When Aaron LaPedis was seven years old, his mother left him to tend to the family’s garage sale while she made lunch.
Seeing the sale was going well — and being the eager young entrepreneur he was — he grabbed end tables, lamps and anything else he could carry from the living room and put those items out for sale as well.
A day later, his mother noticed half her living room was missing. She must not have cared for too long, though, because soon garage sales would turn into a profitable enterprise for LaPedis.
By the time he was 25, he had made $1 million flipping items he purchased at garage sales. He also wrote a book called “The Garage Sale Millionaire.”
How to Host a Successful Garage Sale
Want to make the most of your next garage sale? Here’s what you need to know, with advice from LaPedis and other experienced sellers.
1. Hold a Themed Sale
He gathered graphic novels, computer gear and other geeky items and used the theme to market his sale, netting about $2,000 the first two days. By the third day, he found he had mostly books left over, so he changed the theme to “Book Sale” and made $400 more.
Figure out what you’d like to sell, and see what the most appropriate theme might be. Consider themes like sports, garden tools, outdoor gear or tech.
2. Schedule It Right
Weekend mornings are the traditional time for garage sales, so consider a different time to have less competition.
One neighborhood may have dozens of garage sales on Saturday morning, but how many do they have on a Tuesday morning?
Timing a sale during early morning or late afternoon commuting hours could help grab the eye of commuters, parents taking their kids to school and others looking to snag a deal.
Or schedule your sale in conjunction with a local event that will bring people into the neighborhood. If people are already relaxing and enjoying an event, they likely wouldn’t mind doing a little browsing (and hopefully buying).
3. Team Up With Your Neighbors
Work with your neighbors to see if they’re also planning an upcoming garage sale, and consider teaming up. The larger your sale, the more enticing it is for potential customers.
An added advantage of hosting a neighborhood sale is pooling your networks and resources to get the word out to a wider audience.
Don’t just throw some items outside and call it a garage sale — be sure to spread the word beforehand.
Put up fliers in your neighborhood and use online ads to let people know about your sale. Use Craigslist, local messaging boards or Close5. Specialty forums also cater to those specifically looking for garage sales, including GarageSaleHunter.com and Yard Sale Search.
Also, be sure to use social media, including Twitter and garage sale groups on Facebook. If your other Facebook groups allow this kind of promotion, share your garage sale details and let people know what you have and when to come on by.
In your promotion, list the special and big-ticket items that will help lure people in. Consider putting up pictures of furniture, antiques, entertainment centers and other particularly appealing items.
5. Put Up 15 to 20 Signs
LaPedis says the biggest mistake people make is not having enough signage to draw customers in.
Put up a lot of large, brightly colored signs, at least 3 feet square. LaPedis recommends 15 to 20 signs per sale.
Simple signs work best, as it’s hard to read a lot of text while traveling down the road at 30 miles per hour. A simple arrow pointing the way along with the word “SALE” should do just fine. Plus, simple signs are reusable, because they don’t have specific dates or details.
6. Be Prepared
When preparing for your sale, think about what people might need or want.
Do you have a lot of accessories for sale? Have a mirror available so people can see how they look.
Selling electronics or small appliances? Have batteries or an extension cord handy so they can see it works.
Also, have change!
Have plenty of small bills and coins on hand so you can quickly make change for customers. Bring more than you think you’ll need, and secure your money during the sale.
7. Make It Look Like a Store
People leave disheveled stores quickly, often without buying anything. Don’t run into that problem at your garage sale.
Make everything look nice and tidy. Borrow or rent tables so shoppers don’t have to bend over or crouch down to inspect items on the ground.
Also, group like items together: kitchen items in one area, men’s clothes in one place, kids’ clothes in another. That’ll help people efficiently evaluate what you have on offer.
Put big-ticket, bright and colorful items closest to the street to draw people in.Throughout the day, tidy up to keep things neat and orderly.
8. Price It Right, and Offer Deals
A good garage sale rule of thumb is to sell items at 10 to 25% of their original value.
Most people aren’t looking to spend a lot, so try not to price anything over $100. Selling big-ticket items online is often more effective.
Or don’t price it at all. LaPedis advises not placing price tags on items under $15, and instead talking with people to see how much they’re willing to pay.
Conversation can draw people out. You can meet new neighbors this way and hopefully get a better price.
Towards the end of your sale, consider posting a “half off” sign and offering even better deals to move more items.
Another useful technique is bundling like items, such as books or DVDs. “Five DVDs for $5” will catch a shopper’s eye. If you really want to move items by the end of the sale, have a few paper grocery store bags on hand and tell people to fill the bags with whatever they’d like for $5 or $10 per bag.
9. Get Comfortable
You’ll be out in the sun for hours preparing, hosting and then picking everything up, so be sure to make yourself comfortable. Wear comfortable clothing, shoes, a hat and sunscreen.
Keep in mind how the sun moves throughout the day and at which times you may be in the sun. Have water or other beverages handy.
10. Make It a Party
Supermarkets play music for a reason: It entices people to stay longer and spend more. Crank up the tunes, put out some cookies and lemonade, and make people feel welcome.
Also, consider keeping a cooler full of ice-cold water, soda and teas for sale — or encourage kids to get entrepreneurial and hold a beverage sale within the garage sale.
11. Be Safe
While most garage-sale shoppers are good and honest people, don’t let any potential bad apples cause problems.
Don’t let anyone into your home to use the bathroom, and lock your doors while you’re running the sale.
Safeguard your money. It’s best to keep big bills in your pocket, but consider an apron for small change. Cash boxes can also work, but you have to be mindful to always have an eye on it.
Sometimes people will act in groups to cause a distraction and snatch cash or goods. Make sure you have back-up help so you can go to the bathroom or step out for a minute if you need to.
Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.