How to Have a Successful Multi-Family Yard Sale

by Kevin on May 10, 2012

I really hate going to yard sales. Garage sales and estate sales, too.

It’s just not my thing. Maybe its the getting up at the crack of dawn to go shopping. Or maybe its that when I’ve gone, most of the stuff has been junk. Or maybe I don’t like the idea of wearing a pair of pants you’ve owned for 6 years — what exactly happened in those pants?

But I know I’m different and that there are many, many people who will leave their homes on Saturday morning at 5am, grab some coffee, and go sit outside of same stranger’s house to buy their best stuff before everyone else does.

Our church small group decided to do a multi-family yard sale a few weeks ago. It was incredibly successful and raised a ton of money to send one of our members on a mission trip.

8 Tips for a Successful Multi-Family Yard Sale

If you’re looking to have a successful and profitable yard sale, here are some key tips for you.

Advertise Everywhere

You can’t sell anything without customers. And your customers can’t know about you if you don’t advertise. We had an ad on Craigslist and then shared that ad on Facebook. You’d be surprised how many people can find out about your sale just by having 12 people (6 couples) share it on Facebook and Craigslist. Of course we put up a few basic signs as well.

Participate in a Neighborhood Event

Want even more customers? Have your yard sale the same week as the rest of the neighborhood. Almost all decently sized neighborhoods have an annual or semi-annual event where everyone runs their sale on the same day. This brings in significantly higher levels of traffic because your neighbors are advertising for you and vise versa.

Price Items Fairly

You don’t want to sell everything for 25 cents, but you also can’t price things at a premium. If you sell everything, even the expensive stuff, too cheap then you won’t make any money. But it has to be priced fairly. Bulk items like clothes should be priced cheap. Old electronics, cheap. New electronics deserve a fair price because you could probably legitimately sell the item elsewhere.

Identify Who is Selling What

One of the keys to having a great multi-family yard sale is to be able to identify who is selling what. It isn’t fair to just split all of the proceeds evenly unless everyone sells an equal value of items. It one family sells $100 worth of stuff and the other $500, a $300/$300 split isn’t fair.

To overcome this we used simple colored stickers with the price and the sellers’ initials on them. Put the stickers in the same spot on items: for clothes, on the tags that tell you how to care for the item. For other items, wherever it is most visible and least likely to fall off.

Then we had a science fair board where the stickers could be placed, but this quickly proved to be too complicated. You could put the sticker from the item on the board, but it is showing the price on the sticker versus what ended up being negotiated.

We had a stack of paper where I tracked the items sold. I was the banker (shocking, I know) and wanted to make sure we accurately tracked how much money was in our cash register. Whenever an item or group of items would sell, I would tally what was sold, who sold it, and what the price was. At the end of the sale we were able to go through and tally up the amount of money each person sold and the divvied up the cash that way.

Organize Like a Department Store

A simple but effective tip is to group items together just like a department store does. You don’t walk into any major retailer and see everything grouped together in random bunches. No, there is the home goods department, the women’s clothing department, electronics, and so on.

We did the exact same thing. The women of the group sold a bunch of purses, so we lined them up hanging from the fence. Three TVs were for sale, so we grouped them together with the other assorted electronics. There were sections for kids’ toys, kids’ clothing, and women’s clothing. It was a work of beauty including aisles.

As an added bonus – we had soft music playing in the background. We got a surprising number of comments about people about how well organized and nice our sale was. They even asked when we were doing it again so they could come back. Repeat customers — cha-ching!

Have Cash on Hand

Never, ever have a garage or yard sale without some starting cash to provide change. We started with too much — $75 in one dollar bills, $15 in five dollar bills, and $10 in quarters — but I had a fear that a few big purchases would wipe us out. If someone hands you a $20 bill for a $3 item, you’re suddenly in a bind. Starting with extra cash avoids this issue.

Guard the Expensive Items

One sad note for the sale is we had a $20 Coach purse stolen. As I mentioned, all of the purses were hanging from the fence, but at one point there were probably 50-75 people in the driveway of the sale. We only had so many people available to watch items, and apparently the purse went missing. It was a bummer, and a hard lesson for next time.

Sell Goodies and Water

Now this is something that I thought was too complicated and not worth our time, but I was wrong. Some of the Moms of the group baked some cookies and brownies to sell. They also got some bottled water and Capri-Sun packs. We sold them cheap: $1 for water, $0.50 for Capri-Sun and brownies, $0.75 for a pack of cookies.

It started out cold and coffee would have been a better fit, but as the day warmed up and the number of kids increased greatly, they started selling like hot cakes waters on a hot day. When a Mom would come up to pay for something, inevitably the kid would want a Capri-Sun or a cookie or something. It was an easy way to add a bit of money to each sale. Did it drive a huge amount of revenue? No. But it was a nice little profit area for us.

This covers a majority of what we did. Any other tips you would recommend?

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