A yard sale is an excellent way to dispose of things that are no longer useful or necessary, to turn junk into cash, and to get rid of clutter. While holding a yard sale sounds simple enough, it would behoove you to keep the following important things in mind, if you want the event to be successful:
Find out if a permit is needed
In most instances, no permit is needed, if your intention is to hold a one-time sale at your place of residence or at some other location. If it is your intention, though, to turn the matter into an on-going small business, then you will need to follow the same steps followed when starting any other type of business. That includes applying for a sales license, possibly filing a DBA or incorporating, keeping track of all transactions, paying local, state and federal taxes, etc. Do check with your local town hall to see what requirements are imposed where you live.
Advertise the event as vigorously as possible
By all means, make use of free marketing media, such as social networking sites, community bulletin boards, and free local and online classifieds. You can also design, print and hand out flyers, put out press releases (especially if the event will benefit a nonprofit or can be described as a “community yard sale”–i.e., it will feature items from many households), ask local businesses if you can announce the sale at their business, and go on an aggressive word-of-mouth advertising campaign.
Design and post “Yard Sale” signs on local street poles
Some communities, fearing that these signs deface and unnecessarily clutter streets, have passed ordinances against this practice. If you, however, make sure that you take down your signs soon after the sale, you should be all right, especially if the sale takes place on the weekend. For better results, post signs at all corners leading to the site, making sure that you guide people to the sale almost as if they were following a line of left-behind bread crumbs. Use big, bright letters and large arrows that accurately point people in the right direction.
Make lists of all items to sell
For one thing, having a list of what is for sale will allow you to answer questions if customers are looking for specific items. This will also help you to organize the items, making sure to place things together that fall under the same general category. It may also help you when it comes to pricing things.
Price all items clearly and realistically
By all means, keep announcing that all prices quoted are negotiable but you will find that some people will not bother to haggle for an item if it does not have a price to begin with. When pricing items, always leave room for a reasonable price reduction. Do not, however, mark items so high that people will automatically be turned off. Strive not to under-price things which are likely to be in demand, such as sporting equipment, toys in good shape, jewelry, electronics that still work well, and tools. Be aware, also, that some of the items you put up for sale may be worth a lot more than you thought, which is a good reason to have appraised any art work, antiques, collectable, or old item about which you have the slightest doubt.
Designate, if possible, separate sections for different “categories”
You will find that people will generally gravitate toward items that are likely to spark their interest; in fact, some people may be looking only for certain types of items, such as children’s clothes, books, old records, collectables, etc. These people may not want to rifle their way through a disorganized pile of junk and may simply leave without making any offers. Retailers confirm that their best-selling products are those placed in most convenient locations–a yard sale can also make use of this basic salesmanship principle.
Have electrical outlets or extensions to plug electronics into
People who may be very interested in electronic products may not take a chance on buying something that may not be in working condition when they bring it home. You can get around their doubts by simply letting them try the item before buying. Be sure, though, that the extension you use can accommodate the electrical demands of the item in question–in other words, be sure to use a “high voltage” extension for high voltage appliances.
Display appropriate “All Sales Are Final” signs
Other similar signs to make (preferably using big, bright letters) and clearly display are “No Refunds”; “All Items Are Sold ‘As Is'”; “Please Handle Fragile Items With Care”; “No Bathroom Available”; “All Children Need to Be Supervised”; and, “If You Break It You Bought It!
Provide refreshments that are in tune with weather conditions
If it is very hot, for example, bring a large cooler filled with ice and soft drinks. You may find that people may stop by just to grab a drink, especially if you advertise that drinks are free to anyone making a purchase. If you decide to use them as sales incentives, make sure that you purchase generic soft drinks, which are generally a lot cheaper than brand name drinks. If it is rainy or cool outside (especially if you are conducting an indoor sale), provide hot tea or coffee. If the sale is for charity, don’t be afraid to charge for drinks. You may also provide snacks, like cookies, candy bars, cupcakes, scones, muffins, etc.
Go for a “Rain or Shine” sale, if at all possible
This means that you should be ready to hold the sale inside a garage, basement, tent, or some other suitable shelter, should the weather unexpectedly turn bad on the day of the sale. In general, fair weather, outdoor yard sales tend to do better than indoor sales, but, if the sale will be held near a main road, bad weather will not necessarily stop people from stopping by.
Paint, repair, or put together items to make them more appealing
Don’t assume that people will simply do their own repairs. You have a better chance of selling the item, if, when they buy it, the item is ready to go, for the most part. You don’t have to make things look brand new and, in the case of collectables, antiques and “old world” items, you are better off leaving things in their original (taking into account tear and wear) condition. If an item comes in a box, ready to be put together, then it may be worth it to put it together for the customer before the sale. People may assume that pieces are missing or that there is something wrong if you leave them in the box. On the other hand, if the item was never taken out of the box, and the container is in perfect shape, you can label the item as “brand new” and leave it as it is.
Contact friends and family about the sale
People you know may in fact be your best customers; they may also be a very effective way to get the word out about the sale. If appropriate, you can also invite acquaintances to bring items to sell, either so they can keep the proceeds (while getting rid of clutter), or so they help the charity in question, if any.