Last summer, an experienced garage sale friend of mine invited me to bring some old baby items to a sale. An afternoon watching her unload inventory and fill the till taught me a ton about effective presentation, dealing with customers, how to be a good negotiator, and, of course, the critical importance of coming up with the right price for each item.
Pricing Garage Sale Items
Almost every part of the garage sale process comes down to pricing. It’s why people drive for miles each Saturday morning, scouring neighborhoods for the best deals. So while there are plenty of ways to make your garage sale more appealing – attractive signage, ample parking – the price tag is sure to have the biggest impact on how it fares. Clear pricing, plenty of room for haggling, and being ready to strike a deal can mean the difference between clearing out your inventory and hauling all your old stuff back up to the attic.
Here are some pricing tips straight from a garage sale guru:
1. Start With the One-Third Rule
When you dust off that old stuff that hasn’t been seen or used in years, you might feel like it has value when someone shows an interest in it. So while you do want to get rid of your old things, you want to be compensated fairly for them. The general rule of thumb when you start pricing items for a garage sale is to go for one-third of their full price. That means that if you paid $100 for a coffeemaker, price it around $30. While this rule might not work for absolutely everything you hope to sell, it’s a good starting point.
2. Do Some Research
Garage sale pricing depends heavily on geographic location. Some buyers are willing to head into a higher-end neighborhood and shell out a little more for quality items, while others are strictly bargain hunters. Several weekends before your scheduled sale, drive around your neighborhood and take note of how other sellers are pricing items similar to yours. If your prices come in too high, you might get ditched for lower-priced garage sales in the same area.
3. Price Slightly High
If you have an exact figure in mind for an item, you might be disappointed when a savvy buyer offers you well below what you’d hoped to get. That’s why veteran sellers know that you should always price an item a couple of dollars higher than what you really want for it. That way, when a buyer makes a low offer, you can come down to your desired price point and make a deal. The buyer gets a “bargain” and you don’t feel like you just gave away your favorite lamp for a song.
4. Display Prices Clearly
A great way to discourage potential buyers is to make them ask for the price on every single item. Clear pricing on your various treasures is an absolute must, and it doesn’t take a lot of time or money – a marker and a pack of circular stickers from the dollar store can make quick work of labeling. If you have a group of identical items, such as books or coffee cups, post a sign that states how much each one is. Garage sale buyers are looking for deals – if they can’t find them on first glance, they may go elsewhere.
5. Consider Lot Pricing
Books, CDs, kids’ clothes, toy sets – there’s a good chance you have more than just one of each type of item. Therefore, if you have a ton of old CDs or paperback books to sell, consider a lot price. Buyers love the idea of getting more for their money, so try advertising CDs at $1 each, or offering to sell six for $5. The prospect of getting a little more for their dollar could sway potential buyers and help you unload a lot of inventory quickly.
6. Prepare to Lower Prices
Most garage sales see their action early and in the middle of the morning, as experienced bargain hunters know that this offers the best chance for awesome deals and inventory. As the day goes on, you should expect to see fewer buyers, especially after lunchtime and into the later afternoon. Make sure that when buyers start to slow, you’re prepared to drop some of your prices – it could help ensure that you get rid of that leftover stuff. While you might not be keen on the idea, just ask yourself whether it’s better to get $5 for that dish set, or nothing at all.
7. Keep a Freebie Box
Who doesn’t love something for free? You might have some items around the house that aren’t fit to sell, but you definitely want to get rid of. Label a big box “Free” and point customers in its direction. Fast food meal toys for kids and items that might be slightly damaged are perfect candidates for the freebie box, and it works great as a marketing tactic too. Buyers aren’t likely to fish something out of the freebie box and just walk away – there’s a good chance they’re going to look for something to buy along with it.
8. Consider Teaming Up
If you don’t have enough items to really catch the attention of buyers, talk to a friend and team up. Not only can you share sales duties, but if one of you is more of a natural-born haggler, the other one can take over making change. If you’re worried about tracking items between the two of you, try pricing items with a specific color sticker for each seller (you’re pink and she’s green, for example). When an item sells, remove the sticker and affix it to a sheet of paper, writing the actual amount it sold for next to it. At the end of the sale, you can tally up how much the pink stickers brought in and how much the green stickers got and then split the money accordingly.
While pricing is the best way to lure prospective buyers to your sale, the second most important aspect is presentation. There’s a huge difference between a garage sale in which items are thrown carelessly in boxes and scattered on the lawn, and one in which everything is easy to see and super accessible.
There are a number of ways to properly present your items to get the most out of each one:
- Display Your Items Well. If you’re selling a full set of dishes, present an entire place setting, complete with napkin and flatware, and then stash the rest in a box. Buyers are going to see that you care for your items, as well as how they all go together, which gives you a better shot at selling the dishes as a set.
- Dust Items. Even if you haven’t used something in years and it has been stored carefully, dust can mar the appearance of an otherwise great find. By touching everything up with a quick swish of a dusting cloth, your wares can look a lot more appealing.
- Mark Flaws. Don’t try to pull a fast one – garage sale buyers are a savvy lot. If there’s a flaw in an item, such as chipped paint, a crack, or a nonworking component, mark the flaw with a label and then price it accordingly. You may be surprised – while you might not see much value in a broken lamp, a buyer might see a great DIY project.
- Market to Men, Sell to Women. If you want to reel in customers, place male-related purchases out near the road. Women are usually more interested in garage sales than men, but if they see a drill or a set of golf clubs displayed prominently, men might be more willing to pull over and let their wives start the bidding.
- Decide What to Do With Leftovers. Are you going to haul them back to your basement, or are you prepared to donate items to charity instead? At the end of the day, you’re going to be tired, so make sure you know who’s going to help you clean up when the sale ends, and decide where all unsold items are going next.
I learned a lot through my garage sale experience, and luckily, I had a great teacher. The bottom line is that garage sales are much more of an art than a science. Some days you’re going to have amazing results, and other days you may barely get a bite. The trick is to always look at the bright side and remember that if nothing else, you finally cleared out some space in your home, and that’s always a plus.
How do you get the most out of your garage sale items?