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Garage Sales...

Easy and potentially lucrative

by Julian Edgar

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It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? You sell a lot of bits and pieces cluttering up your shed and home. In return you are given cash in hand, and it’s all done by spending a painless day – or even only half a day - helping people cart away your junk! Holding a garage sale is a great way of getting rid of all those car and mechanical bits and pieces that we seem to accumulate.

So how do you make it a success?


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The area where you hold the garage sale must be clean, neat and well lit. If the weather permits, hold it outside. If it has to be under cover, think about how the area looks to customers. No-one is going to happily walk into a dark place covered in dirt, cigarette butts and cobwebs.

In fact, how you arrange the entrance to the garage sale is vital if you are to part people from their money. You want the area welcoming, friendly and positive. When you are setting up, frequently walk back down the entrance path and see how it all looks from the perspective of an arriving potential buyer.

Having a radio playing is a good idea as it covers any awkward silences.


Advertising in local papers is usually worth it, but you really need to weigh up the cost-/benefit of advertising in a state-wide publication. Usually, you’ll pay more than you’ll get back in the shape of extra customers.

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However, signs are an excellent way of advertising a garage sale – and leading people to it.

Many people make fancy signs that are hard to read at a glance from a passing car. You need to keep the signs clear, effective - and cheap. Remember, every dollar that you spend setting up for the sale is taken straight out of your profits. Cheap signs can be made from offcuts of building cladding or even plasterboard. The sign shown here has done duty for a number of years’ worth of sales.

Place the signs at the nearest major road and then use more signs to lead the customers to your house. Using bold arrows (including vertical arrows for ‘straight ahead’) works well. Check the signs during the day; it’s not unusual for smart-arses to change their orientation.


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There are garage sales and then there are garage sales!! Some people don’t label their items, don’t price their items, don’t clean their items - and don’t sell many items! Make sure that everything is scrupulously clean. Anything which is old should be labelled “antique”, “collectors’ item” or “interesting” - or all three!

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If the item is at all hard to identify at a glance, make a sign that tells people what it is. You’ll be amazed how much difference this makes to the likelihood of the item walking out the door... That’s especially the case with car parts, where it takes an expert to identify make and model.

Adding after the price the words “the pair”, “the lot”, or “the set” is also encouraging.

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Here ‘like’ items were placed together. This encourages people to say “I’ll take the lot for 15 bucks” and similar lines.

Lay out your goods carefully. Small items should go at the front, graduating to larger items (especially those that need support) at the back. As sales occur, always move the items around so that the tables seem constantly full. Stick the signs down with Blu-Tac or a similar adhesive, otherwise the wind or inquisitive children will move them. Always remember to remove the signs as people buy the goods.

Price Range

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It’s worth putting out expensive items. Some (rich!) people walk around with $400-500 in their wallets, and you only need one such person who proves to have a burning desire to buy what you’re selling. With young, good condition and expensive items, always also list a (truthful!) new price. If the product is in the original packaging and complete with an original price tag, so much the better. But make sure that you have a good reason for selling the item, ready to trot out when the cynical customer asks why you’re getting rid of it!

However, most items that you’ll sell will be at the cheaper end of the scale and so these must make up the majority of the goods on offer.

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Don’t set prices too high. If some customers say “Your prices are good but I just don’t want anything that you’re selling” you know that you’re on the right track. If prices are too high, about half way through the sale start reducing them. Cross out the original price and place the new price next to it – that way people are encouraged to think they’re getting a bargain.

Most people will expect to be able to make offers – for example, saying on a $20 item that they’ll pay $15. Don’t be insulted by ridiculously low offers – just say that the person is welcome to come back at 4pm (or whenever the sale finishes) and see if you still have the item. Expect to knock off about 20 per cent for those who bargain – so price accordingly.


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So what can you sell at a garage sale? Anything that’s legal, that’s what! However, a sale that has items to interest every single person who walks in off the street will be much more successful that one that interests only a few.

Get everyone in your family (and extended family and friends) to contribute items for sale. But if you are selling on behalf of someone else, you must get a clear idea of the prices that they expect.


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About half of my items sold at this single Saturday morning (7 am – 12 noon) sale. My wife did much better – she sold probably three-quarters of her stuff. The total customer count was about 80 and the sales figure was $400. That makes a few hours of preparation the night before, and the half-day of the sale itself, well worth it!

Versus eBay...

Garage sales used to be one of the few ways of privately selling stuff cheaply and to a range of customers. But of course, now there’s eBay..

Compared with eBay, with a garage sale you’ll generally:

- get lower prices

- be less likely to sell a specific item


- there’s less hassle – no packing, no photographing, no listing

- you get the money straightaway

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