If you're just destashing stuff, we call them garage sales here in Chicago and yard sales in Kentucky. Estate sales are usually held when the homeowner has passed away and their loved ones are trying to sell off their things before they sell the house. The thing I like about estate sales is that you usually get to walk through the whole house and look in drawers and cabinets, poke around in the basement and crawl around in attics. Some people think it's kind of morbid, but I actually like it. I've found some great things at estate sales and you can actually learn a lot about a person by the things they collected and left behind. I prefer to think of it as passing on items for others to use and enjoy.
Since I sell on Etsy and also at an antique mall, I'm always on the lookout for unusual items, vintage things and stuff I can paint or repurpose. I'm lucky that my husband also enjoys the thrill of the hunt altho that was a long process because at first he thought I was just crazy. But now he enjoys it almost as much as I do and he's starting to develop quite an eye for what will sell. We usually spend 2 or 3 days almost every weekend driving around and hitting sales, so I have a pretty good list of pet peeves that will hopefully help you to plan your next successful sale.
1. Advertise! The week before your sale you will want to advertise. Either run an ad in your local newspaper or list your sale on Craigslist. Other great sources are Gsalr.com for both garage sales and estate sales or Estatesales.org for estate sales. Be sure to list the dates and times of your sale as well as your address. Try to post some pictures if you're able to because pictures speak a 1000 words folks! I spend hours scouring the websites and checking out the pictures so I can map out which sales will have the best junk. A start time of 9:00 am is nice, don't wait until 11:00 am. Hello...That's almost lunchtime. Early is always better.
2. Signs! Signs placed around your neighborhood the days of your sale are super helpful. One thing I cannot stand is a sign with the writing so small that I cannot read it. People - get a colorful sign and write in large letters. Remember, people are driving down the street and cannot slam on the brakes to stop and read the fine print. List the dates and your address. And for pete's sake, don't just write the main 2 streets - this drives me nuts. I cannot stand to get to an intersection and have to crane my head around like a spastic owl trying to find your sale - give me the stinking address! It's also helpful to draw some arrows pointing the way. Place lots of signs - it's well worth your time. You want people to come so make it easy for them to find you.
3. Organization! Try to organize and clean your stuff. Don't put out things that are dirty and full of cobwebs and don't just toss stuff on the driveway. Get some tables and shelving units to give your items some height. Spread things out so people can see them. Stack furniture near the street. And here's a good one - have a lot of stuff for sale. My heart skips a beat when I pull up to a sale and see lots of items lining the driveway and packing the garage. Believe me when I tell you that my seat belt is unbuckled before Lou pulls the truck to the curb and I'm half way up the driveway before he's even out of the truck. I love to stroll along and look at everything. One thing I cannot stand is to get to your house and see only 25 things sitting on a table. Really? You're going to sit outside all day for 25 items??? Why bother?
4. Pricing! For heavens sake - price everything. Nobody wants to ask you what you want for something. You will lose out on a lot of sales because, believe it or not, most people don't like to ask what something costs. Stick a price tag on it. And use some common sense - don't put a gooby sticker on the front of a glass picture frame or the front of a vintage item. I do not want to go home and swear at you because I can't get the damn sticker off the front of something and I ended up scratching it. Another thing to keep in mind about pricing is that, hello..... this is a garage sale. People expect good prices. This is not Ebay or Etsy and we don't want to see retail prices. If you think your treasures are worth so much then open an Etsy account and list them there. Don't sit there and tell potential customers what something is worth on Ebay. We....don't...care....
5. Haggling! Haggling is expected. People want a deal and love to go home feeling they got a bargain. Don't get all huffy when someone asks you if you'll take less than the sticker price. On Friday I had a lady give me a very snotty "We don't do deals on the first day" response when I asked her if she'd take $ 2.00 less on a $ 20.00 item. I placed the item back on the table and just said "No thank you" as I walked away. She lost out on a $ 35.00 sale since we also put back the other 3 items I wanted to buy. I told my husband as we walked back to the car "I hope she's sitting on that damn thing on Sunday." Immature on my part? Yes, but I still hope that item is sitting there because of her smart mouth. Here's another thing - If someone is buying several items, give them a discount! Everyone loves a discount, even if it's only a dollar or two. You made some money and the customer is thrilled to get a dollar off. We went back to one estate sale 3 days in a row for just that reason. The sellers were motivated to sell things so they let them go at fair prices. I was only too happy to keep going back there, I got some great things and they unloaded a lot of items. Win-win for both of us!
6. Wrap it up! Have some shopping bags, plastic bags and newspapers to package things up for people.
7. Odds and ends! Play some music in the background. I usually like to hear a little soft rock playing in the background and it adds to the festive atmosphere. If a Neil Diamond song from the 1970's is playing in the background it puts me in a good mood and more willing to spend some money. Have an extension cord so people can plug in lamps or radios to make sure they're working. Have plenty of change - especially dollar bills. Don't lose out on a sale because you can't make change for a twenty dollar bill. You'd be surprised at how many people will try to hand you a ten or a twenty early in the day. And last but not least - have a smile on your face. Talk to your customers even if it's just to say hello and comment on the weather. Nobody wants to buy from a sourpuss!