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7 ways to turn your garage sale into a moneymaker

Consumer Reports News

I recently gave our house a top-to-bottom spring cleaning. My takeaway, besides sore muscles, was the realization that we have a lot of stuff we no longer use or want to clean. Among our collection are a dated Sony Trinitron TV and a tired iMac G3 computer, inherited collectibles that just aren't our style, unneeded furniture in the basement, clothing that no longer fits . . . you get the idea. We haven't yet figured out to do with all those things.

If you find yourself in a similar situation and want to try to make a few bucks--and are up for a bit of a challenge--holding a good old-fashioned garage sale (stoop sale, yard sale, or rummage sale) could be a worthwhile way to unclutter your home. Just follow these seven tips so your sale goes smoothly.

Find out whether you need a permit. A few weeks out, contact your municipal offices about the need for a permit. The fee is typically only a few dollars. Also ask about any restrictions on where you can post signs for your sale.

Get the word out. If you can post signs, make enough directional signs no bigger than 15x15 inches on hot-pink poster board. They should simply read "Sale" and include your address and an arrow pointing the way to your home. Check them in advance of the day of the garage sale to make sure they haven't blown away, been covered by someone, or damaged.

Go through your stuff. There's a good chance you've forgotten about a $20 bill you slipped into a jacket pocket or keepsakes in drawers. Make sure there isn't any vitally important information, say an active credit cards in a purse or private data on a hard drive.

If you think an object is valuable, do some research online or get it appraised. If you've ever watched PBS' "Antiques Roadshow," you know that that one person's junk can become another lucky person's loot. Don't let that happen to yourself.

Are you a garage-sale guru who's mastered the art of selling and/or buying things? If yes, head to our discussion Garage sale - how to sell and buy! Share about the most money you've made from a garage sale or the best item you've bought at someone else's sale.

Start the sale on Thursday or Friday. And kick things off early—say, 6 a.m. or 7 a.m.—to ensure that you'll get the going-to-work and driving-the-kids-to-school crowd. Continue the sale over the weekend. Be sure to follow any town ordinances on start and stop times, and be sensitive to your neighbors.

Don't put a price tag on merchandise. You'll probably make more money if you just ask customers what they're willing to pay.

Be friendly and welcoming. People are less likely to buy from you if you're ignoring them. Greet shoppers to your garage sale and be available to answer questions and negotiate. That means keeping your head out of your e-reader and avoiding yapping on the phone when people stop by to peruse your wares.

Think about security. Your house should be locked during the garage sale. Keep your money and a phone with you at all times. (Be sure that your till is stocked with plenty of small bills and change.) People with counterfeit bills sometimes turn up at garage sales, so try not to accept big bills. And don't bother chasing after someone who shoplifts.

Still can't make a sale? Donate your cast-offs and get a tax break. Read "When Did Charities Get So Picky?" for the lowdown on noncash charitable donations.)

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