Janis Peterson, GRI, ABR, CSP Realtor®
The Philadelphia Main Line Real Estate and Homes
Montgomery, Delaware, and Chester Counties
Relocation Specialist

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Subject: Getting Ready to Show Your Home?
First, Have a Garage Sale

A garage (or yard, or patio, or tag) sale is the best way to unclutter a home and prepare it to be shown. Not only does it make a home more attractive, it trims moving expenses and, an added benefit, generates extra cash.

Never planned a garage sale? Not to worry. Follow these guidelines and suggestions and with a little luck, every last bit of bric-a-brac will find a new owner.

Planning the sale. Think about logistics. Are you going to go it alone or invite a neighbor or two to join you? A "block sale" can be a big draw for shoppers. Will it be confined to one yard? Or to a house and garage? Hammer out the details and contact your town hall to see about necessary permits, restrictions, tax liabilities and advertising. Some towns require a day license. Set a date, keeping in mind that it will take a couple of months to prepare. Garage sales generally get more traffic on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Also, it's best to avoid the holidays.

Create an inventory list of everything you intend to sell by thoroughly combing your home, basement, attic, garage and any out buildings for prospective sale items. During this time, save collectible items, such as perfume bottles and interesting tins, as well as shopping bags, grocery bags and newspapers. Track down manuals and original cartons. Clean or dust and test everything. If a widget doesn't work, mark it "As Is." A handy shopper may know how to fix it.

Handmade items are popular. If you have the time and the creativity, make crafts to sell or whip up a tempting assortment of baked goodies. Older children can run a beverage and baked goods concession.

Getting attention. Get the word out by advertising in your local newspapers. If you're going to run the ad for one day, make it Thursday for a Friday/Saturday sale. Invite friends and family to help make brightly colored cardboard signs in a couple of sizes. Print the day, date, time and address, along with a general description of the types of items for sale, such as kitchen gadgets, hand tools, or books. Specify any specialty items, for example, Wedgwood collection or kids' clothes size 4T-6X. Place signs on bulletin boards in supermarkets, laundromats, churches, community centers, and train stations.

The day before the sale, post signs around town. Be sure to get permission from property owners first, and avoid nailing signs to utility poles and trees. If rain is forecasted, cover them with clear contact paper. And road test the signs for readability. Chances are if you can't read them neither can the potential shopper in the car behind you. On the day of the sale, place large directional arrows along the route to guide shoppers from major intersections to your door or block. Helium balloons get attention and add to the fun. Use them to mark your driveway and to label the tables (books, glassware, etc).

Organizing the sale. Borrow card or ping pong tables and arrange them so shoppers have enough room to browse. Run a long, heavy-duty extension cord to test electrical appliances. You can take advantage of the space under the tables by displaying large items and children's toys. These will appeal to young shoppers at just the right eye level. Try to display merchandise in groups. For example, set up tables for kitchen items, books, knick knacks, and so on. Keep valuable and breakable pieces out of the reach of little hands.

Selling clothing? String a clothesline for easy viewing and set up a full-length mirror. Play up the time of year by arranging seasonal items, such as luggage, travel books, travel clocks, etc., in one location. Increase jewelry and hat sales by providing a hand mirror, plainly marked NOT FOR SALE, on the table.

Pricing the merchandise. Be sensible. After all, your goal is to get rid of the stuff. Before your sale, check out other neighborhood garage sales for types of wares offered and at what prices. Visit early in the day before merchandise has been picked over.

Some experienced garage salers advise pricing items, with the exception of books and adult-sized clothes, at roughly one-third their original prices. Paperbacks tend to sell for .25 to .50; hard covers may fetch $1-2, more if it's a recent release. Of course, prices vary by area. Encourage shoppers to purchase sets by grouping tableware (glasses, dishes, bowls, cups, mugs) and pricing them at 8 for $2 instead of .25 each. Don't sell pieces individually. Price each item with a sticker or piece of masking tape on the top of the object. For multi-family sales, code the price tags with the family name and price.

While you're handling the items, examine each piece. You don't want to inadvertently sell a treasured keepsake.

Getting through the big day. Fend off incidents by keeping pets and small children away from the sale area. Remember to send someone off to post the directional arrows to your block. Set up a cashier or check-out table where you can collect the coded price tags, keep a tally, and stash the shopping bags and newspapers. Use brown lunch bags and recloseable sandwich bags to pack small items and jewelry.

If the sale is restricted to the house and garage, put away everything that is not for sale and cordon off private areas. Post friends by staircases and other vulnerable locations to steer wanderers back to the sale.

A well-advertised sale can attract many shoppers. Some may arrive early, so be prepared. Open on time and have plenty of small bills and change on hand. Assign a friend to stay with the cash box or wear a fanny pack and carry the cash with you.

Above all, let shoppers shop. Don't scare them off by eyeing them or hovering nearby. Be pleasant and offer to help once. Then back off. When they approach you, be ready to deal. Garage sale shoppers expect a great buy. And you can meet expectations if you keep your goal in mind—to get rid of every last item.

As the day fades and you notice that the thimble collection, sets of false eyelashes, single shoelaces and board games have gone unclaimed, you may want to set up a dollar or freebies table. Then donate leftover merchandise to a local charity.

Packing up. At a multi-family endeavor, tally up sales by family code. Be a good neighbor: Return everything you've borrowed and take down the signs and balloons.

You've earned a break. Take the family, with your newly earned cash in hand, for a celebratory dinner.

"Real Service in Real Estate." For a personal consultation on buying or selling real estate, Janis Peterson, GRI, ABR, CSP Realtor® can be reached at (610) 642-3744, e-mail: jp4re@pahomes.com. Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors® is an independently owned and operated member of The Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc.

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