By Kelli B. Grant
YOUR ATTIC: STUFFED TO the eaves with boxes of old clothes. The basement: crammed with Aunt Vera's old couch, the treadmill you swore you'd use (and never did) and assorted kitchen appliances. (How often do you need a shish-kabob maker, anyway?) And you don't even want to think about opening the hall closet without a rescue team on hand to free you from the avalanche of junk.
It's time for that all-American tradition: the yard sale. Here are five tips to turn unwanted items into big profits.
1. How to Price
You see old clothes, dilapidated toys and a mismatched set of china. But don't be so quick to mark them with 50-cent price tags. These days, avid bargain hunters troll garage sales for mispriced items -- only to turn around and resell them at a higher cost on eBay, says Marsha Collier, author of 'eBay for Dummies.'
You, too, can use eBay to your advantage. When pricing items, log on to see what they're going for, says Collier. With less obvious items -- like china or clothing -- you may want to conduct a Google search or borrow collector books from your local library.
And don't mark your items with the price you expect to get. For shoppers, bargaining is an important part of the yard sale experience. Make the price tag for slightly more, allowing a little room for you to come down in price without accepting less than you'd like.
2. Team Up
Every summer, thousands of vendors line up along 450 miles of highways through Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama for the World's Longest Yard Sale. The crowds for the four-day event, held this year Aug. 3-6, are huge. "We estimate that we get a quarter of a million people," says Scott Sandman, director of the Fentress County Chamber of Commerce in Jamestown, Tenn., which oversees the event. Shoppers come in from all over the country -- even internationally.
Banding together works equally well on a smaller scale. Talk to your friends, neighbors and family members about hosting your sales on the same day. Bargain hunters like to hit as many sales as possible, so your multi-family sale will be high on their list.
3. Timing Is Everything
Saturday mornings are a given for yard sales, but the real question is, which Saturday? Summer is the prime time for yard, tag and garage sales. Pick a weekend where your kids can help, either by making sales or even pitching in with a lemonade stand. Avoid holiday weekends, when many people are busy.
Even if you have a lot of stuff, it's not always a good idea to hold a multiday sale, cautions Ramona Creel, founder of OnlineOrganizing.com, which provides organizing tips for consumers. The crowd on your second day may be sparse. "Bargain hunters will presume you've already gotten rid of all the good things," she says.
4. Advertise, Advertise, Advertise
You won't get a good-sized crowd if people don't know about your sale.
A week before your sale date, submit classified ads to your local newspapers and penny-savers. Be sure to put up fliers in public areas -- your supermarket, church, community center, etc. You can also post ads online at sites like the Yard Sale Portal. And of course, a day or so before your sale, place signs on street corners to direct people to your home.
Keep all your advertisements simple. "Too much information clutters up the sign and makes the important things hard to read," says Chris Heiska, founder of Yard Sale Queen, a site that offers tips for buyers and sellers.
Your sale area should be enticing to customers, not a jumble of items on tables and in boxes. Separate your items into different departments. That way, someone looking for kids' clothing won't need to dig through a dozen boxes of assorted sizes from the whole family.
Take the time to clean. "You're not going to get nearly as much for dirty items," Creel says. Think about it -- would you pay $10 for a slow cooker crusted with dried food? What if it were sparkling clean? Be sure to hang clothes on a line to air them out, and run a dusting cloth over knickknacks.
As you set up, make sure people will have enough room to navigate the aisles and easily reach tables. "If you make it really difficult for people to get around, they'll just leave," Creel says. Run an extension cord from your house for a "try-before-you-buy" area to test electric items.
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