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10 Tips to Seal a Deal

The handmade posters andyard signs popping up
everywhere indicate it’s officially garage-sale season.
Whether you’re setting out wares or prowling for goods,
here are tips to make a sale or cinch a deal.


sealdeal_lead1. Choose a Good Date

Avoid major holidays and conflicting events, like marathons, bike races or festivals. But your garage sale can only benefit from joining others: “Community sales bring in an unusual number of buyers,” says Kelly Wyatt, organizer of the annual June Mapleton Hill Rummage Sale in Boulder. “People can park and walk from sale to sale, hitting a bunch, without having to get back into their hot cars.

2. Attract Buyers with a Well-Worded Ad

Thoughtfully write your ad, listing the categories of particular goods you’re selling, such as baby and toddler toys, adult bedroom oak furniture or high-school sporting goods. Be specific—key phrases will bring buyers to your sale before they visit others.

3. Have Items in Good Shape and Attractively Presented

Take the time to clean and mend items, and find missing parts and manuals. And throw out the junk. Just about anything clean and usable will sell well. Anything junky or in bad shape will not, says Greg Bruny of Fort Collins, a garage sale enthusiast for more than 30 years. Set up display tables and place items in appealing collections. Be neat and organized, like merchandise in a store, Wyatt says. Some people just throw a bunch of stuff on their lawn and their sales are not as successful. People don’t want to pick though that.

Place larger items like furniture, bikes and large tools up front so they’re easily seen from the road and taken away when sold. Conversely, keep jewelry and other smaller, more valuable items on the payment table where they wont be as likely to disappear.

Hang clothing on clothing racks. I even sort the clothing by gender and size, Wyatt says. This little extra effort helps sell things faster.

4. Price Correctly and Clearly

“If the pricing is too high, stuff is going to sit there and no one is going to buy it,” Bruny says. “But if it’s too low, you’re giving away your profits.” As a general rule of thumb, price items 10 to 25 percent of the original price. An even better gauge is to scout a few garage sales in your area to get an idea of local pricing, paying special attention to items like yours.

Buyers dont like to have to come and ask the price, Wyatt says. Before sale day, mark each item or group of items with a price (masking tape and a medium Sharpie work well for this). Make the price visible from the top so people dont have to turn the item over. Dont use colored-dot stickers to indicate prices; theyre confusing and often fall off. Place like items, such as books or DVDs, in a box with a standard price displayed.

5. Start Early and Be Prepared

To catch the serious shoppers who will make the majority of your purchases, start your sale no later than 8 a.m. and expect people to arrive by 7:30 a.m. Have a sign clearly displayed by the road, and two people manning the sale in aprons or colored T-shirts to distinguish themselves. One person should man the payment table; the other should help customers and straighten up. Keep your large dog away and, if you can, keep your small children from getting underfoot.

Your payment table should be clearly visible near the front of the sale with an “All Sales Final” sign displayed. If you don’t accept personal checks, add that to the sign. “Make sure you have plenty of change,” Bruny says. “Buyers get mad if they go to pay and you don’t have enough change.


sealdeal_21. Plan Your Route and Arrive Early

Study garage-sale ads on Craigslist and the local newspaper the prior evening to determine your route for the day. Go first where you’ll most likely have success finding what you’re looking for, based on the inventories in the ads you’ve read. If you’re on a mission for a specific item, arrive early for the best selection. Don’t dilly-dally after you determine that what you want isn’t there; move on to the next sale. “I leave home by 7:30 a.m. and don’t go beyond 10:30 or 11 a.m.,” Bruny says. “Anything good is already gone by then.

2. Inspect Potential Purchases

If there’s a price sticker or tape on an item you’re thinking of purchasing, pull it back to make sure it’s not masking a crack or other defect. Assume that any item you take home that day is all you’re getting, despite any seller’s promise to find a needed cord or instructions.

3. Be Prepared

Make a list of the items you want and determine your comfortable purchase price. If youre buying furniture, take space measurements. If youre buying clothing, carry measurements of family members. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing, ditch the purse and instead put your money in your pockets. Make sure you have plenty of small bills and change, Wyatt says. Most sellers will not take checks, so keep that in mind. Taking a friend along can be helpful, but dont bring your ailing grandmother, squirmy child, or someone on crutches, unless youre only browsing. If you do take your kids, give them a buck each to spend on their own items.

4. Hold Onto Potential Purchases and Don’t Skip Sales by Organizations

If you think you might want something, hold onto it while looking at other items or another buyer may snap it up. This is where your friend comes in handy. Often the best stuff is found at sales put on by churches, fire stations, schools and nonprofits. Conversely, don’t think the best stuff is only found in upscale neighborhoods. If you visit enough garage sales, youll discover the areas that generally offer higher-quality goods.

5. Buy Stuff You Need, Not Stuff You Don’t

The biggest mistake novice buyers make is thinking they should look around more. If theres something you want and it seems fairly priced, take it. If you come back, it will be gone, Bruny says. Conversely, beware of being overly wowed by bargains. You can kind of get carried away in buying good deals, Bruny says. Then you get home and say, Why did I buy all this stuff? and then it goes in your garage sale.

Of course, most buyers feel the opposite: People just really enjoy finding a treasure,Wyatt says. Someone elses trash is their treasure. Thats the great thing about garage sales.”10

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