How to make bank with yard sales

By on Apr 2nd

My husband and I are getting ready to move into a smaller space with our son — right now we're renting a house, but are going back to an apartment soon. This is all part of a bigger plan to downsize our living space and therefore our possessions, and it's one that we're really excited about.

Prior to this house we'd never lived in a house together (mostly apartments, and for a few months a janky-ass trailer in the country on his mom's property), and neither of us had experienced the singular anxiety and crazy that comes with hosting a yard sale.

Here's what we learned:

Publicize the sale!

We really put a lot of time and energy into publicity… or not. We lucked out: our state has a handy-dandy website that lets you list yard and estate sales for $5. The listings are live for four days, which is a perfect amount of time if you're only having a sale for a weekend. We also got all old-fashioned and made posters to put on the side of the road, complete with arrows directing people to our house.

Price everything ahead of time or don't worry about it at all

We decided to wing the whole pricing things issue — how do you really put a price on stuff you're trying to sell? We knew we couldn't expect to get a lot for ANYTHING ($50 tricycle? Went for $5. $75 bookshelf? Sold for $10.), so we didn't want to set ourselves up for disappointment.

Having said that: even if you don't put price tags ON stuff, it's good to have a general guideline in mind in case your yard sale gets super busy. Unless you just like making stuff up off the top of your head.

People will show up super early, super late, or both.

Our sale started at 8am… and no one showed up until 9. We spent the first hour alternating between staring out the window and then at all of our crap that we were doomed to walk the earth with forever… and then people showed up! In huge herds! And we could barely catch our breath. A friend of mine told me that whenever she has yard sales people come two hours early, so basically: there's no way to predict it. Just know that you're temporarily opening your garage or driveway up to a bunch of strangers that want to buy your stuff.

Be prepared to sell awesome things for really, really cheap

I've worked at booths in flea markets off and on in my time, so I'm no stranger to people who like to haggle. The most noticeable difference between people at flea markets and people at a yard sale is that at yard sale people know they have power: these aren't goods or services being sold — it's old shit that the host doesn't want anymore. THEREFORE, people can, and will, work you down to the lowest possible price. We were selling stuffed animals for 50 cents (and some of these were $10-20 stuffed animals, you guys), and nearly every person who inquired asked if we'd consider 25… just because. We even had a FREE pile and people asked if they could get other stuff for free.

But it's also good to know when something is worth more

Having said that, it's also important to point out that sometimes something you're selling really IS worth more than what someone wants to pay. I've spent a lot of my time (probably too much) collecting vintage clothing for my son and I. While I typically don't spend more than $20 on a piece, I totally balked when someone wanted to give me a quarter for a dress from the '70s that's in perfect condition. I decided to pull out our vintage clothes and sell them on Etsy instead.

PS: Yard sales and Estate sales are VERY DIFFERENT

I don't want to spend a ton of time on this, but don't tell someone you're having an estate sale unless you really are. We didn't make this mistake, but I've heard of it happening from avid estate sale attendees and they get pissed.

What are YOUR tips for throwing a great yard sale?