Garage Sale Tips for the Non-Garage Saler

I’ve written before about my love of going out to garage sales each week. Every Friday night my 12 year old son and I head out to see what “treasures” we can find. It’s a great bonding time for us as we drive around town chatting to one another without any interruptions. I really enjoy our date night.

However as we cruise from garage sale to garage sale there is something that drives me a little bit batty. I instantly know when I walk up someone’s driveway whether or not they are garage salers themselves and those particular garage sales are never particularly rewarding for us. I seem to always leave disappointed and empty handed for a variety of reasons. So today I thought I’d share some tips for how to think like a garage saler (even if you’ve never been to one yourself) and how to ensure your customers leave with empty pockets and full arms.

source: John Beagle

Have Stuff

Of course you need stuff at a garage sale but what I mean is you need more than one table worth of stuff. Garage salers don’t like to waste time hitting up a garage sale without a lot of stock. We are competitive folk for sure and want to get on to the next garage where there is perhaps more selection. Multi-family garage sales always get me excited because you know the selection will be good and the variety even better. If you don’t have enough stuff to hold a garage sale definitely think about teaming up with friends for greater success.

Timing is Important

This is one that really gets me crazy. If the majority of the garage sales in your town start at 8 in the morning, don’t start yours two or three hours later. If at all possible please try and start your garage sale with what is most popular for your area. Us garage salers get out there to do the circuit and then end up killing time waiting for yours to open or worse we just don’t bother going at all. The week or two before your garage sale check the ads to get an idea of what time everyone else starts their garage sales. There is almost always a common time. Go with the flow and you’ll have some happy customers on your hands.

Eliminate the Piles

Oh boy. Why do people holding garage sales think we want to dig through mountains of stuff. We don’t. I see clothes displayed this way all the time but I certainly can’t be bothered because in the back of my mind I’m thinking about the next sale and what I might be missing there. It’s a go go mentality, everyone looking for great stuff at bargain prices. We want to get in and get out quickly. Clothing should be hung up (or at least organized by size on a table or in a box) and anything not easily identified should be labeled so we don’t have to guess. Because we won’t. We’ve got to go.

source: Chiot’s Run

Price It Right

The #1 problem with attending the garage sale of a non-garage saler is their prices are often way to high. Prices should be lower at garage sales than if you were to sell your wares any place else. Garage sales are exciting for one reason only….garage sale prices. No one cares if you just bought the item a week ago and barely used it. We want a deal. You want to make some cash. When that combination works, it works beautifully. So price your stuff lower earlier in the day rather than waiting until the end to reduce your prices. The last thing you want to do is have to haul it all off afterwards to the dump or thrift store. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just more work and you’ll be exhausted after all the work you’ve put in hosting the sale in the first place. I also prefer when everything IS priced at garage sales. It’s just faster for me to assess the situation and be on my way.  If you use stickers like in the picture above (check your local dollar store) it will be quick and easy for you to get the pricing job done.

Do Away With The Junk

Okay this one is tricky because junk to one person means something entirely different to someone else. However it’s probably safe to say that no one wants your stained and ripped shirts, cracked dishware or puzzles missing pieces. It will only turn your customers off and make them want to run for the hills. Ask yourself if this is something you would buy at a garage sale. If it’s not something you would consider buying then it’s probably a good indication that you shouldn’t try selling it either.

source: eastlaketimes

Advertise, Advertise, Advertise

Advertising is crucial for a successful sale. It’s hard to make money without attracting any customers. Pay attention to where all the other garage sales are advertised. Often that’s bulletin boards or street poles. If that’s where you’ll be advertising make sure it’s legible. Neon paper and big Sharpie letters are ideal. As well if you predict a hint of rain put your sign in a Ziploc bag to protect it. If the majority of garage sales in your town are advertised in the paper or on Craigslist/Kijiji then that’s what you’ll need to do as well. Also check Facebook because there may be a specific garage sale page for your location. It doesn’t hurt either, on garage sale day, to put a big sign at the end of your street with balloons directing people right to your door.

Overall I think the important thing to remember is you want to make it as easy as possible for your customers to get in and get out. You don’t have to be a garage saler yourself to host a successful garage sale and hopefully the tips I listed above will help you do just that.

Personally I don’t like holding garage sales myself (so much work!) but I don’t think I’ll ever stop being a fan of attending them especially as long as I get to hang out with my son while I do it.

Are you a garage saler? Do you have a garage sale pet peeve?

Filed under: Garage, Organizing


46 Responses to Garage Sale Tips for the Non-Garage Saler

  1. 1
    KFS says

    Agree on everything but the piles. I love piles. I find the best deals on clothes in piles. Granted I also expect to pay .25-$1 tops – even for in-demand brands.

    I don’t like when a seller has carefully hung everything – and priced it accordingly. We aren’t at Gymboree or Hollister, we are in your garage. I’m okay with semi-organized piles as long as your prices reflect that.

    • 1.1
      Laura says

      Yes that’s an excellent point and I definitely agree with you there.

  2. 2
    Jennifer says

    One thing that bugs me is when people have not marked their items or ask you to offer. I tend to just walk away from the item/sale instead of bothering to negotiate.

    • 2.1
      Laura says

      Me too Jennifer. I hate having to offer on something all the time.

    • 2.2
      ter@waaoms says

      Me too, I hate when things aren’t priced. And for me, I’m deaf so I don’t like having to ask how much it is, though sometimes I will ask if i can have something cheaper. :)

    • 2.3
      Marie says

      I agree with you 100%. I am not there to “make an offer”. Just price it and I will then decide if it’s worth the marked price.

  3. 3
    Nikki says

    I don’t like when they don’ t mark items either but in our area we often get people who just place boxes on a table with a mixture of items inside. I don’t want to dig through your stuff. I have 5 children but I hate when their children follow me around. Once I had a little girl cry when I picked something up for my child. If you child doesnt want to part with it don’t put it out.

    • 3.1
      Laura says

      Yikes that is never good!

  4. 4
    hillary says

    If you advertise on Craiglist or another site where you have room for text and pictures, list or show photos of the big stuff you have (especially furniture, appliances, and electronics). Especially true if you have specialty items that would interest a niche market (think fishing gear, sports equipment, collectables, etc). And, if possible, have a theme for your sale. My absolute best garage sale day was when I got together with a few friends and we de-stashed our sewing, knitting, felting, embroidery, scrapbooking, and other craft supplies. We were SWAMPED with buyers who paid very fair prices for everything because they were hobbyists like us. A similarly good garage sale was one where we partnered up and did all baby/kid stuff. I think it gave people a reason to come to our sale instead of any other general garage sale. Usually instead of pricing things individually, I make signs for each table and sort things by price. For example, at our craft de-stash garage sale, all fabrics were $1/yd, or you could fill up a paper grocery bag for $5. It was easy for us to remember and easy for people to add up in their heads. Of course some of the fabrics cost twice as much as others, but it was so much simpler (and I believe we sold more) because of the flat rate pricing.

    • 4.1
      Laura says

      Oh wow those are awesome tips, thank you!!!

  5. 5
    Kim @ Homesteader's Heart says

    It’s funny that you post this today as we are having a garage sale this week. It pains us to have one because we like to go out every Saturday morning but this Saturday we’ll have to stay behind and do our own.
    But you hit on all the best tips because I can’t stand going to a garage sale where they are asking more money for something that you could go to Goodwill and buy. I always walk away thinking “It’s a garage sale people!” LOL!
    We’ll see how ours goes. Wish us luck!

    • 5.1
      Laura says

      Good luck with your sale Kim, let me know how you make out!!

  6. 6
    Elizabeth says

    Great tips ! In my southern town they come as early as 7am and I have had “early birds” even come at 6:30am! Be sure to put in your add “no early birds” if you want more time getting ready,otherwise be ready to have people come when you are still setting stuff out. I always TRY to get things in order the day before so i can be ready for early birds. I tried it on a Fri. night into Sat morn one time, but found out I STILL had early birds on Fri night! (like 4pm)!!!! LOL!
    My pet peave when I go to yard sales is when there is more than one family doing the sale and they always have to consult with whoever owns it…that ruins it,because I have to wait around…i still get a deal, but not as fast as I wanted!

    • 6.1
      Laura says

      Yes a good multi-family system is essential so there is no fuss, no muss.

  7. 7
    Debi says

    LOL–my pet peeve is actually something you suggested people do: putting signs at the end of your street. We happen to be the house at the end of the street, and end up with signs in our yard every weekend. No one ever asks, most don’t ever come back to take them down, my hubby has to try to mow around them, and they’re against our town code to start with! I find it ridiculously rude to just go stick a sign on someone else’s without asking. (Though I don’t believe you meant to imply that people should do it without asking, of course. Just that people don’t.) Yep, really truly my pet peeve. :P

    • 7.1
      Laura says

      Oh that is rude! I totally meant on the public spaces and even then people should always go back out afterwards and clean up what they left. So sorry that happens to you!

    • 7.2
      jt says

      just post a board with cork in front of end of lawn help em out lol

  8. 8
    Susanne says

    I’m having a garage sale myself this weekend. And I do love to attend them once in awhile. I love when people have cleaned up their stuff. Nothing more grody than handling dirty, food crusted appliances or stuff covered in an inch of dust. Won’t buy it if it’s like that.

    • 8.1
      Laura says

      No me either, blech! Good luck with your sale!

  9. 9
    Raven says

    Honestly, this is why I will never do a garage sale, ever. Anything I’d take less than $5 for, I set out at the curb with a “free” sign on it. It’s not worth my hours of time, gas to get price tags, poster board etc etc. If it’s worth over $5, I list it on Craigslist in lots after making sure no family members or friends are wanting it (we are fairly minimalist, so I’m mostly talking furniture. I don’t have six sets of dishes or anything like that to get rid of. We had our one and only garage sale to undo *that* problem six years ago right before we moved.)

    I used to sell outgrown clothing (Gymboree, Gap, etc) for top dollar on a message board and Ebay, but the fees and people wanting things ironed before laying out for pictures, etc – not worth my time. I now donate everything.

    My neighborhood, luckily, is pretty nifty like this. A *lot* of people set out everything except expensive stuff at the street with “free” signs. I’ve gotten some pretty nice baskets this way.

    • 9.1
      Laura says

      When I visit my family in Ontario I’m always amazed to see the FREE stuff out by the curbs. It’s so awesome! I helped my sister haul home the most gorgeous desk and stool for my niece one day from the side of the road. I couldn’t believe it. No one seems to do that here in my Alberta town though, not sure why :(

      • Raven says

        Maybe you can start something? :) I have no idea what your town is like. My neighborhood is pretty tightly knit and the homes are close together. Just yesterday there were notes on our doors about organizing a block party. I’ve seen swaps get posted too (IE, bring out all your expensive stuff for furniture and electronics trading). Just an idea!

        Why yes, I do love the barter system lol.

  10. 10
    Deb Prewitt says

    I love going to garage sales too, and have had my own numerous times. It seems more people are pickier about what they are buying and what they are spending, but overall it is a fun time! My pet peeve is definitely stuff not being priced. I don’t want to ask and I don’t want to make an offer. Although I know some people like to play that game. One exception to your list above is that I don’t think you should assume that if it is something you wouldn’t buy then you probably shouldn’t sell it. Using your example of a puzzle with missing pieces. Just label it as such and price it accordingly. I know crafters who use puzzle pieces and would buy such an item. You just never know. The same with cracked or broken dishes. I know people who take those broken pieces and use it for mosaics. So you never know. For myself, if I have had odd items that I don’t know what they are or whether they work or whether they are complete, etc., I just stick them in a box with a FREE sign on it. I’ve always gotten rid of eveything that way. Even stuff I would consider trash! It’s all part of the fun!

    • 10.1
      Laura says

      That’s a great point Deb. I would agree with that as long as like you say it is identified as such. Honesty is always the best policy and you never know what those talented crafters out there could turn into treasure that is for sure :)

  11. 11
    Bridget says

    My pet peeves are about signs, make your address the biggest part of the sign. I hate to drive past a sign on a busy road I can’t pull over on and only be able to read GARAGE SALE in big bold letters and then address is tiny. Then of course make the date big and when the sale is over take your sign down. It’s always such a disapointment when I see a sign but it’s from weeks ago! I also agree about putting pictures of the stuff for sale on Craiglists when listing your sale. Even if it’s a group shot of the stuff. I always like to look at those listings before anything else. :)

  12. 12
    Sarah L says

    Those first three are my biggest pet peeves too!!! I won’t stop if it’s just a table, or the top of the car with stuff, and I roll my eyes when I’m winding up around 11am with my kiddo, after the sales, and just THEN see people starting to put out signs, or pull a few things out of their garage. Or at the adds that sound great, then say the sale runs from 10am-2pm, no early birds. When we do a sale, I am up at 5am, so that we can start at 7am, and even then, working as fast as I can, I rarely have it all unboxed! And the piles!!! the piles!! Ok, a pile of clothes is ok to root through if you don’t want much, but for goodness sakes!! DONT LEAVE ALL YOUR STUFF IN BLACK TRASH BAGS AND EXPECT PEOPLE TO LOOK THROUGH IT!! Just plain awful, and nasty, cause you never know what’s going to grab your hand and poke it, or be the icky thing lurking inside.

  13. 13
    pamela says

    Oh, I could write a book. I have been holding sales for most of my adult life, and going to them too! I also organize my neighborhood’s (very successful!) annual street sale. I have a lot of pet peeves, but my biggest one is reading others ads who “SHOUT” in their ad about the early birds. I happen to LOVE the early birds! (although I’m not one of them :) ) Those are the people with money in their pockets, ready to spend. So what if it’s an hour or two before your stated time?! {In my ads I always say “friendly early birds always welcome”}

    As a saler, you have 3-5 minutes to capture someone’s attention to get them to spend money at your sale (and get rid of your wares!). Why ruin that with dirty, smelly, unprepared, unorganized displays of goods? If you’re selling clothes it’s easiest to price them one price. Organize by size (in bins). If there’s something that’s specifically worth more money, save it and sell it at a consignment store. {A garage sale should be your last place to get rid of items … consignment stores, craigslist -or ebay- will always command a higher dollar; think of garage sales as the last stop before an item is tossed or donated}.

    Pricing. If I see almost every item at a sale overpriced, I get discouraged and often will walk away, even if there’s something I’m “kinda” interested in. If I find a sale that has super cheap things, I usually buy a lot (even if it’s something I’m only “kinda” interested in). At my sales, I price things cheap and people spend a lot of time and money at my place because they know they’re getting a lot for their dollar. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

    • 13.1
      Laura says

      Well said!

  14. 14
    Martienne says

    I guess this must be peculiar to my area but I would never, never, never price something at what I considered a fair garage sale price because the hagglers are like piranhas if you do that. I always add around 33% to what I would pay for the item at someone else’s sale and there are still times I can’t sell something until I let them go down to 50% off the marked price.

    Honestly the haggling is the main thing I find exhausting (emotionally) about holding my own sales and is the main reason I haven’t done one in several years.

    • 14.1
      Martienne says

      Oops, forgot to finish my thought. Because of this I don’t mind when things are overpriced at other people’s sales–except for if they are adamant about sticking to the price marked. When I see infant clothes prices between $3 and $10 my immediate assumption is this person is expecting some mean haggling but those are usually the people least willing to be talked down.

  15. 15
    Steve Davidson says

    I used to be a garage sale junkie until I discovered estate sales, now I have a hard time going to garage sales….. I used to think that estate sales were over priced etc; but when I started going to some of them, I discovered that different dealers price differently. Some definitely price to retail, but some that I am following go 25% off after 2 pm on Saturday and 1/2 off on Sunday, and many take offers. So sometimes I make a ridiculous offer and end up with the item. For example, last month picked up an $800 leather swivel chair for $110.00 Beautiful chair, just no one else needed it I guess. Still not giving up on garage sales though, I also found a great industrial battery drill worth $175 for $20 at garage sale. Don’t judge a house by it’s size though, was in the “hood” looking for an estate sale and ran across a garage sale that had two great old iron garden benches….picked them both for $15, so you never know :)

  16. 16
    Steve Davidson says

    There may be a lot of comments on the blog pro and against pricing items, but one of my pet peeves at a garage sale is items NOT MARKED. Take a piece of tape people and mark the item, bin, or rack. There is nothing more frustrating than waiting 5 minutes on the Owner to give change for a quarter while wanting to buy an item worth $100 to find out it sold yesterday or is priced at $500 or she/he doesn’t know how much it is because it belongs to friend that is out of town.
    Take a lesson from retail folks, want to sell it? Put a price tag on it. And finally, don’t put a 50 cent price tag on a $1 dollar item, it sends a message that you think a garage sale is Rodeo Drive. (unless the garage sale is on Rodeo Drive, in which case call me)

  17. 18
    Kathy Strong says

    Awesome tips, thank you so much for posting!

  18. 19
    Karen @ Abundance on a Dime says

    I am a pretty hard-core garage sale shopper and go out most Saturdays during the season. I went to one this weekend that did just about everything wrong – stuff was not sorted or organized at all, there were just boxes of stuff that looked like they had been brought up straight from the basement after 20 years of storage. The boxes were all filled with totally unrelated items, some stuff was still wrapped in newspaper and you couldn’t even tell what it was unless you took the time to unwrap. No prices on anything, either.

    There are a couple of good things I have found about these kinds of sales, though:
    1. If you ARE willing to dig, you can find great things everyone else missed – I once got a fabulous pair of glass candlesticks b/c they were in the bottom of a box still wrapped in newspaper.
    2. Most of the time, these people will sell stuff SUPER cheap. When they can’t even make an attempt to organize it at all, they are usually beyond caring about the stuff anymore and will let it go for next to nothing.

    So even really poorly done sales have an up side :)

  19. 20
    Angel says

    Can someone please email suggestions of how to price toys, like a bin of toy cars, Action figures, Gi Joe and Army guys, legos, ETC. Is $1 per beanie-baby/stuffed animal too much?
    All sorted already but too many to price individually. Also, I’m having a hard time getting pictures because it’s all in the garage already but I had to shove it all together due to hail today and tomorrow. I only got 2 pictures of all the games and toys. PLEASE REPLY ASAP!!
    It’s pouring rain/high-wind the next 2 days so not sure how to keep any signage UP and Safe?
    Thank you.

    • 20.1
      Laura says

      Hi Angel, $1 for a stuffed animal is an okay price or you could always say 5 for $3.00 to encourage people to buy more. I like to package like items together in a ziplock bag and sell the pack for a certain price depending on what’s inside. You get rid of more that way. A great way to put signs up to keep them dry is to put the sign in a large ziplock bag and then staple it to the pole or board. Totally works!

      Hope that helps,

  20. 21
    bonnie says

    very nice!. I like to give out special items when they reach like a certain amount of purchase, to motivate them to buy more!. Also, the site I use to know sales near me is


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