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Having A Successful Garage Sale

It is time for a tag sale when you can't get into the garage anymore, too much "stuff" becomes a common point of issue with your spouse, or you are planning a move or redoing a room, says Home & Garden TV's "Trash to Treasure" host Robb Whittlef.

He visits The Early Show on Friday do share some tips on how to present and price sale items.

What to sell:
Anything can be sold - from clothing and toys to old doors and kitchen hardware. And what you think is junk could be worth some money. So here are Whittlef's tips on maximizing your returns:

  • Look for labels - research similar items on e-Bay or the Internet
  • Clean the items up- if coated in grease it may bring $.25, but if quickly cleaned, $5.00.
  • Get a can of paint or use something you have and freshen up wood items/furniture that have damaged finishes.
  • Take a swing through some popular "gift stores" and antique stores in your area. You may see things that resemble the items you want to sell. That will give you a lead on possible buyers as well as tell you what a fiar selling price might be.
  • Know big sellers such as: baseball cards, lawn mowers, camping articles, guns, tools, coins, old books, comic books (old and new), aprons, old-fashioned bonnets, salt and pepper shakers, needlework, jewelry and dishes. And know trendy items like, cigar boxes and vintage bottles.
  • That said, Whittlef emphasizes, don't sell bottles filled with potentially harmful old chemicals, items with broken glass, or anything that could be improperly used - like an old crib with wide slats.

When to sell:
Unless you have a lot of items, a three-day sale is too long. A normal garage sale can be planned for Friday and Saturday. Market each day independently on pieces for sale, which will have buyers excited about assortment. They want to feel as though are getting the best selections and the second day of a sale will turn off some buyers.

Also, check out the competition. Ask neighborhood associations if there are other local sales. You may consider combining sales with those of neighbors. Find out if there are bigger garage sales at the time of yours. For example, local churches and charities often host large, community-wide sales. Make sure there is a minimum amount of competition on the day of your garage sale.

Marketing Tips:
Now it's time to get the word out. Here are some suggestions that make marketing your garage sale most effective:

  1. Place ads in local newspapers and circulars – If you have not written an ad before, here are some tips:

    Write quick-read, concise ads
    Write when, where and what
    Note key items such as antiques, toys or furniture

  2. Do not give your address. If you are concerned about advertising your address, Whittlef suggests that you reference general block numbers and not your exact house number to prevent people from coming to your home days in advance or at pre-sale hours. Your signage will direct them to exact the sale location.
  3. Advertise on the Internet. Many newspapers will offer this service for free if you buy an ad.
  4. Run ads in local "shoppers" (Pennysaver-type publications) at least two days in advance of the sale.
  5. Post "For Sale" signs. Make large signs for your front yard and street corners. To make it more interesting, cut out two letters of the word "sale," put them on wire/wood stakes, and place them in your yard.
  6. Keep your signage bold and bright, but readable. Avoid fluorescent markers that most people cannot read, and make letters at least 2-3" tall at a minimum. Black ink works well for information and colored markers for gaining general attention to signs.

    Also do not put too much information on a sign. Just include all pertinent information about the sale including: address, dates, times, items sold, and directions.

  7. Invite friends, neighbors, family members, church members, sports teams, or parents of your childrens' playmates. Combining sales will not only increase offerings, but will increase the network of people attending and potential buyers. Plus, sharing the garage sale with friends or neighbors can minimize the cost of placing ads.

Expect buyers to bargain - Once the item is out of the house, price it so that it does not come back in - at a minimum of 50 percent off the original price, more likely 75 percent off. Buyers like to haggle and are looking for a bargain, so plan to give 10 to 20 percent off your tagged price to a buyer, so build that back into your initial price. Mark down items clearly with a red slash through your original sales price.

Mark all items clearly - Use different colored tags to denote different owners of products just in case there is a buyer with a question. It also makes collecting the money easier. And use tags that will not damage sale item.

Think about handling money - Make a decision in advance if you will accept checks from people you do not know and post a sign if you're not accepting checks.

Keep you cash box in a safe location and remove money throughout the day and place it in a secured area. Get small denominations and coins.

Presentation tips:

  • Group items into areas such as toys, household, vintage etc. This allows for easy shopping experience and adds to the perceived value of the items
  • Place furniture near the entrance to the sale - items of scale will draw people in
  • Group by color; for example, place white items together
  • Vary displays from high to low. Do not keep everything at the same level. Moving the eyes up and down will keep buyers focused
  • Plug in any lighting fixtures you might be selling, if possible
  • Have music playing at the sale - Fun, upbeat styles from jazz and funk to old disco set a great tone for your customers
  • Consider accessibility - organize sale items in a neat and orderly way. Leave space for people to walk.
  • Show how it works. If some items are damaged or incomplete, show people how things could work together. Display mix/match sets of china with flatware and glassware. Clearly mark any damaged items. Label "as is," if you're unsure of how well an item works.
  • Hang items of clothing from a rack or tightly secured line to make them more visible and accessible.
  • Anticipate having to do demonstrations. In terms of electronics, have batteries on-hand and electrical sockets nearby to show how things work. Also, include manuals if available. If you don't still have the instructions, check the Internet, which may have some manuals for the bigger name-brands' products.
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