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25 Tips – Do’s and Don’ts For Having A Yard Sale

Spring is here! And with that, most of the US is gearing up for yard sale season. Most warmer climates never stopped. Let’s cover some do’s and don’ts to help you have a successful yard sale.

Let me preface this post by saying I’ve been going to yard/garage/estate sales since 1974. I’d even go as far as to say I’ve probably gone an average of 40 weekends out of every one of those years. I say I’ve seen a thing or two because….. ahem…. I have seen a thing or two – to quote, sort of, the recent insurance commercials. I feel I’m speaking for yard sale shoppers everywhere when I talk about the things that annoy us, things that will turn us off from your sale and things that make us try really hard to find something to buy.

1974 Yard Sale

DO call it what it is, or at least close. If you’re doing some closet clean-out or decluttering, you can call it “yard sale” or “garage sale” or “carport sale”, whatever floats yer boat as long as it’s one of those or something similar. I’d avoid “hoarder sale” unless it truly looks like a hoarder TV show. That’s really extreme (And gets the potential shoppers’ adrenaline going and once that’s let down, they become disgruntled). I’ve seen very few “yard sales” that come close. If you’re moving, call it a moving sale. It’s all in the basement? “Basement sale” works fine and actually helps people know to walk around to the basement.

DON’T call it an estate sale unless it’s what’s left after someone has passed away and family has taken what they want. I once went to an “estate sale” that had mostly toys and clothes their child had outgrown. Uh…. no. Did your child die? I hope not!

Click here to read a more in-depth explanation about the difference between a yard sale, an estate sale, a moving sale, a rummage sale, etc.

DO advertise. Facebook Marketplace is frustrating, but absolutely advertise it there and be sure that you do not choose that you’ll ship – unless you will, of course. But people don’t want to have to see yard sales in Timbuktu before their own community, then remember they have to go back up and filter out those. If possible, advertise a day or two before the actual sale.

Perhaps your area has a community classifieds print “magazine” or paper where you can advertise for free. Just do your research, ask around if you don’t already know, and find out where everybody advertises their sale. Put as many details as possible. Date – including days, address, TIME(!) and maybe some of the things you have. If on Facebook, show pictures if you can.

DON’T advertise after your sale has started. Well, I don’t mean, don’t – it’s better than nothing – but if that’s the only time you’ve advertised, you might not get the crowd you’d hoped for. We’re all out shopping already and probably won’t even see the ad until it’s too late.

DO make LARGE signs. With readable addresses. And arrows! Arrows might be the most important. Good, readable signs are a must! Using a full size poster board for every sign is a plus. We’d love you for that! Lots of signs spaced every half mile to mile apart are really good if the first sign is more than a mile or three from the sale – unless, of course, it’s say, downtown or some other busy place just letting people know you’re having a sale at your address.
…….Bonus Do – Use big, fat, black markers. White poster board is great. Bright pink or green work well to grab attention, but be consistent so we know we’re following the same sale signs.

DON’T use a sheet of paper with the address crammed on it. Almost every weekend, I see page size signs with tiny chicken scratch for the address, posted at a busy intersection. And every weekend, I swear I’m going to have to start bringing binoculars. There’s one on the road you turn on to go to our neighborhood along with several other neighborhoods. I’ve ridden by it several times and still don’t know where that yard sale was. Which brings us to………..

DO take your signs down after your sale is over. ALL your signs. There are few things more annoying to a yard saler than following a sign to a sale that doesn’t exist. Did they decide not to have it? That sign was tiny – was there a time on it? Did I ride past the sale and not see it? Should I keep looking? Was it last week and I didn’t know about it?

DO expect and be ready for early birds. Real early. Even if your ad says “no early birds.” Honestly, the only way you can prevent them is if you have a closed garage and say in your ads and signs that the time is firm.

DON’T wait until the stated start time (or 10 minutes before) to begin putting your items out. People will be there and will either be digging through your boxes, making a mess, or they’ll leave and probably not come back, even though they say they will. Yes, even if you start putting things out an hour early, they will still be there in your way. If possible, setting things out the night before and covering the tables with sheets is a good idea. Just be out and ready well before the stated start time.

We started setting up the day before one of our yard sales.

DO try to price as much as you can. It’s been a trend the last few years to just put stuff out with absolutely no prices. I remember one lady who had two tables with some stuff on them saying something like it was just too much trouble to price “all this stuff.” Really? You have 40 items. How hard was that? Then maybe it’s too much trouble for me to ask. Now, I do not speak for everybody when I say this, but some of us don’t like to have to ask for prices unless there are at least a few things priced and we can see that those prices are reasonable, yard sale prices. Remember the old saying that if you have to ask the price you probably can’t afford it? For me, in yard sale terms, it would say that if I have to ask the price, then it’s probably more than I want to pay. If I ask and it is more than I want to pay, then there’s that awkward moment where I have to hem and haw and say thanks, I’ll pass. Or something. I’ve never found a comfortable, polite response to that.

DON’T print out pages from eBay with an item like yours and how much someone wants for it or that it sold for. Really. That’s rather offensive. You took the time to look it up on eBay? Then take the time to sell it there. Especially if you’re wanting 3/4 of that price.

DON’T Don’t say “make me an offer” unless you’re prepared to be insulted. You might not admit it or even realize it, but you have an amount in mind and you’re, maybe subconsciously, hoping the potential buyer will offer more than that. Okay, okay… maybe you really have no idea how much to ask, but much of the time, the amount I offer is waaayyyy less than what the seller will take. If I even make that offer. Often I’ll just walk away and tell them to let me know when they’re ready to name a price.

DO price things to sell. Meaning — really, really cheap. It sells for $150 new in the store? And you want $100 for your used widget? Oh, you never used it, but it has sat in your musty basement for 3 years? You’ll probably pack it up at the end of the day. Even $75 is pushing it. It sells for $24 new in the store? Then frankly, I don’t want to pay more than a dollar. I might but I sure don’t want to. A yard sale is not the place to try to get higher prices. You might try Marketplace or get a booth in an antique mall/flea market, or sell it yourself on eBay, but don’t expect your yard sale shoppers to shell out that much money unless that one person has been looking for that one particular item and can’t find it anywhere else and just happened to come to your yard sale that day. And the chances of that happening are slim.

DON’T be afraid to price things at a quarter. You don’t want to have to handle change? Then I’m not going to buy your dollar item that should have been a dime. Because……. see the next DO……

DO remember that your shoppers are either resellers or someone looking for a really good bargain. Well, okay. Everybody is looking for a really good bargain whether they’re going to resell your item or need the low, low prices because of life circumstances or just because they like to buy cheaply. Yard sale people are a whole subculture. You have people from all walks of life. Wealthy to barely getting by. Smartly dressed women who like to buy furniture to paint and resell, artists who use castoffs in their collage art, people trying to clothe their families and can’t afford even thrift store prices, people on a budget trying to furnish their home, people who just enjoy the treasure hunt, college students to senior citizens.

DON’T be offended if you find out someone is going to resell your item. Remember, you could have done the same. They either do this for a living or maybe they supplement their income with what they sell. Perhaps they really need that supplementation just to get by in life. It’s doggone hard work, too! There are times when I think it’d be easier to have occasional yard sales and sell for pennies on the dollar, rather than all the work I have to do to sell online and in the booth. I had an aunt who bought from yard sales then doubled the price at her own sales. She did quite well, too. Had a good eye. (I believe that’s her on the right with her back turned to us in the picture below.)

1974 Yard Sale

DO be ready to haggle. Although, if you price it cheaply enough, there won’t be much of that. I personally don’t like to haggle. Maybe if it’s a case where I had to ask the price I’ll offer less, but I’d rather pay what’s on the sticker and move on. Or pass and move on. Other people think of haggling as an art. They love it. So you can expect some of it.

DON’T Please don’t say, “I’d rather throw it away than take that little for it.” Really? You’d rather take nothing over something and have someone haul it out of your sight? And you don’t have to deal with it anymore? I remember an auctioneer getting all red in the face and throwing down and breaking a Roseville vase because the bidding wasn’t going where he thought it should. What did that accomplish?

DO Try to have your things on a table. I realize that’s not always possible and I personally don’t have a problem with things on the ground, but I remember at a sale once, another shopper saying she was not going to bend down to the ground to shop. And she left the sale. It’s physically difficult or even impossible for some people to reach to the ground. Even things sitting on tall-ish, overturned boxes are better than on the ground. My mother once stepped into a blanket full of glassware, in spite of my father saying, “Don’t do it, Mildred!” and ended up breaking several things because she didn’t pick her feet up high enough.

DO make it clear what’s for sale and what isn’t. If it’s in your garage, rope off the things not for sale or put sheets over those areas. If it’s in your yard near some of your yard ornaments or planters, somehow make it clear those things are not for sale. Those are the things that people will invariably want. Save yourself the trouble of having to say, “I could have sold that 50 times today.”

DO keep an eye on your pets. I absolutely love to see a sweet dog run up to me for some petting, but I might get a little uneasy if she runs up snarling and growling. For many of us, getting to pet your dogs and cats is a treat, but some people are very afraid. I had a yard sale once and my sweet cat was in my lap. A lady, when she was coming up to pay, saw him, started backing up, and said, “Get ‘that animal’ away from me!” She was terrified. Just remember that not everyone is an animal lover.

DO always be courteous and friendly. Eye contact is good at least once. When someone is walking up, simply say “Hi, how are ya?” There’s no need to ask if they’re looking for anything in particular. If they are, they’ll ask. And honestly, for me at least, it’s a little awkward, especially if nothing they have out is even remotely my taste. Small talk is usually fine, but take a cue from the shopper. Some people just don’t do small talk.

DON’T stare or hover. That makes people so uncomfortable. I want to run away when people do that. Also, don’t try to sell something. If they want it, they’ll buy it.

DO let us know if you’re negotiable on prices. We like to hear, “Ignore the prices. I’ll take a lot less than that.” Then be true to your word.

As far as actual display, DO put like items together, but that’s not entirely necessary. Just don’t put toys in the middle of the kitchenware. You know, that kind of thing.

These are the best tips that I can think of at the moment. I hope it helps you have the most successful yard sale in history! Please feel free to add more tips in the comments!


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