Selling and haggling tips

Best garage sale selling and haggling tips

Unlike a retail store where everyone accepts the marked price as being fixed, at garage sales, it's just a starting price. Whether you like it or not, most people who want to buy something from your garage sale, no matter what the starting price, will want haggle, negotiate or dicker so they feel that they are getting even more or a bargain. Even if the starting price is 50c!

A quick introduction to haggling

If you are new to the concept of haggling, the process is generally a split the difference affair and goes something like this:

  1. The customer sees your price (say $20) and assumes it's negotiable and higher than the lowest price you'll accept.
  2. They will offer a really low price (say ($5) indicating they are interested in buying it and hoping that you either accept it or will compromise and lower your price.
  3. You don't get offended by the ridiculously low price and offer a slightly lower price to the one you had marked (say $15).
  4. At this point, let them to think it over and don't say anything. They may accept your price or walk away or offer a higher price than they originally offered (say $10).
  5. It's up to you whether you accept this price or say that your price is the lowest you will accept or offer a lower price (say $12).
  6. At some point you will either agree on the negotiated price or not agree and hope another customer will be prepared to pay the price you can accept.
    Watch out if it goes past 2 or 3 exchanges because then you're wasting your time as the other person is probably more interested in the "game" of haggling for its own sake rather than buying anything.



What to do if you don't feel comfortable with negotiating a price

Invite a relative or friend who is good at it or enjoys the 'game' to come to your garage sale and do the negotiating. Even if it's just for the first hour or two when the second-hand dealers, professional garage sale shoppers and collectors arrive (usually also an hour before your advertised start time!). This is when the serious haggling happens.

Not everyone wants to haggle

You'll find some people don't like haggling either and are happy to pay your asking price. Some other buyers will find your prices reasonable and fair and pay your asking price without haggling.

Practice your haggling

If you're serious about getting as much as you can, practice your haggling technique before your garage sale. Go to other garage sales and flea markets and practice haggling over items. While you browse, listen in and take note of how other people haggle.



Try to keep the whole haggling process fun

Haggling is not an argument. Keep a smile on your face and remember that the stakes aren't high and you want to enjoy the process and not feel that the whole day was a horrible, never-to-repeat-again process. Haggling doesn't mean that you have to be a stubbornly difficult person who has win at all costs. Instead, you'll often feel better about the process if you make concessions too where the other person feels like they've gotten a good deal.

Everyone expects that you have marked your prices a bit higher

They would do it themselves too to give some room to move on the price. But some people are happy to pay your price without negotiating your price down by 75c. And then there are some people who have to get you down no matter what the price!

Consider firm bottom-line prices for low priced items

To reduce the menial penny-pinching haggling over a 50c item, consider marking all items priced under $2 with your bottom-line price that you will accept. All items $2 and above are negotiable.
If anyone offers a lower price on one of your under $2 items, politely say, "Sorry but this is my bottom-line price". Also, don't then say, "Take it or leave it." I know, this is what you're really thinking but most people will find this a bit too abrupt and probably leave without buying. The sales on the under $2 items you miss out because of your firm resolve could well be made up for by the sales to people who accept your price.

Don't give anything away for nothing

While the main reason for a garage sale is to get rid of stuff, (you could easily achieve this by taking everything to the nearest charity and feel better for it or just take it to the rubbish dump) you really want to get as much money as you can for it. Always expect a fair price for your goods but don't forget that an item sold for a low price is better than a high-priced item that didn't get sold. It is amazing how fast a lot of small $1 or $2 sales add up.



Clinch a sale with a freebie

If a customer is hesitating over buying your chest of drawers for $75, offer to throw in something that they also wish to buy for free to 'sweeten the deal'. Quite often they will accept your offer. Don't give too much away though.

Try to resist rewarding customers with a freebie

If someone buys a high priced item, try to resist thanking them by throwing in freebies. After all, they have already bought it and you don't really need to worry about keeping them happy so they come back for your next garage sale next year! If you throw in a freebie worth around $5 then why didn't you drop your price by $5 when negotiating a price. I'll tell you why, because you want to get the most money for your stuff - so don't go throwing your money away after the deal!! They agreed on the price, they're getting a bargain and they are happy. No need to thank them by dropping your price again.

"Do you want fries with that?"

When someone buys something, mention some other related items you have in case they didn't notice them. For example tools / hardware, gardening tools / plants, cooking utensils / cook books.

When not to offer big concessions?

Try to resist big discounting or accepting offers of packaged or two-for-one deals within the first two hours unless you are sure the item/s will be hard to sell. A two-for-one deal is when someone will come up to you holding 2 items and offer to buy one if you throw the other one in for free. There's a good chance you aren't desperate to sell anything at any cost within the first couple of hours of your sale. After that you might be starting to feel a bit different though, so be strong in the early stages.

Negotiating in a group sale

If you're having a group sale, make sure everyone who is authorized to do the selling and negotiating is clear if they can lower the price of the other party's items and if so they know what the lowest prices are. With a multi-family sale, it's always a good idea to have a representative from each family to OK any deals. It can spoil the day if someone sells an item well below the price the owner would be happy with.



Get shoppers to pay you for the privilege of shopping at your garage sale

If you have the right sort of merchandise they will!

If you have a lot of quality items you know won't disappoint dealers and the usual keen early birds - have a "Garage Sale by Appointment".

First you collect your items, clean and prepare them for sale, work out your prices and record them on your Inventory List. There is no need for individual price tags or stickers yet. Then you contact your local second-hand dealers and offer them the opportunity to buy a 15 minute time slot for an individual private viewing of your inventory where they can make offers to purchase anything. The first time slot could cost, say, $75, the second might then cost $50 because your items have now been "picked over", the third time slot might cost $30, etc.

If a dealer buys the first time slot, at say $75, any purchases will come off the $75. So if he only buys $30 worth of goods, you have made an extra $45 for nothing. If he buys $100 of goods, he pays you an extra $25 (on top of the $75 time slot fee) and you have sold $100 of items already.

You will find the dealer will want to buy at least $75 of anything because he won't want to walk away with nothing or give you any money for nothing. So you can expect at least $75 of guaranteed sales from that person.

How much you charge for each slot will depend on your items and prices. You aren’t sure, you can start high and if you don’t get any takers, come back later with lower rates.

It isn't all easy money. You still need to sort, clean and present your items for sale. You don't necessarily have to attach price tags onto the items but you do need to have a list of the items and the prices you will ask for them. Your prices will of course be appropriately inflated for exclusive sales to a dealer.

You will also still need to go through the normal haggling process. You will find all your good stuff gets bought at top-dollar prices leaving all the miscellaneous stuff of questionable value. You can then decide whether it is worth your while to spend money on signs, advertising and a day in your garage or just donate everything that is left or have a Free Garage Sale!

Pay shoppers to shop at your garage sale!

Yes, pay them to shop.

Many sales techniques you see in retail stores also work in garage sales. One that I have often used is the "Cash Back" promotion.

I was selling a desk in a garage sale and the customer's top offer was $10 but my rock-bottom price was $15. No-one else had shown interest in the desk and I was keen to sell it – but not give it away.

A common method to encourage someone to come up closer to your price is to sweeten the deal by throwing in something extra for 'free'. The problem is that the customer will probably accept it but may not really want it and not give it a lot of "value" and so not move up their price as much as you would expect. I had a desk lamp and drawer organizer that I could throw in to sweeten the deal but I new they already had these so it wasn't going to be of much value to them and not entice them to raise their price.

A better method would be to say "Is there anything else you have seen in my garage sale that I could throw in to help you come up to my price?" Often the customer would say that they don't know and they would have to have another look. There are problems with this:

  1. I would lose the sales momentum while they look around again. They have a chance to think it over more and may decide they don't really need the desk after all.
  2. I would need to put a "Not for sale" sign on it while they looked and I may miss out on selling it to another customer for my price.
  3. I will probably have to haggle over the other item/s they pick too!

A more effective method is to offer a "Cash Back" deal during the sales process. In effect, I would say, "If you come up to $15 and buy the desk now, I'll give you $5 for you to buy something else that you value afterwards."

In a retail store, you would get either cash in hand or a check is posted to you after you send in an application. Both ways is like free money and who doesn’t like free money? And who doesn’t like to buy with free money? You can then buy something you value.

"But hang on one minute" I hear you say.

"If I give them money how do I make sure they buy what they value at my garage sale and not go to the next one and spend the money there?"

I'm glad you asked that question. To get around this problem, you don’t give them actual cash but a coupon that says: This coupon has a value of $1 and can be used towards the purchase of any displayed item at the Garage Sale at "your address" or something like that. When I sold my desk, I gave the person 5 $1 coupons. This way,

  1. I made the sale because the sales process wasn't interrupted while they looked for something else. They can do that afterwards and take all day if they like.
  2. I now have another guaranteed $5 sale because who would throw away ‘free’ money?

So for your next garage sale, print up a bunch of 50c, $1 and $2 coupons to give to shoppers to help you make more sales.


Another strategy is to welcome everyone as they come in to your garage sale and hand them a 50c coupon to be used towards the purchase of any item. This also helps to get people into a spending mood. Who doesn’t like to buy with free money?



Don't let the buyer intimidate you

The buyer will try every trick in the book to get your price down. They will say things like:

Don't take it personally. It's just a tactic in the game. Just smile and refer to the next tip for what to say.

What to say if the buyer is insistent on getting you down past a price you feel is fair

Always talk with a strong, confident voice. If they see that you are nervous or unsure, they will keep trying to wear you down. Reply with:

Best secrets to increase your bargaining power


As people browse, apart from keeping an eye on your items, discretely keep an eye on how interested people are with a particular item. If they spend time inspecting it then you know they are interested in buying it and they've just lost their bargaining power. Instead of you trying to sell the item, it's a case of them trying to buy it from you and you can now get away with not dropping your price as much.

Give stuff away

If you have a pile of items you think have no or little value and you think no one would probably buy them, put them in a box marked "FREE" and place it near the front of your garage sale. Apparently people are then less likely to haggle as much on the other priced items.

Think like a buyer

You can then say the things they want to hear to encourage them to buy.

Keep it personal

Chatting to them during the process with either small-talk or why you're having a garage sale helps to keep things personal and the customer may feel sympathetic towards you and not be too hard with the haggling.

Watch out though, as they may turn this around and use it on you to feel sympathetic towards them and to get you down to their price.

Tell stories

With some items, explaining its background or a 'colorful' story behind it may help increase its appeal and desire by the buyer. The plain old object now has meaning and history and people find it harder to resist buying something that has character or a past. You might find this hard to work with a toaster but it works well with character pieces like a grandfather clock or even a set of golf clubs.



Always be friendly

Always be friendly to all customers even if they are rude and abrupt. They may very well be rude and abrupt but they also may be doing this on purpose to intimidate you. By being friendly and unconcerned, this will weaken their bargaining position that they were trying for.

Don't advertise or say your closing time

Customers will expect bargain-basement prices at the end when you're desperate to sell what's left. If they ask when your garage sale will end, just say "when everything has sold" or be vague and say "I still have a bit left so I think I'll keep it open for a day or so longer. I might even try again next weekend."

Price items as already been reduced

If your initial price is $10 then mark it as $20, cross this out and write $10 beside it. People will think they are already getting a bargain. Retail stores do it (don't they?) so why not you. Works for all items of any price but more so for higher-priced items.

Give to charity

Remind customers (maybe have a sign pinned up) that you will be donating 10% of sales to your local charity - and make sure you follow through. People like to think they are giving to charities even if indirectly. Call the charity before hand to see if they can lend you one of their banners for further credibility.

Sell the unsellable

Combine a hard to sell item with a related desirable item for two-for-the-price-of-one deal. You are effectively giving away the unsellable item but you're using it to help get a higher price for your desirable item. People will think they are getting a bargain and are less likely to bargain you down to a rock bottom price as they may have with the single desirable item alone.

Always pause and think

When a customer offers a price, always pause before answering - even if you've already made up you mind. Look like you are carefully considering their offer. When you answer, they will think there isn't much more room to move on the price.




When someone makes an offer, wince a bit as though it hurts. It makes the shopper think they are near your bottom price. Don't over do it though. Reserve this technique for high priced items as it works best then rather than over a $1 plate.

Remain silent

This is only for advanced players as it requires nerves of steel and an experienced knack of knowing when it will work and not leave you looking stupid. When negotiating over a high-priced item, when the buyer makes an offer, remain silent as you think it over. Then wait. Most people will feel uncomfortable in the silence, and they'll start talking automatically to fill the void. More often than not, they'll respond with a lower price.

Don't let on what your lowest price is

If someone asks "What's the lowest price you will accept for this vase?", don't tell them. Their job is to find your lowest price and your job is to find their highest price. Simply answer their question with "The marked price is my best price" or "What's more important is what's your best price you can offer".
Your goal is for them to have to argue your price down than you trying to argue their price up.

Tricks buyers will use to increase their bargaining power

You'll find these universal tricks, tactics and bluffs being used by everyone who comes to your garage sale. You've probably used some yourself. The trick to maximizing the amount you make at your garage sale is to recognize the strategy being used and know how to counter their bluff. It's then up to you to decide when you want to accept their offer or walk away.

They'll point out all the flaws in the item as the reason it isn't worth what you're asking.

"But your husband said it was only $5"

If your sale is busy, you're doing the right thing with you being the only money-person and you have a lot of helpers running around, a shopper will use this chaos to their advantage by trying to rush a sale through by saying the person "who was over there" said I could buy this for $5. They are hoping you won't have time or be bothered to check. If the price seems low, always check.

Take the money and run

This happened to me recently and was surprisingly effective as they nearly got away with it. They were obviously experienced at this trick and came early when it was busy and fairly chaotic. They came up to me quickly, held a couple of items up so not looking that they were hiding anything and said they're $5 and pushed some coins and notes into my hand and quickly started walking off.

I immediately thought a quick sale is a good sale but as I glanced down I realized it will take awhile to count the coin to check they had actually given me $5 and then I wasn't sure how much the items they flashed in front of me were actually priced at either.

I was able to catch them before they left my property "to take the price stickers off" for my records (to avoid offending them). This gave me the opportunity to check the prices and count the money in front of them. Not only was I asking more than $5 for the items but they had only given me a few dollars in notes and coin. Realizing they had been caught out, they staged being offended, took their money and left.

"This is all I've got"

Near the end of the haggling process, to try to get you to move from your "rock-bottom, can't go lower" price, they'll pull out a pocket full of coins or a crumpled bill and say that this is all they've got. They're hoping you'll weaken so as not to miss out on the sale. They probably have a wallet stuffed full of money in their back pocket or back in the car. If you want to counter their "this is all I've got" bluff, tell them where the nearest ATM is to get the extra they will need and add that you'll be happy to sell it to them then if it hasn't already been sold.

Your prized possessions are used against you

The buyer sees that you are attached to your prized pogo-stick so they will use it to get a good price on other items they want. They will come with a collection of items, say, your prized pogo-stick for $20, a vase (they want) for $10 and 10 miscellaneous items for $1 each. The total value you are asking is $40. They will offer $20, you counter with $30 and all agree on $25. What just happened? You're happy because you got the $20 you were asking for your prized pogo-stick but you let the other $20 worth of items (including the vase they wanted) went for just $5! If you have any items you want to get the best price don't include them in bulk sales like this. Keep them separate so they don't influence your negotiated price for the other items.



Squeeze it a bit more

When they know they've got you down to a price you can't go any further they'll say "You drive a hard bargain. I tell you what, if you throw in this (another small item), you've got a deal." Not only will they get the item/s you have haggled on at a rock-bottom price but they'll get another item for free! Often you're worried about losing the sale and give in. It's also often that the extra item they asked for you to throw in was the item they wanted in the first place - and they just got it for free.

The sucker punch

They'll pick up an item and offer about half what you're asking. When you refuse or lower your price a bit, they won't counter offer and put it down. They will do this a few more times conditioning you to think you'll miss out on selling something if you don't come down to their price. They'll finally come to you with the actual item they secretly want to buy from the start and you're now desperate to make a sale - they win. If you spot this, be strong and hold out on your original price.

The slow sucker punch

For big purchases, made up of either a lot of items or a single high-priced item, they will haggle and haggle and haggle by adding in new items or taking out items or giving you a long detailed explanation on why you should come down in price. The idea is to get you to invest a lot of your time on the sale to a point where you don't want to miss out on the sale and waste all that time. Be on the alert for this and before spending too much time, tell them politely "I have other customers to attend to so can you excuse me while you think about it."

How customers will punish you if you don't give them a good deal and how to turn the tables on them

This is a real under-handed, but effective trick that experienced shoppers will try on you.

They'll collect a number of items off your tables and pile them up in front of you so you start thinking that you’re going to make a big sale. They then go back and get a single high priced item and make a ridiculously low offer for it. You haggle a bit but they aren’t coming up anywhere near you rock-bottom price. When they sense they have gotten you down as low as you can go, they'll say "Oh well, I'll just put these other things back on the tables."

You immediately realize you're going to miss out on big sale over a few dollars for one item. If you cave in and agree to their last "below your rock-bottom price" offer they, of course, will accept it and then they will decide not to buy the other pile of items or, at best, only a few. You would make nowhere near enough to counter the loss you just made on the first item – the one they really wanted.

To counter this strategy, "call their bluff". When you can't come to an agreement on the first item, suggest you leave it for now and work out a price for the other pile of items. Once you have made the big sale you can decide whether you've made enough to 'make a loss' the first item.



Good cop / bad cop

You'll always be able to spot the good cop/bad cop routine and have a little chuckle to yourself when you do. The wife will show the interest in the item to make you feel you might have a sale and she'll do the haggling and the husband will come over and say "It isn't worth that much. Come on let's go." The idea is to make you feel that you might miss out on the sale if you don't drop your price more.

A method to counter this is to say to the husband, "I don't think you'll hear the end of it if she isn't able to snap it up at this price." You can also look unconcerned and mention that another shopper showed interest in it too.


If it's near the end of your sale, they'll say something like "Not to insult you, but if this was worth anything, it would be gone by now". Politely say "I would rather donate it to a charity for a possible tax reduction than to just give it away."

Silence is Golden

This trick works best when there isn't anyone else around and they have your full attention. They'll make a ridiculously low offer for an item and when you counter with a slight concession on your asking price they'll remain silent. They might skeptically look at the item, think about your offer for a second then look straight back at you at remain silent. They'll show no sign of a counter offer and just look at you expecting you to cave in to break the deafening and awkward silence and counter offer your OWN offer with something down near their ridiculously low offer.

You can't both just stand there looking at each other in silence waiting for the other to break. I haven't tried this but I'm sure it would look very silly.

If there is another customer browsing behind them, just say "I have other customers to attend to so can you excuse me while you think about it."

If no-one else is around, politely say, "I'd really like to sell it to you for that price but I'm selling it for my mother who really needs the money."

They'll offer to GIVE you money!

Beware of customers trying to GIVE you money. You'll lose money every time.

A customer will bring an item to you and show the exact money in their hand (say $5) and say "Can I give you $5 for this?" They're hoping to sway you with:

  1. the polite question, the offer of 'giving' you their money,
  2. giving the impression there isn't any more money
  3. and waving the money in front of you as a "take it or leave it" offer.

Be strong and if you want more, assume they have more in their pocket and counter offer with "I really would like $7 for it".



They'll make you an offer for an entire collection or even everything!

Ooh, that offer sounds enticing. You can sell everything and go back to bed again! Be careful. You can probably make more by holding out and selling your items individually during your garage sale. If you want to make as much money as you can then use your inventory list to add up the total cost you're asking then take of a quarter or third off to get an idea of what you could get by selling it individually. How does there offer compare? Can you get them up closer to your total?

They'll make you think your item is going to a nice home

They'll say something like how much the lamp makes them remember the holiday cottage they stayed at during their honeymoon or some sentimental nonsense. This will make you feel that you can safely sell your lamp knowing it will be going to a "nice home" and you'll also probably feel compelled to drop your price to help them buy the lamp. Be strong and resist the urge.

They'll try to get you to sell the item to them rather than them buy it from you

They will look at an item, turn it over and around, spend a few minutes inspecting it trying to decide whether to buy it or not. They are hoping you will notice their indecisiveness and come over and suggest a lower price to try to sell it to them. They have gotten a discount already without even trying and also know your starting price for further haggling. If you notice someone interested in an item, by all means try to sell it to them by describing it features, how it could be used, etc but not by dropping the price.

Garagesalefinder made some suggestions for shoppers when haggling.

The following are some responses you could give to shoppers using these tactics: