“A garage sale is a fun, family type thing—cleaning your house of unwanted items, earning money, and getting to meet different people, including neighbors you haven’t seen before, people who live a block away that I never knew. You talk to people one on one,” says Gene, a long-time Santa Claran. Gene and Vicky, his wife, who have a neighborhood garage sale about every three years, are a best case scenario.
“I knew our sale was going to be a success when I got a dozen or so early phone calls in response to my ads on Craig’s List. Then I knew I’d do well.” In fact, the couple sold a number of better items a day or two before the garage sale even began.
Gene got up at 4 a.m. the first day of the weekend sale to place sturdy signs around the neighborhood. The first customer arrived at 5:30 a.m., well before the scheduled 8 a.m. start.
“It was exhausting. It was nonstop all day Saturday. Things slowed down Sunday,” he says. “Prepare for a traffic jam.”
In two days, the couple sold everything from a set of out-of-date shop manuals for $30 and five bicycles—including an adult trike for $200 and a kid’s bike for $10—to a non-working TV for $10 and two electric saws for $40. Their grandkids even did well selling their old toys and clothes.
“You need to be willing to haggle about price. Negotiate sounds better but it’s haggling,” says Gene.
“It’s enjoyable, but it’s a lot of work both before and after because you go around the house and gather things up and pretty soon you’ve got piles and piles of stuff in your garage,” says Gene.
Then comes the cleanup after it’s all over. The week after their garage sale, Gene loaded his pickup with leftover items and dropped them off at the Salvation Army donation truck. Then he finally had room to pull his car in the garage.
Exactly how much did the couple make from their garage sale? More than they ever imagined, and they want to leave it at that. It was well worth the effort, and they would do it again.
Gene and Vicky’s tips for a successful garage sale:
- Advertising is important. Make big, strategically placed signs using florescent colored poster paper. Don’t date the signs. That way you can use them over again. Police up after yourself, picking up all the signs each evening.
- Advertise on sites such as Craig’s List. Use catchy titles. For example, “Gotta Go Garage Sale” and “Help Me Clean Out My Garage Sale.& List items individually and under more than one category. Include photos to give people an idea.
- Get lots of help from family and friends. And remember that you have to feed them.
- Be honest about the functionality of items. Don’t misrepresent something.
- Most of all, says Gene, “Keep a sense of humor. Don’t get up tight. It’s just a garage sale. Crack jokes to put people in a good mood.”