Show Me the Money! How to Have a Successful Yard Sale
‘Tis the season for tidying up, and you may be ready to part with some unwanted books, toys, furniture, or other belongings. Why not host a yard sale? You’ll clean out your clutter and make some cash. At the same time, you’ll connect with neighbors and meet new people. And the best part? Yard sales keep waste out of the landfill and give items a chance for a second life while encouraging people to reuse instead of buying newly manufactured goods, which usually come with a hefty environmental footprint.
What’s not to love about yard sales? Well, ahem, they require some work, and they don’t always attract buying customers. There’s nothing worse than sitting in a lawn chair for hours waiting for someone to show up or realizing you made only a few dollars per hour for all your hard work. Don’t worry, we’ll help ensure your yard sale is successful! Keep reading to learn how to plan, prepare, and promote your sale to make sure people want to buy what you’re selling.
Know the Rules
Some municipalities require permits for some yard sales. Check your local municipal code and your homeowners association bylaws to see whether they enforce any rules regarding yard sales. You probably don’t need to worry about taxes. Most local governments don’t require people to collect sales tax at yard sales. In the U.S., you don’t need to report occasional yard-sale profits to the Internal Revenue Service. In Canada, you need to report profits only from selling “personal-use property” for more than $1,000. However, if you hold more than two sales a year, the government may consider your yard sales a business and require you to report income. Talk to an accountant if you have questions.
Decide on a Date and Location
Many people get paychecks at the beginning of the month, so holding your sale the first weekend of the month may be advantageous. Pick a non-holiday weekend so more people are in town.
Consider these strategies to attract more customers to your sale:
Prepare your Goods
Once you have a date, it’s time to clean your house and garage. Sort goods into “keep,” “donate,” and “sell” piles, then separate your stash of salable goods into categories, such as media, home décor, clothing, kitchen, etc.
Sporting equipment, tools, and collectibles tend to be popular sellers; stuffed animals, clothes, and books are usually the least popular items at yard sales. No matter what you have to sell, get it in the best shape possible. Clean everything, check whether toys and electronics work, and inspect items to make sure you haven’t left a hundred-dollar bill or a bank statement tucked in a book or box. And while you’re sorting, price everything with an individual tag.
Once your merchandise is ready, it’s time to get everything else in order. Gather grocery bags and newspaper to pack purchases for customers, and withdraw money from the bank to hand out as change.
If you have a smartphone or tablet, consider signing up with an online service, such as Paypal or Square, to accept credit or debit cards at your sale. Depending on the service, you may receive a free swipe reader to plug into the headphone jack of your device. You’ll pay a fee for each swipe, usually 2.7 percent of the purchase. However, people spend about 12 to 18 percent more when paying via card, so you’ll likely come out ahead.
Decide what to do with unsold goods after your sale. (You’ll have some!) Consider calling a local charity and scheduling a donation pickup for the evening of or morning after your sale to make sure nothing comes back in the house with you.
If you have kids, involve them in planning. Yard sales are a fun, real-life economics lesson. Kids may be able to sell lemonade or homemade baked goods at a table, but check your local laws before pursuing it. Some municipalities allow the sale of baked goods made only in commercial kitchens.
A few days before the sale, check the forecast, and prepare for the weather accordingly.
Promote Your Sale
A week before the sale, post it on Craigslist. List big-ticket items individually, and provide photos if possible. If you don’t want your address online, list the nearest cross streets. Include, “No early birds,” unless you’re okay with bargain shoppers arriving at dawn. Cross-post your listing on local Facebook yard-sale groups and on Nextdoor (a free, private social network for neighbors). Create and share a Facebook event to let your friends know about the sale. On the morning of your sale, remove and repost your listing on Craigslist.
Signs are one of the most powerful promotional tools for yard sales. Make posters on the computer so you can print and post lots of them. Make them simple and readable; include your address, the date of the sale, and arrows to direct people toward your house. Also, mention if you’re accepting credit or debit cards to attract drop-in buyers without cash.
Some municipalities dictate where you can post signs, so it may be a good idea to check first. If you need to post free-standing signs, buy some inexpensive foam board and stakes to make signs.
On Sale Day
Make sure your house and yard look as presentable as possible. Mow the grass a few days before, and move your cars down the street to leave extra space for parking.
Plan to spend several hours the morning of the sale displaying your goods. Make your displays eye-catching and attractive, with merchandising strategies honed in retail stores.
During the sale, greet everyone who approaches, answer questions, and be ready to negotiate. Yard sales are one of the only retail situations in which most North Americans feel comfortable negotiating prices. Display a sign reading “All Sales Final” near your payment station to prevent returns.
After the sale, don’t forget to canvass the neighborhood and remove your signs. Then comes the part you’ve been waiting for: counting your hard-earned money.