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Garage sale ads that attract buyers

What to put in a garage sale ad

To see what should go in an garage sale ad, look at the ads on garage sale websites (eg or and from last week's edition of your local newspaper that your ad is to go in and make a note of the ads that catch your eye. Try to identify why they work and why the others didn't work.

To help you work out what makes a good heading, I extracted some Garage Sale headings one day from Craigslist. Check them out.

What makes a good ad?

  • It's worth spending a bit more for an attention-getting ad in the printed press so that it makes people feel it will be worth-while going to your garage sale.
  • You also need an attention-getting heading for your ad in Craigslist. It's no use having a great descriptions, photos, etc if no-one bothers to look at it.
  • Use similar attention-getting theme and wording you used in your flyers.
  • Don't just list your items, describe them. Sell them.
  • Include the sizes of the clothes, brand names, colors, styles, etc.
  • Tell people why they should come to your garage sale.
  • Be truthful about the items' condition, flaws, if it's missing parts or doesn't work.
  • If you can include photos then include the interesting items that will attract buyers.
  • If you're off the beaten track, include pictures of prominent landmarks that will help shoppers find your home.
  • Include a map if you can but don't pinpoint your home - just your street, because that will make it too easy for early birds to find you.
  • If you're having a late 'lunch time' start for your garage sale, make sure you highlight that so people don't think that they'll just get left-overs if they come in the afternoon.
  • Don't use the phrase, "Everything must go."
    It's a waste of space because everyone knows that you want everything to go plus it makes you sound desperate to get rid of everything at any price.
  • Don't use words like "miscellaneous", "general household" or "bric-a-brac" because every garage sale will have these. Shoppers want to know what specific items your sale has and why they should attend.

Consider not including the close time

  • Some suggest not bothering to include a close time for your garage sale because people still drop in after you've packed up and asking if they can see what is left knowing they can probably get it for next to nothing.
  • If you don't have a close time then customers have reduced bargaining power because they won't know how desperate you are at the end of the day to get rid of what's left as your garage sale could well be going for another day.
  • Customers will ask you when you are closing anyway. If they do, just say "When it's all sold" so they don't think you'll be giving it all away later.

Having said that, consider including the close time

  • If you do include a close time, at least you can be prepared for the last minute rush around this time when they return looking for bargain-basement prices rather than have them dribbling in all afternoon and evening!
  • This last minute rush brings with it a bit of renewed competition between customers to snap up bargains before anyone else. This means you haven't completely lost all your bargaining power to maximize your prices.
  • If your's is a short garage sale with a definite finish time then you introduce a sense of urgency in the customers to buy now or it may be gone shortly. The "limited time offer" is a common sales tactic that is used again and again in all forms of retail and works in garage sales too.

Make your garage sale ad a bit different

  • Buy an old kitchen sink and put a price tag on it so you can include it in your ad "EVERYTHING MUST GO INCLUDING THE KITCHEN SINK!!". Price the kitchen sink to get your money back. If it doesn't sell, you can always use it again in your next garage sale.
  • When preparing an ad in the local newspaper check the costs especially if there any options to include attention-getting graphics or borders also check the submission deadline.
  • Long detailed ads listing the major items, the collectible or desirable items, multiple items (eg books, DVDs, CDs) and any unusual items will cost more but stand out from the other short ads.

Dealing with early birds

Early birds are the keen bargain hunters who will arrive up to an hour before your opening time to try and get the best deals before the others. Don't waste your money on including "No Early Birds" because it goes without saying and shoppers will either expect that or ignore it. Refer to Best early bird strategies for more tips and strategies.

Make it easy for buyers to find your garage sale - but not too easy

Include a few words to help buyers find your street. For example, first left off Main Street or near a popular landmark. Don't include your house number because this will make it too easy for early birds to find you.

Advertise early and everywhere

  • Place ads a week before your sale on the free garage sale websites (eg Craigslist and Backpage (yard sale section)). Your ad on will also be picked up by the other online garage sale sites that include maps and trip planners for shoppers in your area. Also place a 'reminder' ad the day before your sale. Refer to these HTML codes for use in your ad on
  • Post your garage sale on your (and/or your kids') social networking web sites like Facebook, Yahoo Groups, LinkedIn, Bebo, etc.
  • Place a garage sale ad in your local paper and local classifieds. If costs are low enough, place one a week or a few days before your garage sale and another for on the day. Spend a bit more here to make your garage sale ad stand out with special symbols or borders.
  • If you are having a big group sale or one that involves multiple houses, include an ad in your local paper's Events section too.
  • Keen garage sale shoppers will check Craigslist a few days before to plan their route so ensure you have your ad up before then. Craigslist also allows you to repost your ad after 48 hours so repost the night before your garage sale to be seen by the last minute shoppers.

Advertise multi-day sales as separate sales

If you are having a 2 - 3 day garage sale, treat each day as a separate one-day garage sale and place ads for each day. If people know it is a 2 or 3 day garage sale, they naturally will assume that all the good stuff has gone by the first day and not bother to go one the second or third day. If they think it is only a "one day" sale then they will more likely come on the second or third day if they haven't noticed your previous ads.

Advertising in a multi-cultural neighborhood

If you are in a multi-cultural neighborhood then consider putting in a non-english ad too.

Don't upload photos directly to

When including photos in Craigslist (and you should) don't upload photos directly to Craigslist as you will loose a lot of clarity. Instead, upload them onto a photohosting site (eg Flicr or Photobucket) then add a link to these photos in your ad on Craigslist. More details here.

Include your online ad's identifying number or code

This will help people find your ad online to get more details of your sale.

How to advertise if you are in a rural area

You can't rely on a great deal of passing traffic so advertising is crucial.

  • Place ads 1 - 2 weeks in advance so people have time to plan their trip or to schedule a visit to your garage sale and others in the same area.
  • Advertise in the surrounding towns. People living in rural areas are more willing to travel further.
  • Advertise in the city paper. 'City slickers' will be on the look for authentic "rural" treasures like classic machinery and solid wooden furniture that has been stored in the barn ready to be restored. Sell the idea of friendly people, country cooking, fresh air, great scenery. Recommend a picnic spot.
  • Plan your garage sale to run on the same day that a large event is occurring in your town. Place your street signs where the most passing traffic is likely be.
  • Include detailed instructions (and clear signage) to help people find your sale.
  • Try to get the whole town involved to attract larger numbers.

Make sure you cancel your ads if you decide not to hold a garage sale

Your local authorities may just check the ads and match it to the list of permits issued to identify sales without a permit rather than actually visiting each sale to check if it was actually run before posting a fine. This person found this out the hard way. How would you prove you didn't have a sale on that day?

Ads that caught my eye



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