Moving? A Garage Sale Helps You Declutter – and Make Money

Whether moving across town or relocating across the country, packing and transporting your belongings is tedious. Some people choose to move themselves while others search for the right moving company to do the heavy lifting. The more “stuff” you have, the more onerous the process, but having a garage sale – in some regions they’re called yard sales – can help lighten your load while adding bulk to your wallet.

While having a successful garage sale is not as simple as dragging the unwanted items outside and raking in the money, a well-planned sale can help you reach your goals. Following are some steps you should take to maximize your return – though don’t allow returns on merchandise!

Check local ordinances on a garage sale

Many cities require sellers to get permits or have other specific requirements. What are the rules for a garage sale?

  • Miami-Dade: No permit required.
  • Dallas: The first permit is free, and the second permit is $25; signs can be placed on up to five other private properties (assuming you have permission) but not on public property or utility poles. Within 24 hours after the sale, all signs must be taken down.
  • Chicago: The permits are free; signs advertising the sale can only be posted on the site of the sale, and fines for not having a permit range from $50 to $500.
  • Pasadena: A permit is $21, only one on-site sign is permitted, and items for sale cannot be displayed in the front yard or on the side of the yard if the house is on a corner lot.

The above list shows how the rules can vary – be sure to check the specifics of your area before scheduling a sale.

Research dates and locations

Judy Woodward Bates, known as The Bargainomics Lady, recommends checking local event calendars before deciding on a date. She tells MYMOVE, “You don’t want your sale to coincide with a major event in your area.”

Bates also says it’s important to choose a prime location for the sale. “If you’re in an out-of-the-way place, consider renting space or asking a friend to combine his/her garage sale with yours and use the other person’s more visible location.”

Be sure to promote the sale

Getting the word out helps to increase your chances of success. Garage Sale Finder and Garage Sale Tracker are just two of the apps that allow you to list your garage sale online. Also, consider creating a Facebook Fan Page to advertise the event, and/or post the upcoming sale on Craigslist.

Regardless of the methods you use, be sure to list your specific address (as opposed to your subdivision or just the street address). And believe it or not, sellers routinely forget to include the date and the start and end time. These are all vital bits of information, but don’t be surprised if customers start to show up well before your start time.

Appearance is everything

Appearance is especially important when trying to persuade someone to purchase your used goods. Bates recommends hanging clothes or making sure they’re neatly folded, and she says everything should be organized. “A neat sale looks like quality; a messy setup looks like a junk sale and will turn a lot of shoppers off before they ever get out of their vehicles,” Bates warns. “And don’t do the tarp-on-the-ground thing; I’ve seen yard sales where it looks like they dumped everything onto a tarp and put it on the ground for people to look through.”

Instead, Bates recommends thinking like a shop owner. “The nicer your displays, the more likely the items will sell and you’ll get your asking prices,” she says.

Cindy Scott, a money-saving expert who blogs at Smart Family Money, also believes that appearance is important, and she tells MYMOVE that everything should be clean and presentable. “Wipe down toys and household items with a wet cloth.” And she recommends using a steamer or iron on the clothes. “A few minutes spent cleaning/ironing can mean much higher profits on the sale,” Scott says.

She echoes the recommendation by Bates to hang clothes. Why? “It’s much easier for customers to look through hanging racks than boxes or piles on tables,” Scott explains.

Price to sell – and negotiate

Yes, you want to make some money. But remember that you also want to lighten your load, so Scott recommends pricing your items to sell. “You’re much better off getting $2 for something than pricing it at $5 and getting nothing.” And she says sellers should be open to negotiating. “Many garage sale shoppers expect some haggling, so don’t be offended.” Instead, Scott recommends working toward a price that is satisfactory to both parties.

An important part of pricing to sell is making everything as convenient as possible for buyers. According to Bates, this includes making sure that everything has a clearly visible price. She warns, “Many garage sale shoppers are totally turned off by having to ask the price on every item they pick up.”

In addition, as Kenny Rogers would say, “You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.” In other words, sometimes your negotiating strategies will only get you so far. “Prepare a 50% off sign and put it out on the street a few hours before you plan to end your sale,” Bates recommends.” Half is better than being stuck with what you were trying to get rid of.”

One place to hold firm on price: Furniture. The majority of early bird garage sale shoppers are looking for furniture. You can stand your price ground more with them, though it’s a good idea to ease that stance as the sale progresses.

Better safe than sorry

Being prepared means that you expect the best, but you also plan for the worst, and this involves thinking about security and safety aspects of the sale.

“If you make a lot of money, stash the majority in a safe place and keep only a small amount visible whenever you’re making change for a shopper,” Bates advises. “Also, keep your cell phone and car key handy so you can hit the alarm button should there be an attempted robbery or any unwanted behavior from a shopper.”

Virtual yard sales

If you’re not up to the challenge of having a physical sale, there’s another way to sell your goods. Yardsale and Varage Sale are just some of the many apps that provide virtual yard/garage sales. Some people have even used Facebook and Instagram to sell unwanted goods.

However, there are some roadblocks. You’ll need to decide if you want people to buy or bid on your items, which party will pay for shipping, and how you will receive payments (sites like PayPal provide a convenient way to transfer funds).


Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of _USA Today Special Edition._ Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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