Update May 2009: One result of the recession that may last for decades is our whetted appetite for the bargains that can be found at yard sales. And yard sale mania has cleared out countless garages, which will help extend the lives of our cars.
How much money can you raise at a yard sale? It depends - on what you have to sell, where you are selling, the weather, advertising, the competition. The real answer is that you just never know and that this isn't money you can count on. That said, if you have furniture, electronics, children's items, sports equipment, jewelry, collectibles (in other words, the usual hodgepodge of clutter that most of us once thought we needed to buy) then a yard sale may help you raise some money fast.
A few tips:
1. Be realistic. If you are selling an item in almost new condition, don't expect to recoup much more than 25% of the original retail price, less if it shows wear and tear. If the item is actually what dealers call, "mint in box," then you might see 50% but consider any offer.
2. You can reduce advertising costs and increase traffic to your sale by running a multifamily or block sale. Make sure to run ads in local newspapers, and if your town allows, post signs. Specify big ticket items in your ad (child's bedroom set, water skis) but include enough broad categories to attract the general yard sale shopper.
3. Check with your town or city hall to see whether you need a permit.
4. Price in advance, open early, have small bills and change available, and if you can handle it, let the early birds shop. Consider cutting your prices in the last hour(s) of the sale.
5. Enjoy yourself. Make it pleasant for people to buy from you. If an offer seems too low by all means counter-offer but don't be offended. You'll have a chance to make someone's day - possibly a child's - so don't miss the opportunity.