Downsizing can be good for the soul. We may not notice it, but the stuff that clutters our closets and junk drawers often clutters our minds as well. Moving house, especially when downsizing to a more efficient space, is the perfect opportunity to wipe the slate clean…or at least dump unused junk on a table in the garage and see if someone will trade a handful of crumpled dollar bills for it.
Holding a moving sale can put money in your pocket in two ways.
- Liquidate Junk into Cash. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. A whole subculture of bargain hunters prowls the classified ads for garage sales so they can spend the weekends trading cash for lightly-used knickknacks.
- Less Stuff to Move. This can actually be the more lucrative side of a moving sale. Even if your stuff sells for little more than pocket change, less stuff to move means fewer moving expenses. Savings could take the form of hiring a smaller truck, employing fewer man-hours of porter labor, or expending less of your own valuable time packing, hauling, and unpacking boxes yourself.
Best of all, seeing items with sentimental value live on in the hands of a new owner, rather than ending up in a landfill or recycling center, is good for morale.
Read on for True Legacy Homes’ Ultimate Guide to Hosting a Successful Moving Sale.
- Set a Date and Time
- Check In with Local Authorities
- Make an Inventory
- How to Advertise a Moving Sale
- Make it a Neighborhood Affair
- How to Price Moving Sale Items
- Lay Out your Sale Properly
- Mind the Details
- Safety First
- Moving Sale vs. Estate Sale
1. Set a Date and Time
When you hold your moving sale matters as much as—if not more than—what you sell. Be strategic about the date and time you select.
Moving sales ideally happen on a weekend. Saturday is better than Sunday, as some shoppers may have church or other social obligations on Sunday.
If at all possible, host your moving sale in the spring. The weather is likely to be pleasant, but not oppressively hot.
Avoid holding your sale on the same day as a major holiday or local event. Check local online calendars of events, as well as your own calendar.
Start your sale in the morning and continue through the afternoon. 8am to 4pm is an ideal window. If you advertise an 8am start time, have your sale up and running by 7:45! Otherwise, early-birds will loiter on your lawn, checking their watches as if you work for them.
2. Check In with Local Authorities
Most cities and counties have no problem with moving sales, yard sales, or other home-based informal sales.
Still, with the clock ticking on your move, you don’t want the sheriff to show up and shut you down.
Check and see if any local ordinances govern estate sales. Get a permit if you need one. A successful estate sale will more than justify the expense.
3. Make an Inventory
Make a list of everything you intend to sell. It will come in handy when it comes time to price items, answer buyer questions, and recap what sold and what didn’t.
Gather everything you intend to sale into one place and list it all.
Remember, the more good stuff you put up for sale, the better. Be brutal. Don’t hang on to things you haven’t seen (or touched) in years. Check attics, garages, drawers, and cabinets.
One person’s trash may be another person’s treasure…but some things really are just trash. Moderate your expectations. Loose screws and broken glass are unlikely to sell.
The best merchandise for a moving sale tends to be tools and vintage glassware.
4. How to Advertise a Moving Sale
No one will come to your moving sale if no one knows about it. It’s time to get the word out.
The classic moving sale advertisement is the hand-lettered sign taped or stapled to a telephone post on the busiest cross street. If you want to have a truly successful moving sale, you’ll need to do a little more.
Hand-lettered signs do have their place. Make sure they are fastened securely. Big black letters on a bright background (bright yellow, for example) work the best.
Include the date and time on the sign, but not the address. No one will write it down while driving past. On the day of the sale, put up extra signs with arrows on each street corner leading to the house.
Once your sign game is covered, it’s time to think outside the box. The more people know about your moving sale, the better. Why limit your exposure to people driving by? Here are some creative ideas to advertise a moving sale:
- Bring flyers to local businesses. Ask the proprietors if you can leave hand flyers on the checkout counter, pin the notice on their bulletin board, or tape it to their storefront window.
- Advertise in newspapers. This usually costs some money, but it may pay off. Newspapers typically have an online and print version.
- Online classifieds. Craigslist, the popular online bulletin board, has a section for garage sales in the “For Sale” section, as well as for events in the “Community” section. Search, as well, for local yard sale and garage sale forums and bulletin boards.
- Social media. Make a Facebook Event for your moving sale, invite friends, and request that they invite their friends. Search Facebook for local reseller, bargain-hunter, buy/sell/trade, or yard sale-themed Facebook Groups. Request to join those groups. Consider making a public post or story on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter as well. Ask your followers to “share” the posting. PRO TIP: Use hashtags so interested strangers might discover your social media posting. #garagesale, #yardsale, and #movingsale are great places to start. A resource like http://best-hashtags.com can suggest related hashtags to include.
If possible, include pictures or descriptions of a few key items in your marketing materials to entice shoppers.
5. Make it a Neighborhood Affair
One of the most powerful—and most overlooked—boosters for a moving sale is to involve other people. Moving or not, most people have stuff cluttering their house that they would love to get rid of.
See if friends, family, or neighbors want to join your sale. The more people get involved, the more goods you can offer for sale, making the event more appealing. Additionally, more sellers means a bigger network to market the sale.
Neighbors on the same street can set up their sales in their own garages or front yards. Alternatively, everyone can gather in your yard or garage, each participant setting up and running their own table. You may end up presiding over your own popup swap meet!
6. How to Price Moving Sale Items
People go to moving sales looking for deals. Goods at a moving sale will not command top dollar, not even the prices at secondhand stores. 30% of the brand-new retail price is a good benchmark. Check Amazon or eBay for MSRPs.
If in doubt, price items to sell. Remember, you save time and money by not having to move them.
Here are some more pricing tips:
- Mark every item with a bright, legible price tag. Marker on colorful stickers works great. Individually price each book, each record, each t-shirt, etc. It takes time, but more items will sell.
- Stock up on change and small bills before the sale. Price in denominations of $1 or 50 cents so you don’t have to count pennies.
- Consider bulk deals. If each book is $1.00, offer two books for $1.50, ten for $5.00, etc.
- Another great bulk deal is a grab bag—mystery bags with a set price. Some shoppers will be attracted to the surprise. This can be a great way to get rid of unsellable junk, but don’t fill your grab bags with only unsellable junk. Include a few items of value to avoid angry customers.
- Some people will want to haggle. Consider pricing each item 10-20% above the minimum you would consider. If a buyer proposes a reduced price, meets her halfway (or three-quarters of the way).
- If you enjoy haggling and don’t mind a little chaos, consider a “picker sale,” where no items are tagged and prices are negotiated on the fly.
7. Lay Out your Sale Properly
No one is expecting Sak’s, but at least some thought should go into the layout. Group similar items together. Hang clothing on a rack or clothesline, spread jewelry on a felt mat, put records in a box, books on a small shelf, etc. Be prepared to rearrange items as other items sell to keep the display attractive.
8. Mind the Details
A little extra thought and planning can be the difference between a successful moving sale and dud. Here are some ideas:
- Play light music on a stereo or Bluetooth speaker. There’s a reason department stores do it. Silence can be awkward. Music will relax your guests, get them talking, and put them in the mood to buy.
- Offer refreshments. Cold water bottles and snacks go a long way. Consider selling soft drinks and other concessions.
- Decorate your sale. Consider fresh flowers or balloons to create a cheery, welcoming environment.
- Strategically place air fresheners. Shoppers will stay longer at a sale that smells like lavender and vanilla instead of a trash bin.
- Greet every guest with a smile. It makes them feel welcome … and lets them know they are being watched, discouraging shoplifters.
- Make it easy to buy. Provide mirrors for clothing, extension cords to try appliances, batteries to test toys and gadgets.
- Make it easy to check out. Bring plastic bags to wrap up merchandise, packing paper to protect fragile items, and a calculator to add up sales.
- Make a plan for unsold items. With enough notice, charities will often dispatch trucks to pick up donated items. Some offer online scheduling. Book in advance so that the truck arrives as your sale ends.
9. Safety First
Inviting strangers to your home means taking certain precautions. For your safety and the safety of your guests:
- Lock your home. Allow no strangers inside.
- Cover sharp edges. Guests may bring small children and pets to your moving sale.
- Consider selling very valuable items online. Keep them off the floor and away from sticky fingers.
- Cash only. No PayPal, Venmo, or Square card swipers. Too much can go wrong.
- Skip the cash box. It’s too tempting a target. Consider a fanny pack instead. When you accumulate lots of cash, stash some of it in the house.
- Keep large bills visible while you count change. If you tuck a ten in the register before the change is counted, you run the risk of the buyer running the old “Hey, I gave you a twenty!” con job.
10. Moving Sale vs. Estate Sale
If the goal is to drastically downsize, an estate sale may be the way to go instead of a moving sale.
Estate sales typically liquidate the estate of a person who has passed away, up to and including the house itself. Pressed for time, executors or trustees often hire an estate sale liquidator. In exchange for a commission on items sold, these professionals take the logistics off their hands by:
- Taking inventory.
- Appraising and pricing items.
- Advertising the sale.
- Operating the sale.
- Disposing of unsold items.
Some liquidators even arrange for contractors to dress the house up for sale, list the house for sale, or buy the house themselves as-is. Such a liquidator may charge a smaller commission on sale items.
You probably have no plans to pass away, but if you have little spare time and lots of stuff to get rid of (including the house), consider hiring an estate sale liquidator. Your time is valuable. A professional touch may justify the commission with a more successful moving sale.
Reach out to True Legacy Homes for customized tips to hold a successful moving sale.