You can put a lot of work into getting ready for your garage sale, but if no one comes . . . you’ve wasted your time and energy.
Before I share tips to get people there, please be aware that you need to check the regulations for your city. Some cities require permits, limit the number of sales you can have, and even limit what you can sell. I was very surprised to learn last year that many of the towns in my area do not allow the sale of new items at garage sales. Some people said that they had been shut down or fined for selling new clothing or items they had gotten for free with coupons. It isn’t the case in all areas, but you should check beforehand to avoid any problems. It would be frustrating to lose any of your hard-earned profit because of ignorance. Also, many cities limit where you can place your signs and have city workers who will pull them up. You may not know why your traffic suddenly decreased until you go looking for your sign that evening.
Now, for the fun stuff. First, just like with expectations and pricing, you need to learn how things work where you live.
Learn when to have your sale:
Know that generally, your first day will be your best day. My aunt (the queen-mother of all garage sale-ers) lives in Kansas. In her city, it is common to start a garage sale on Thursday and hold it for several days. Where I live, however, a garage sale starting on Thursday is uncommon, and so most people don’t even look for them on Thursdays. Then, when they do look at garage sale listings for Friday or Saturday, if they see that they missed the first day of the sale, they assume that it’s been picked over and put it on their list of “if I can get to it” sales.
Consider starting your sale early. You want people to come to your sale first, while they still have all of their cash. If most sales start at 8 a.m., and you start yours at 7 or 7:30, they’ll hit yours first. Of course, they’ll get there at 6 or 6:30 . . . (Don’t try starting your sale at 10 a.m. People will still be there at 8 am, and you’ll just be mad. If you don’t go ahead and start, they may not come back, and if they do they’ll have already spent quite a bit of their money by 10:00.)
You should also try to find out when garage sales typically end in your area. Here, all garage sales are done around 2 pm, and people don’t come after that. My next door neighbors should have read this post, because they stayed open one Saturday until 6 p.m. I watched and they had maybe 2 people stop by after one o’clock (other than my kids who kept buying things for nickels).
Learn how people find garage sales in your area.
The best way to learn this is to ask someone you know who goes to garage sales, or by visiting other sales in your area like I advised in this post. In some areas, newspapers are the best way to advertise. Where I live, in a smallish town of about 20,000, you can usually hit all of the garage sales in one day. The paper is the primary advertising method. People who want to go to garage sales get a newspaper and then use it to find all of the sales in the area for that day.
However, where my parents live, the newspaper is not the primary advertising method. It is a much larger city, and looking at the newspaper is confusing because people generally don’t know where everything is, like they do in a small town. There, signs are the best way to find the sales. Knowing this can determine how many days you should hold your sale. In my small town, where the newspaper rules, a one-day sale is fine because the vast majority of traffic is informed and direct – they’re looking up my address. But in the larger city, a 2 or 3 day sale may be better as most traffic is “drive-by” and more days open means more people stopping by.
And of course, use Craigslist. It’s free and there’s no reason to NOT use it in addition to whatever other method is the norm for your area.
Get the most from your signs.
Signs should be in neon colors. My aunt and I often laugh and say that this should be required. Bright colors make them stick out from real estate or election signs, and if you can see them from farther away, you’re more likely to be able to slow down in time to make the turn. On your sign, your address should be the main, largest information. It is pretty obvious that a neon home-made sign at the corner of a neighborhood is a garage sale sign, so “Garage Sale” can be written smaller. The driver is trying to catch a glimpse of your address.
The picture at the top of this post shows the best sign method I’ve found. If you don’t have a solid metal sign that you can tape your neon poster over, putting it on a box and placing a brick or large rock inside the box to keep it from blowing away is a good solution. Posterboard on a stick may fold or flop in the wind, which will make it difficult to read.
If you live in a city that is strict about sign placement, you may need to ask permission to put signs in the yards of people who live on corners of streets that lead to your house. A creative and effective solution to this problem that I once saw was a family who moved their vehicles to the street corners where people needed to turn to get to their sale. They put huge neon posters on their cars giving directions.
Get the most from your Newspaper Ad and Craiglist.
Know when your paper comes out. I lived in a small town once whose newspaper was mailed out on Thursdays. Yes, mailed. Therefore, if someone had a Thursday sale, no one even knew about it until Thursday when their mail came. And here, even though the paper comes out daily, it doesn’t come out until late afternoon. Yes, late afternoon. So, if someone has a Friday sale, they need to be sure it comes out in Thursday’s paper. Make sense?
For a newspaper ad, use all of your allowed words, and use them wisely. For my paper, there is a set price for garage sale ads with a 25 word limit. There is no reason to not use all 25 words. “LOTS of misc.” or “Too much to list” doesn’t get people to your sale. They might come to yours after they go to the others who listed the items they were looking for, but by then, they won’t have as much money to spend!
Be specific in your ad. If you are selling any furniture, be SURE to list what it is. Couch, dining table, bookshelves, crib, recliner, bunk-beds etc. are all items that people specifically look for at garage sales. Along the same lines, if there’s anything that you feel is really worth something (and it didn’t sell on ebay or Craigslist first) list it in your ad. Designer purses and Dept 56 Christmas houses will sell much better if people come looking for them, rather than if people just happen to stop by.
I always list general clothing sizes as well. My ad will look something like this:
1234 Anystreet Saturday– 7am-? TONS of clothes, Boys 4-6, Girls 2-4, Women L-XL, riding toys, Books, home décor, teacher materials, videos, fridge, stroller, much more.
It doesn’t have to be beautifully written, it’s the STUFF that gets them there. If you’re in major decluttering mode like I am, you might try what I did last year. I put in my ad that all clothes would be 25 cents and most items would be under 1.00. It worked! I’ve seen other sales do this, and they’re always the busiest.
If you live in a place that is difficult to find, you should use your 25 words to give succinct directions to your house. An example might be: “Bellview Street – at the very end of Park Lane,” or “behind *** Shopping Center.”
On Craigslist, put your city and zip code in the title. You aren’t limited on words there, so you should list all the categories of items that you are selling, and specific directions. Always say “. . . and much more!”
If you plan ahead and make good use of advertising, you’ll have the best traffic possible for your sale. More traffic means more money, and best of all . . . MORE STUFF GONE!
Thanks for the help I'm gearing up for another garage sale this spring/summer. Got to declutter and spring cleaning is a great time to do it!
I hate it when I can't figure out the signs. Or if the house isn't marked for sure. I don't want to have to guess which house is having the sale. Esp. if you have to walk around to find the sale. I will just keep driving.
Garage Sale Search says
Great suggestions. Find someone to throw your garage sale with so that you can maintain the motivation to declutter. Hard to stay motivated by yourself sometimes when the stuff is so overwhelming….;-)
Another idea to draw people, is to have several houses in the same neighborhood have a garage sale at the same time. You get a LOT more traffic when people can hit several sales at once. A friend of mine and I made the same amount of money in six hours at a neighborhood yard sale, as we did over three days at an individual yard sale.
I am LOVING your blog! I haven’t gotten started with my routine and declutter yet, but at least I have some ideas of how to go about it!
And yes, a neighborhood garage sale is a FABulous draw for shoppers!
Garage Sale Diva again. You forgot the other MOST IMPORTANT thing for your signs – ARROWS!!!!!!! I have also learned you don’t even need the words “Garage/Yard Sale” on your signs. If it’s a Friday or Saturday and there is a sign on the corner, people know what it is for. Just need your address BIG and an ARROW!!!! 🙂
Very true! I always get confused so I try to draw the arrows AFTER I put the sign up!
I make the ‘arrow’ signs separate… so I can face them
either way. I’m easily confused myself. 🙂
I HIGHLY recommend using ARROWS instead of an address. Even in my own neighborhood I don’t know the names of streets just a couple blocks away and honestly I don’t need to. Use the same neon colored signs with HUGE Arrows and blam, easy and easy!
Renae Allard says
Just to add my “two-cents” worth – big bold arrows on your signs are crucial for helping your future customers find your sale. It won’t help much if you write the address, but no one has a clue what direction the sale is from where the sign is placed. I’ve found that two simple things – the word “SALE” and one arrow pointing you in the right direction are really all you need.
Dana White says
Facebook is a great way to advertise yard sales, too! You can list it in your status, and there are also numerous Facebook local yard sale pages where you can not only list single items to sell, but you can also advertise your yard sale. Those pages typically have a lot of members and generate a lot of traffic.
Dana White says
I disagree on the signs. I go to garage sales in a large city & the address is very unhelpful. What I’m really looking for is an arrow. I may not know where maple street is, but I can sure turn right at the corner and look for another sign!!! =)
I ABSOLUTELY agree on the BIG ARROW at every single turn. I use solid black. The arrow is the biggest. If multiple days, I try to have the hours fairly large (8-12 or 7-3pm or whatever) so people know when it’s done for the day. It’s frustrating to see a sign and they are closed down but their sign is still up and you wasted your time and gas $$ because you didn’t know when it would end. Make them simple and you can reuse the signs when you declutter enough to hold another sale. I try to be consistent with the color and look of the signs so they KNOW they are on the right trail to my sale, instead of getting confused with other signs. I sometimes add bright balloons to catch their eye. I try to make my signs ENORMOUS at main crossroads. You can’t miss them. Then I can use the smaller signs just for directional arrows mostly nearer to my location. I’ve always had people comment that they saw my huge signs and HAD to come see what I had to sell. More traffic means you sell more stuff. Easy to read signs can are seriously important.
I also agree with your tips on the ads–I always make my list based on what specific items are in their ad. I detest “something for everyone” and “lots of great stuff” and “you won’t want to miss this one” as they don’t tell me anything of real value. If you really have great stuff then tell me what it is so I know to certainly not miss it. Especially when using Craigslist where it is free and words are unlimited–give details as much as possible. (EVERYONE pretty much has clothes–tell me what gender/sizes so I know to come get those Boys 12-14 clothes I need for my growing son). I usually make a list as it’s easier to read. I have had people come for very specific minor things just because it was on the list. They may just buy more misc. while they are there, which is a bonus. I make sure I do also mention some general stuff so they know I have more than just those specific items.
I also ALWAYS put my phone # for if they need help finding the sale or have questions–I have had people call about directions and even asking if they could still come a little late (when they got off work or something) which was fine as I didn’t want to take it down yet anyway. And if someone calls earlier about a larger (bulky) or pricier item and wants to see it earlier–I always let them come and see it if possible because I may get that sold asap and free up space as well. Then I just edit the ad to remove the item from the list. It doesn’t happen often–but always nice to get that washer/dryer set or large furniture piece gone for a good price right away when you’re moving and can’t take it with you.
I also try to maximize the Craigslist ad by adding pictures–they have increased the number of allowable photos so take pictures of your bulkiest or priciest items and add the photos. You can take a picture of your set-up if you are able to set up in your garage ahead of time (if you’re beyond the crazy clutter stage and actually HAVE a clear garage! Some of us are still working on that!). Photos speak a thousand words and can bring traffic–which translates into $$ in your pocket and space in your home.
It’s more work to do things like this–but it pays off in space in your home and more $$ to pay bills or get something you REALLY want/need. I’ve had 2day sales with $1500-$1800 (with only a couple $100 of big ticket items) and $500 is usually about the lowest I’ve done when I didn’t have as much time to get stuff ready. If you don’t want the cash so much, then probably isn’t worth your small effort–just donate it. If you need/want the $$ for your stuff you NEED to downsize, then put in some effort/time and you’ll not only downsize but reach other financial goals or small dreams (like decorating or pretty-fying that room you just cleared out.
Pam P says
If you have lived in the same house for awhile you might add that. I had so much traffic at my parents garage sale. I had added 20 years same location.