garage of stuff

#5 – Holding Your Own Sale

by on June 30, 2016 at 7:40 pm

There are so many names for these: moving sale, estate sale, tag sale, garage sale, yard sale, they are frequently used interchangeably. They have slightly different meanings depending how and why you’re having the sale, or depending what part of the country you live in, but the concept is generally the same. You are selling items from your house to strangers, for whatever the reason.

Whether to have the sale inside or outside? This is a big decision with several parameters to think about. Are the items you’re selling capable of being put out in a driveway or yard or is there “just too much”? Is there enough room outside? Do you have enough manpower to help you move large items? Do you have enough manpower to monitor all the rooms in the house if you have the sale inside? I’m mentioning this because unfortunately people will try to steal things if rooms are left unattended. Here are some of my general guidelines:

If you choose inside:

  1. Allow only one exit/entrance, and have a person stationed there for the duration of the sale. This could be your cashier area. Many sellers set up a table and chair for the cashier. The idea is that you don’t want people exiting with items from parts of the house you’re not monitoring. If you’re a Treasurebee member, please remember to set up your payment account with Stripe, in advance of your sale event.  
  2. Use friends and family to help you keep an eye on things. Don’t do it alone.
  3. If there are areas of the house not open to the public for the sale, they should be carefully closed off and locked. A simple sign will not deter a crazed mob of dealers hunting for valuables at an estate sale. Carefully protect any valuables not for sale (take them off premises if necessary).
  4. Set up tables to display the items for sale to the extent possible. Use anything including existing furniture for displaying small items. The kitchen table, the couch, side tables and end tables all work for merchandising. Put out as much as you can.
  5. Pre-sell larger items prior to the sale. You can advertise on Treasurebee, that you’re having a pre-sale for a limited number of items. This might get you a few bites from interested local customers, on the Thursday or Friday before the sale.
  6. Keep the cash on you. Not in a box on a table. As the cash you receive increases during the day, you may want to discretely hand off some of it to a friend or place it securely somewhere, so you’re not carrying a giant wad of cash.

If you choose outside:

  1. Same as #1 above. Have your cashier in an area where you can watch everyone coming and going. Try to have a main entrance/exit area.
  2. Clear the yard of any hazards and cover up sprinkler heads so no one gets injured (and so the sprinkler heads aren’t damaged). If there are holes or indentations in your yard they should be filled in or covered.     
  3. Use friends and family to help you keep an eye on things. Don’t do it alone.
  4. Manage the crowd flow. Use tables and furniture and whatever you have to create a pathway for customers. I’ve used rope, furniture, bookshelves etc. to direct the crowd flow the way I want. You also have to keep an eye on the merchandise, so make sure you have a good perspective of all areas where items are being displayed.
  5. Take a cooler and water out for you and your helpers (and for shoppers if you’re in a hot climate). You don’t want to go inside when customers are shopping. Beware of customers you don’t know asking to use your bathroom or for you to go inside to get them some water. Your bathroom is not public, and you can tell people just that.
  6. In case of rain, have a few tarps or plastic sheeting available to cover any tables or items on the ground.
  7. Keep the cash on you. Not in a box on a table. As the cash you receive increases during the day, you may want to discretely hand off some of it to a friend or place it securely somewhere, so you’re not carrying a giant wad of cash.

Preparation. If you’ve done this before, you know the amount of effort it takes to hold your own garage sale. The better prepared you are the better the sale will run, and the more money you’ll make. Here are a few things I do in preparation:

  1. Research the appropriate prices for as many things as you can. This means spending several hours (minimum) on eBay or other marketplaces prior to the sale, trying to determine a range of prices for similar or comparable items. It will be worth the work. If you receive low offers you’ll be able to negotiate confidently because you’re aware of the price ranges that your items will reasonably sell for.
  2. Make sure items are clean to the extent possible. Clean dust free items will result in higher prices. Since condition is everything to many collectors, dealers and resellers, the perception of an item being in clean good condition is valuable sometimes. However, use common sense…be careful not to eliminate any natural patina or destroy a finish by using the wrong type of cleaner. Test the cleaner if you are concerned about how it will effect a finish, on a small non-visible section of the item being cleaned. Remember that many antiques can simply be dusted lightly, to prepare them for sale. Do some online research on the material being cleaned, before you apply any abrasives or cleaning chemicals.
  3. If you have bags or boxes for customers, it’s a convenience for them.
  4. Have tape, rope, a dolly and a few basic tools to help customers. You may just persuade a customer to buy an item that they might not have bought ordinarily. For example, if you can help a customer break down a table with a ratchet to make the sale (so the table fits in her car), why wouldn’t you?
  5. Make donations to friends, family, neighbors and charities. If there are items you’re concerned about selling or are too big to move, you can gift them away prior to the sale to create space.

Preview and Presale. If you have time available on the days prior to the sale, previews to dealers may be a good way to rid yourself of some of the inventory. Dealers generally have cash to make purchases, and may want to buy in bulk (for example, every piece of furniture or every piece of China, or every book). If you can make yourself available for preview and presale, you may have less stress to deal with on the actual sale days. Always have a friend or helper available when you invite someone into the house.

Advertising. There are numerous online destinations to advertise your sale but don’t forget the good old-fashioned way. Create a series of simply and clearly marked signs and place them around your local neighborhood to draw in drive by customers.  Signs should be simple, bright and placed strategically. It should in big bold letters state the sale type, time and address of the sale (ex: Garage Sale, 6am, 222 Main). Arrows are the best to show directions. Sometimes a simple large arrow will entice customers to investigate. From my experience, most garage sale signs are not clear, not large enough to read from a passing car, and are not placed in prominent locations likely to be seen by drivers. If placing signs on the public sidewalk or private property is not allowed, you may be able to park your car and place your signs on your car as an alternative.

Treasurebee is your own personal sales channel. Now you can hold your own live sale whether you’re having a family garage sale, an estate sale or you’re at your regular place of business.  With Treasurebee, everyone has a sales platform similar to a QVC® or Home Shopping Club® except it’s your own.

Treasurebee welcomes collectors, buyers, and sellers of all kinds. We hope your membership results in more finds, more fun, more expertise, more connections, more pieces for your collection, more revenue and more value than your typical source or marketplace.

By Jeff Rosen



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