting potential buyers to your sale, however you should check with your local council on what their regulations are on posting temporary signage. If you do put signs up, do so a few days before the sale, however it’s a good idea to just put your street down, and not your house number. You can let people know where the sale is on the day but putting a large signs or banners and colourful balloons or streamers out the front of your house. Your signs should be large enough so that people can read them while driving past, and should contain the date and time of the sale, and well as any other information you think will draw people to your sale. If you do put up signs, make sure you take them down immediately after the sale. Make sure you don’t put up signs that will impede driver visibility and cause a safety issue!

Other ways you can advertise your garage sale for little or no cost include:

  • School or sporting group newsletters (offer to make a donation in return for a small listing)
  • Community or Shopping Centre Notice Boards
  • Local Shop Windows
  • Local Radio – Some stations have a community notices segment where they will read out notices such as birthdays, lost and found, and garage sales. 

Consider Your Neighbours

When holding a garage sale it’s important to take your neighbours into consideration. Good neighbours can help you make your garage sale great, while disgruntled or unhappy neighbours can add to the stress of the day.  

When planning your garage sale talk to your neighbours about proposed dates to make sure they are not doing something that will either impact on your sale day, or be impacted upon by your sale. For example your neighbours may not be too happy if they are having a BBQ and all the street parking is taken up by your potential buyers. Try and find a date and time that is agreeable to all/most parties. You may want to do a letter drop closer to the day to any neighbours you didn’t get the opportunity to speak to advising them on the time and date of your sale, and even inviting them along. You should also provide your name so that they can ask for you if there is a problem on the day of the sale. 

You may also want to see if your neighbours are interested in doing a joint garage sale. Having a couple of garage sales in the same street on the same day will draw more potential buyers as they will have a wider variety of choice in one area. It may also give you the option of spreading any costs such as advertising etc between the households holding the sales! 

If you know your neighbours well, you should consider asking them to park off the street on the day of the sale to allow more room for parking for your potential buyers. Neighbours with pets and children should be reminded that there will be a number of non-locals visiting/driving along the street on the day of the sale and to maintain appropriate safety precautions. 

Setting up

Before setting up for your garage sale, take a moment to plan your layout. Think about how you will best show off the items you have for sale, while making things as easy as possible for yourself during the sale. How will you group the items? How will you keep an eye on things to make sure there are no light-fingers taking advantage of how busy you are? Will people have enough room to move around unhindered?

Make sure that the area where you are going to hold the sale is neat, tidy, and welcoming. Mow the lawn a day or two before hand, trim any hedges or trees, sweep the side walk, clean the windows on your home, and generally try and make the area as presentable as possible.  Also, if you have pets ensure that they are tied up or at a friends or neighbours place for the day, and that the area where you are having the sale is free of their waste. 

When laying out your sale items smaller items are better displayed on a table. You can give each item an individual price tag, or maybe lay out items on a table according to their sale price such as $2 table, $5 table, and $10 table for example. Don’t forget to put a sign on the table so that people know how much you are asking for the items. You can group items together such as Music, Toys, Tools, Knick-Knacks, Kitchen, Baby Items, and Clothing etc. How you do it is up to you, however make sure there is some logic to it so that your buyers will have an idea of where to look for things.

Where possible items of clothing should be placed on clothes hangers and displayed on racks. This will allow people to look through the items easily, and keep the items in neat order. If you have lots of clothes and have the space available, consider covering a secluded area for a change room so that people can try on the clothes. Separate adult clothing from children’s clothing, and also male from female. Generally second-hand undergarments and shoes are not sold unless they are unworn and still in their original packaging. 

Make sure you have plenty of plastic carry bags and/or boxes handy to help your buyers carry their purchases. If they their hands full of loose items it may discourage them from purchasing more from you. Make sure your buyers know that bags are available, and ask your buyers if they would like a carry bag with each purchase. 

If you have any electrical items to be sold make sure they are in working order first. Toys and appliances that run on batteries should be sold with working batteries in them, and bedside lights and lamps should have a working light-globe in them. You might want to provide a safe power outlet so that buyers can test any electrical items they are suspect of before purchasing. Non-working or unsafe electrical items should be thrown out and not sold through your garage sale, or at the very least have the electrical cords removed and sold marked as “Parts Only”. 

Large and unusual items should be put as close to the street as possible as these will encourage interested from people passing by, and may attract “walk ins”. They will also show people looking for the garage sale on your street just exactly where you are.

If possible try and set up your items in a circular fashion so that you can see everything that is going on. If this isn’t possible, enlist the help of friends or family to keep an eye on things and answer any questions that crop up. Make sure however that you brief your helpers on item pricing before the sale; you don’t want a $50 item walking out the door for $2!

Do as much preparation as you can the night before without leaving your sale items unattended. If you will be selling from an open garage you can lay out some of your items inside the garage so that all you need do on the day of sale is unlock and open the door.  Time goes very quickly on the sale day, so if you do as much as you can before the sale you will have more time to deal with things that crop up or that you have forgotten. 

Pricing

When pricing your items it’s important to remember that you are selling them at a garage sale and that your buyers will be looking for a bargain. While some of the items might have great sentimental value to you, your buyers will see them as second-hand “pre-loved” goods.  Keeping this in mind as it’s important to price your items accordingly. 

Despite what you might hear there is no formula or rule of thumb for pricing goods at a garage sale. If there are items you are happy just to get rid of, price these quite cheaply to encourage sales. Alternatively, if there are items you think are genuinely worth something but don’t know how much, visit charity shops, second hand stores, and pawn brokers to get an idea of what similar items are selling for.  You can also visit other garage sales in the preceding weeks to get an idea of what other people are selling their items for. 

When you are marking prices on your items, don’t write directly on them as it may put off a potential purchase. Rather, use stick-on labels or tags with the price clearly written. If you are having a joint garage sale it’s a good idea to have some form of differentiation of each other’s items such as coloured self-adhesive dots or stickers. 

Coloured stickers can also be used to designate pricing. Place a number of signs around your sale with each coloured sticker and the corresponding price beside it. Red stickers on items then will indicate those items are $5 for example, blue might be $2, and green might be “3 items for $1”.  

Second hand clothing is often difficult to sell, so make sure you present the items well. You can group pieces together to encourage sales, such as having a sign saying “$2 per piece, or 3 pieces for $5” for example, or maybe offering something like filling a bag for $10. Any stained, ripped, or damaged clothes should be thrown out or used as rags, and not sold through your garage sale – it will only take one stained and torn item to put a buyer off looking through the rest of your clothes.  

People love a bargain, and you will sell more items if your buyers think they are getting a good deal.

Weather

Weather will play an important factor to the success of your garage sale. Warm and sunny days will encourage people outdoors, while stormy rainy days will see most people staying in-doors.  

While it’s difficult to predict the weather with any great accuracy more than two weeks out, it’s a good idea to get an indication of what you can expect on the day of the sale. Obviously you want to avoid days where it is raining, windy, or otherwise inclement weather, and try to hold your sale on days that will encourage people to be outdoors. If you are having your sale in the cooler months you may want to start your sale later in the morning rather than not having potential buyers not come because of the cold initially, or because they think that all the “good stuff” will be gone by the time they do get there. Similarly, you may want to start your garage sale earlier in the morning if having your sale in the warmer months before the day gets too hot. 

Re-check the weather report a couple of days before the day or your sale and don’t be afraid to postpone your garage sale for a week if you are confident it’s going to rain or storm on the day of your sale. If you do postpone, make sure you place a sign in a prominent location advising that you are postponing due to the weather as well as the new date for the garage sale.  Also update any internet advertising you have done to make sure your buyers know about the change of date. 

Draw-cards

There are number of things you can do to attract potential buyers to visit your garage sale, and stay and shop once they are there.  These include offering the following:

  • Sausage Sizzles
  • Soft Drinks
  • Car Wash while you shop
  • Tea or Coffee
  • Cakes or light snacks
  • Balloons for kids
  • Music or light entertainment

 If you would like to have a drawcard for your garage sale, but don’t want the additional hassle of organising and running it, speak to a local charity, sporting club, or youth group about the possibility of them running something on a donation-based system. 

Security

Security considerations should begin before you start to advertise your garage sale and cover right through until after your sale. A by-product of having a garage sale is the large number of strangers knowing what you have for sale, where you live, and having them visit your home. Quite often people can tell a lot about you and your family based on the items you are selling. With this in mind it’s important that you limit your risk and exposure to unwanted attention by less upstanding members of the community. 

Advertising. When advertising your sale give only what information you need to. For example rather than giving the street number of your home, give the nearest cross street instead – “Garage Sale; Smith St, northern end” or “Smith St, between Jane & Young Sts”. Try and avoid providing a shopping list that let’s unsavoury people know what items you have and where they can go to steal them before the garage sale.   

Money. You will need to have lots of change available on the day of the sale, and have a place where you can store any proceeds from the sale. Keep your change in a lockable box and keep it secured to a table by a padlocked chain. This will allow you to lock the change box if you have to move away from it at any stage. Where possible, keep the change box out of site when doing transactions, even keeping it in a separate area away from the main sale. Have one main change box, and have any helpers come to you for change etc. Each time the funds in your change box reaches a certain amount ($50 or $100 for example) take the money out and secure it in another part of the house so that if your change box does get stolen you will ever lose more than $50 or $100. Make sure you leave enough money in it for change however!

After the sale ensure that any cash is well hidden and secure, and take additional security measures when locking up that night. Remember, people who know you have had a garage sale will have an idea that there will be an amount of cash somewhere in your house as a result of the sale.  

Garage Sale Lifting (“shoplifting”). There are number of steps you can take to minimise theft of your garage sale items during the sale. Try and lay out your garage sale so that all items are visible to either you or your helpers at all times. Smaller items, or items that can easily be concealed, should be placed in close proximity to you or your helpers, such as on a table immediately in front of you. 

Try not to place larger items too close to the road, as these can easily be taken by passersby. If you do want to have items close to the road consider using locks and chains to tether the items. 

Ensure that any clothes or other hanging items do not impede your view. Consider having your table closer to the road so that people leaving the garage sale have to come past you or one of your helpers. 

Personal Safety. While garage sales generally provide a fun and safe environment, it’s only smart to leave as little to chance as possible and make sure you are adequately prepared for most eventualities.  It’s a good idea to make sure you have at least one of two helpers to assist you on the day of your garage sale. Have them turn up 2-3hours early and ask them to stay for an hour or two after the advertised close time. Have at least one mobile phone between you, ideally one for each helper, and pre-program any emergency numbers into your phones such as the local the local police. Try never to left alone in a secluded place with any buyers, and never let any of them into your home if you don’t need to – this includes for use of the bathroom. If someone asks politely, advise them that the bathroom is being renovated or that the toilet isn’t working. Ensure that all family members are aware of personal safety considerations. 

If potential buyers turn up before or after the advertised sale times, always answer them through a security or chain-linked door. Treat these strangers the same way as you would any other stranger who turns up on your door on any other day. 

Haggling

While you may have set prices for your garage sale items, be prepared to haggle! Haggling over items is as much a part of having a garage sale as the items themselves, and adds to the fun and excitement of the day.  

The key to haggling is to know what your limit for each item is. For example if you have an item priced for $15 but have $8 as the limit or minimum price you will accept for it, you can counter any offers below $8 with amounts between $8 and $15 until you and the buyer reach a price that is mutually agreeable.  For example:

Buyer - “I’ll give you six dollars for this lamp”

Seller – “I wanted fifteen for it, but I’ll take twelve dollars” 

Buyer – “How about I meet you halfway, and offer nine dollars?”

Seller – “Done!”

You can also add less saleable items to more attractive items in order to haggle for the price you want. For example:

Buyer - “I’ll give you six dollars for this lamp”

Seller – “I wanted fifteen for it, but I’ll take twelve dollars” 

Buyer – “I really don’t want to pay more than six or seven dollars for it”

Seller – “How about I throw in this wine rack and give you the lot for nine dollars?”

Buyer – “OK, it’s a deal!”

If the buyer doesn’t want to pay your minimum price thank them for their offer and let them know that you won’t sell it for under your minimum price. Remain friendly and polite, and don’t get upset over offers that are well below what you are asking. If you feel you are getting bullied during the haggle, remember your limit/base price and once you have reached it go no further. 

Remember however that your aim should be to sell as many items as you can on the day of your garage sale, so you may have to adjust/reduce some of your pricing and limits in order to sell your items. 

Left over Items

It’s likely that you will have a few items left unsold after your garage sale. Items such as clothing and some furniture can be donated to a variety of charities, while other items can be listed on various websites etc for sale. 

Unsold items that are of little or no monetary value and unwanted by you can either be kept and sold at a later garage sale (either yours or someone else’s), or discarded in accordance with your local councils waste management policies.