Yard Sales Are Popping Up!

— Written By and last updated by Nikki Davis

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe season has arrived when people tend to clean out our closets and attics and sell off their treasures to those interested in buying. The ‘secondary market’ (yard sales, thrift stores, consignment sales and auctions) can be a great way to acquire what you need at an affordable price. There is no social stigma attached to buying previously used merchandise, in fact, it has become quite the ‘thing’ and it can be smart.

Keep some tips in mind:

1. Buy only merchandise you need. Buying because the “price is low” is no bargain.

2. Shop carefully. Carefully inspect all merchandise before you buy. Make sure it is in usable condition. When buying electronic equipment, it’s important to make sure it works. Usually the person holding the sale will have an outlet available to test electric items, but sometimes they won’t have batteries for battery-operated items. If you carry your own batteries, you’ll never have to wonder if something works. You can test it yourself.

3. Don’t pick up a hitchhiker! Look at all furniture and bedding, you are looking for bedbugs! Telltale signs are fecal stains, which look like small reddish-brown (blood) spots. Look in crevices and deep in wicker furniture or baskets. Some bargain shoppers leave items in the hot trunk of their car overnight to kill bedbugs.

4. Avoid impulse buying by making a list. A list will keep you focused on what you’re looking for, whether it’s furniture or books.

5. Have a plan and map out a route. The night before you head out, take a look at the local newspaper. Find one or two garage sales that you feel you want to hit first, because the ad says they are offering what you are looking for. From there, map out a route, taking into account the garage sale start times. You’ll save time and gas if you know where you’re going next.

There appears to be a market for almost anything, from plants to tools to used clothing. If you are planning a sale, be aware of local ordinances. Do you need a permit from your town? Are you limited to the number of garage sales that you can have in a year? Where can you place sign? Homemade food items should not be sold unless they are produced in a commercial kitchen and you have appropriate certification from the Public Health Department. Prepackaged items (soda, Nabs, bottled water) can be sold if they are packaged accordingly. If it is a hot day, you might find that these items could be your biggest moneymaker!

The appearance of items offered for sale is important. Things should be very clean, whether a tool or an electrical appliance or anything else. Clothes should be clean, free of spots, and hung on hangers or carefully folded. You should arrange the merchandise according to categories. For example, one table might be devoted to children’s clothing, another for books and another for tools. Make it easy or your customers to see and inspect the merchandise.

Stickers, slips of paper, or tape can be used to individually price all items to avoid confusion and helps shoppers know whether they are interested in an item. Consider grouping clothing by price, for example jeans $4, long sleeved shirts $2, and t-shirts $1. You can make a poster of the prices and place it in an easily viewed spot.

Arrange your physical set up so that shoppers must exit by your cashier. To avoid losses never leave the sale unattended. If possible have more than one person help with the sale. One person should serve as cashier. The other can circulate, answer questions and provide other help to customers. Have $15 to $20 in change, (nickels, dimes, quarters) and about $20 in one dollar bills ready before your sale opens. You might have a special box for your cash, or use an apron with pockets. Keep about half of your change and dollar bills in a safe location and bring it out only if and when needed.

If you are selling an appliance or technical device that has a warranty, provide the buyer with a copy.  Some warranties are transferrable to a second owner. If you still have the owner’s manual, place it with the item in case a buyer needs to replace parts or fix it.

With careful planning, selling and buying can be enjoyable if you plan ahead! If you would like more information about financial matters, please call Jayne McBurney, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent at the Johnston County Cooperative Extension Service at 919-989-5380.

Written By

Photo of Jayne McBurneyJayne McBurneyTechnology & Social Media (919) 515-3762 jayne_mcburney@ncsu.eduAgricultural and Human Sciences - NC State University
Updated on Apr 21, 2014
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