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Garage Sale Tips for Hosts

Having a garage sale or boot sale is a great way to tidy up the house AND make a little money along the way, but they take time to organise and you will need help on the day to keep an eye on prospective buyers and make sure you don’t get duped.

It’s great to combine a garage sale with a friend or neighbour – or the whole street for that matter - so all of you can benefit from the sale, share costs and help out on the day. You may also be able to sell your old wares at a local market or boot sale, rather than holding the garage sale at your home.

Points to consider when planning a garage sale include:

A couple of weeks before the sale

  • Walk through the house, cupboards, shed and yard identifying items you can sell. And get your kids involved too – they will love selling some out-of-date toys and making a little money from them.
  • Check the items you plan to sell to make sure they are operational and not broken. If they are defective in some way, you can still sell the item but you MUST inform potential buyers of any defects.
  • Give your goods a quick clean so they look inviting and well cared for. Wash and iron any clothes you want to sell, and put them on hangers to keep them in shape.
  • Work out how you are going to display your wares and protect them from theft and the weather – large items can sit on the ground/ floor and smaller items on a table or in a box. Do you need to borrow any tables etc. to help you display all your goods?
  • Go to a few garage sales to get an idea of layout and set-up requirements, pricing and what items are popular. Use this as a guide for your own sale by adapting the ideas that ‘work’ and avoiding the ones that don’t.
  • Make colourful and easy to read signs to direct passers-by to your sale. Include the address, date and time of the sale and a directional arrow indicating which way to go. Think about where you’re going to place signs (about a 2 km radius around your house) so you know how many to make.
  • Know your plan for the sale – what day/ days are you going to hold the sale, what time, how long are you going to go for, etc. Once you know your plan, arrange advertising (the week of the sale, and no sooner) through your local newspaper and other outlets. In your ad, include the sale date, times, address and a short list of your best items to tempt the buyers.
  • Start keeping your newspaper and plastic shopping bags for wrapping and packaging items for your buyers.
  • Organise your helpers for the sale – you need at least one other person to give you a hand, a couple if possible. Make sure they know what time they’re expected to be there and what they need to do.
Setting Prices
  • It takes time to work out prices and place price tags on all your goods – so start early!
  • Get an idea of pricing from attending other garage sales and also consider what you’d be prepared to pay for the item.
  • Put a sticker or piece of masking tape on each item and write the price on it. Keep in mind that most people are looking for bargains at garage sales so don’t expect too much.
  • Mark items with a slightly higher price. You can always negotiate or lower your prices on the day.
  • You can also group similar priced items on a table or in a box, so you just know that any item from a particular box is a set price. You could also use a coloured sticker system – for example, anything with a red sticker is $2, blue stickered items are $5, and so on.
  • Also try selling smaller items in ‘lots’. You could try selling a bag of toys for $5, rather than selling the individual toys for $0.50 each.
  • Also note on the price tag/ sticker whether the item is defective in anyway or near new.
  • If you have some more valuable items you want to sell and you’re not sure what they’re worth, get a second hand dealer to estimate their value so you can set a starting price.
  • Clothing typically doesn’t sell for very much unless it is designer label or well tailored. Make sure the size of any clothing is clearly marked.
  • Household goods and appliances that are in good, working condition and decent shape will fetch one-quarter to one-third of their original price. You'll have better luck getting top dollar if you've kept the original packaging and instruction manual.

The day before the sale
  • Go to the bank and get a $50 float in small notes and change. Have a calculator handy if you aren’t good at doing maths in your head!
  • Put out your pre-made signs on high-traffic intersections within a 2 km radius of your sale. Make sure you remember where you put them all so you can retrieve them after the sale. Hang balloons or streamers on your front fence.
  • Remember it takes time to put out all the items – do as much as you can the day before (and earlier if you can), remembering though you need to be able to keep them secure until the sale. Laying items out in the garage is the best way because you can shut the door.
  • Focus on presentation – group items logically, and keep the area clean. Allow enough room for people to view your goods properly.
  • Get a good nights sleep and think about how you’re going to take care of your needs on the day. Prepare a ‘picnic’ lunch for yourself and your assistants and have a supply of drinks on stand-by too.
  • Make sure your assistants for the day are organised.
On Sale Day!
  • Stick to your start time! Many second hand dealers will try to get in early – and before your advertised starting time – to get the best items.
  • Know your price but be prepared to haggle to sell an item, but don’t give in to pushy cheapskates or second hand dealers! Don’t reduce your prices too early.
  • On valuable items, stand your ground with value. Remember that you don’t have to sell these items at your garage sale – you can always sell them through auction, advertising or a second-hand dealer if you can’t get the right price at your garage sale.
  • Have newspaper and plastic bags handy for wrapping and packaging purchased items.
  • Have batteries and an electrical cord and power point handy if you are selling electrical items, so they can be tested.
  • Keep security of your home in mind. Ensure that your house is locked at all times and keep your money in a waist pouch, not in a money box that people can pinch!
  • Always have more than one person working the garage sale. This helps you keep an eye on things and helps out with serving the customers and make it easier to handle any rushes and helps turn off would-be thieves.
  • Thank people for coming – even if they don’t buy – and just be pleasant! No-one likes pushy sales pitches or feel pressure to buy.
After the sale
  • Remove all the signage you put out.
  • Tally your earnings and put this money in the bank!
  • With the items you don’t sell, work out what you’re going to do next. Items of little value could just be donated to the local charity, but with the more valuable items, consider some of the other methods of selling – eBay, advertising or taking them to the local second hand dealer.

Garage Sale Tips for Buyers

And of course, one way to achieve frugal living is to buy second hand – and you can get some really good bargains at garage sales if you follow these tips:
  • Carefully read the garage sale ads in the newspaper and circle the ones that sound like they have goods that you will want. Mark the locations of the sales on a street map and plot a route!
  • Start early, and start with the most promising sounding sales first to get the best items – but you may not get bargains first up, as many sellers will delay reducing their prices or bargaining until later in the sale.
  • So…don’t worry about arriving towards the end of a garage sale as you can pick up some fantastic bargains!
  • Set yourself a budget and stick to it. And know what type of item you’re looking for – are you looking for furniture, clothes or just something special to brighten up your home.
  • Know your prices – not all things on sale will be at bargain prices. If you’re not sure, take your mobile phone with you and do some over-the-phone investigations to get an indication of the right price for a particular item.
  • Always try out an item before you buy it – you won’t be able to get a refund if you find out the item doesn’t work once you get it home. Ask to plug in electrical items for testing and start motors on lawn mowers, etc.
  • Inspect items for breaks, signs of repair and other damage before buying. And SMELL items with soft surfaces (ie upholstered furniture, clothing, etc) as some smells –particularly cigarette smoke – can linger for a long time!
  • Take lots of cash including small change so you aren’t refused a purchase. Sellers usually won’t take cheques, definitely won’t accept Visa and may not be able to change large notes.
  • Haggle, bargain and negotiate a price!
  • If there is something in particular you’re looking for – just ask! The seller may have something you’re looking for that they didn’t get a chance to put out on display.
  • Look after your purchase – be prepared to take home your purchases without causing damage. Take a trailer if you’re hoping to pick up some furniture or other large items, and don’t forget blankets, boxes and wrappings to protect your purchases from damage.
  • When you get the item home, give it a good clean and take off any stickers – they’ll be harder to get off later, if you leave them on too long.

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