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Get Set for Yard Sale Season: Bargains, Buying, Selling and More!

yardsale_1Setting up a yard or garage sale is hard work, but if it’s done right it can pay off twofold: you can have a clutter-free house and make some fast cash.

Susan Barringer of Lynchburg knows how to do it right. That’s because she’s been going to yard sales every weekend since she was a child. On Saturdays, while most people are sleeping in, she is up mapping out her yard sale route. She even makes yard sales a part of her vacation.

“I bought a hot tub at the beach one time, rented a U-Haul to bring it home,” she says.

All those weekends of shopping in strangers’ yards and garages have made her an expert on setting up a successful yard sale — she does her own once a year. Follow these tips to make your next yard sale the talk of the neighborhood.

yardsale_3Clean sweep
Barringer has shared her bargain-hunting passion with her daughter, Jennifer Harris, who has furnished her home with many yard sale purchases. Harris says the first step to planning a yard sale is setting aside an area of your home where you can place unwanted items all year long. She reserves a corner of her basement. “That way I don’t even have to go through anything when I have a yard sale, I can just haul it out there all at once,” she says. She even prices items as she goes. Another tip is to keep a box or bag beside your washer and dryer to collect clothes. If you really want to make a dent in your clutter, Barringer advises setting a goal of gathering 10 items a day in a well-marked “Yard Sale” box. “Go from room to room and fill that box,” she says.

Location, location
Stores in prime commercial spots do better business, so it’s obvious that yard sales in well-traveled areas will be more successful. For this reason, sometimes it’s better to have your yard sale in someone else’s yard – partner with a neighbor or a family member who lives nearer to a main road, where signs can get drivers’ attention. Barringer says her first stops are often “multi-family” yard sales, where she knows there will be a variety of items. “Bulk is what they look for,” she says. (If you only have a few items, it’s better to join up with another family or list items for sale on eBay or Craigslist.) Street and neighborhood yard sales are always a draw, Barringer says. When coordinating these, make sure you give neighbors enough notice – at least a month.

Time it right
While people have sales all year long, most of them start in late March, as the weather gets warmer. The best time to have a yard sale, according to Barringer, is the first week of the month– when most people have gotten their paycheck. A one-day Saturday sale is more economical. Friday sales don’t attract as many people because of full-time jobs, and fewer people tend to go on Sundays because they think most things have already been picked through. The typical time is 7 a.m. – noon.

yardsale_5Here’s your sign
Advertising is a must. While you can always take out a classified ad in the newspaper (which can cost up to $40), the right signs and a well-written post on Craigslist can get the word out just as well. Barringer checks Craigslist every week. She says the posts that list specific items, whether it’s baby clothes, household items, or furniture, help her better decide where to go. Signs along the road are important, she says. A good sign will have keywords (“Huge,” “Gigantic,” “Multi-family”) followed by the street address. A sign that says “Moving Sale” always gets Barringer’s attention. Placing large, multiple, identical signs along the route are helpful, especially ones with arrows. Make sure signs are readable from the road and from either direction.

Setting up shop
To prepare for the big day, do all your pricing the week before. Pre-printed stickers work best, Barringer says. And if you don’t have time to price items, at least know them in your head. Do some research on eBay if you don’t know the value of antiques or collectibles. At least one day before the sale, go to the bank and get plenty of change, in $1 bills and quarters. “Most things are easier if you price in this range and make change this way,” Barringer says. She recommends having 50 $1 bills on hand and a roll of quarters. You may choose to set out your items the night before, but know there may be some nosey neighbors and passersby who want a sneak peek. Since your goal is to get rid of stuff, be willing to sell it right there. “One time we made $60 on a Friday night even before the yard sale,” Barringer says.

Yard sales are about visibility. Though garage sales are good for any weather, it is better to set your items out in the yard if you can – even if you have to use sheets and tarps to lay them out on. And don’t make your customers do the rummaging themselves. “The more that is out of boxes and bags, the more will sell,” Harris says. Organize your items in categories: books on one table, toys and baby items on another. A good, organized sale keeps your customers browsing even longer. If you’re selling appliances, make sure to have an extension cord nearby so customers can check to see if they work, and put half-used batteries in smaller appliances. And don’t count out selling larger items. The effort you put into placing them in your yard can pay off. Barringer has bought a stove, a reclining sofa and even a motorcycle at yard sales.

yardsale_4Let it go
Charging the right price can be a challenge. If you’re like Harris, who remembers making her first bargain on a Cabbage Patch doll when she was 5, there is always room for negotiation. Know your top selling price, but also keep in mind that you want the items to find a new home. “Your real goal is not to have a lot left over you have to get rid of,” Barringer says. While you want to make money to make it all worth it, try not to focus on the profit. “Anything you make is icing [on the cake],” Harris says, but the ultimate payoff is a cleaner, clutter-free home. Keep in mind the age of your item, too. Even though you may have paid top-dollar 10 years ago, it doesn’t mean you can get a good price on it today. Items may be out of style or simply aren’t in demand anymore. (This is also why it’s a good idea to have annual yard sales, rather than waiting to accumulate a lot over many years). Toward the end of a sale, discount prices or even start giving items away. “Within the last hour, whatever anyone offers is a ‘yes,’” Barringer says.

Other Tips
Save plastic grocery bags to help customers bag multiple items. Toward the end of the sale, let customers fill a bag (within reason) for a set price. Label your items with your suggested price. Once your sale is over, you’re bound to be left with a few items you may not want to drag back in the house. Consider boxing up the remaining items and donating to a local shelter, the DAV or Goodwill.

If you’re more interested in being a shopper rather than a seller, make a list of items you’re looking for and research upcoming sales to map out where to go. Instead of collecting items that you don’t need, make a point to search for the things of interest or collector’s items.

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