Who Shops at Yard Sales? 5 Things I Learned About Yard Salers from Downsizing

If you’re asking yourself, “Should I have a yard sale?” or wondering whether a yard sale is worth the effort, then I’d love to share with you what I learned about the people who shop at yard sales. This isn’t a judgy, let’s-make-fun-of-people post; this is a list of my observations about the people who show up to yard sales and might be an important part of your efforts to sell your stuff. It may help you evaluate whether a yard sale is the best way to get rid of stuff, and hopefully will give you a realistic idea of whether you can make money off of a yard sale.

When we decided to downsize and start living tiny, I had big dreams of shedding excess stuff from my life and getting organized. I looked around the three-bedroom house we lived in and mentally picked out the things I wanted to keep. Right away, I realized I couldn’t justify simply donating everything we’d be offloading without trying to make some money first. I started also mentally picking out the things I wanted to sell and imagining how much they were worth. I’ve always liked the idea of re-using stuff and selling stuff for others to re-use, so it began to seem inevitable that I would try to offload some of it for cash. I thought to myself, “I’ll have a yard sale!” My husband gave me the thumbs up, and I dove in.

I made a few mistakes during my yard sale, and I wrote about those in another post.

Here are the top five things I learned about what people are looking for from your yard sale.

  1. People want low, low, low prices. When a person goes yard sale shopping, they don’t have a specific thing in mind that they want. But, if they see something they like or think is of value, and you’ve priced it low enough, there’s a much higher chance they’ll buy it. In my case, if I priced something a little higher than what seemed like an absolute steal, there was no sale, even if I immediately came down on price. Your potential customers aren’t worried about whether you like them or not; they’re after an amazing deal.
  2. People want to spend money. This sort of goes hand-in-hand with the observation above. People who come to your yard sale want to spend money, but they won’t do it unless it’s a steal. Think about what someone is prepared for when they go to a yard sale: they know they will see a hodgepodge of someone else’s belongings, and they know that person wants to get rid of those things for some reason. They know they have a vague list of items they might want, and they have certain tastes that they appease. So, if you have something they like, they show up at your garage sale wanting to buy it.
  3. Shoppers will show up early. I planned my yard sale from 8 to 11, and I had four people show up between 7:30 and 8. In fact, as soon as I put my first items out, someone was standing there. I had to wait until he looked through everything I’d put out. So, if you announce that your yard sale starts at 8, I’d recommend setting up at 7.
  4. People want big stuff. In fact, many people asked if they could come inside when they saw that I had put out small furniture (foot stools, mirrors, etc.) and clothes, jewelry, shoes, DVDs, video games, and household items. Multiple people commented on the fact that I didn’t have more outside. Some said, “That’s all you have?” and “Where is the good stuff?” One lady looked through the stuff I’d put out and, with a wave of her hand, said, “I don’t want this shit.” I decided early on that I was going to try not to take anything personally, since they were, after all, looking through my once-beloved stuff. Regardless of how I felt, my suggestion would be to focus on the big stuff in your advertisements.
  5. People want little stuff. Okay, okay, I know. I just said they want big stuff. But they want little stuff, too: A treat for themselves, something they can put in their pocket or wear right away, something that charms them. But, again, they want it for cheap. You are selling impulse-buy items (unless you really have a lot of expensive pieces), which means a sterling silver necklace for $15 simply isn’t going to sell that quickly. However, that necklace you haven’t worn in five years might sell immediately for $5.

All in all, yard-saling ain’t easy. No one ever said it is. However, if you keep these basics in mind while you set your prices, choose your items you want to sell, and pick a date, you might a little bit of extra cash.


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