The Art of the Perfect Yard Sale

We are counting down the final days of summer on the East End, but anticipating a long, gorgeous Indian Summer without the mad chaos of long lines at the supermarket, an hour-plus wait to get a table at any waterfront restaurant and the insane traffic.

My mother always taught me that it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, so like many other homeowners here on the East End, I decided to capitalize on the traffic before it’s gone. I decided to host a yard sale. I realize there are a gazillion yard sales going on every weekend, but with a gazillion people there’s plenty of wealth to be shared.

Traffic isn’t the only thing you’ll need to have a successful yard sale; here’s a few other helpful hints and rules you should follow.

Location—pick the best location or home to host the yard sale:

I’m on a beach access road; a direct route connecting Montauk Highway to the beach, whereas in the winter there may be one car every 20 minutes, now it’s an “autobahn” with cars flying past my house until 3 a.m. most nights. It’s perfect for a yard sale during the summer or fall because people are coming and going to the beach all day.

Timing is everything—obviously, weekends are best for most people and that’s when they’ll be visiting the Hamptons. Make sure and check the weather, (remember, sunny days aren’t always the best for shopping) I also prefer Sundays to Saturdays during the summer because people seem more relaxed. Many are coming from church or brunch and are looking for something to do other than go to the beach. And since most people have their yard sales on Saturdays, there’s less competition on Sundays.

Another tip, most successful yard sales start early in the morning, around 8 a.m. Yard sale shopping is serious business in the Hamptons and if you’re looking for specific things, you want to be the early bird, so be prepared for shoppers coming an hour earlier.

My most important suggestion is in regard to signage. Make signs legible, with large lettering on bright paper to catch the eye. I’ve seen signs with poor penmanship and misspelled street names and poster paper so large that the ends have curled or blown over so no one can read it. Too few signs or a pole with too many signs on it doesn’t work either. Stick to the important information in clear letters: Yard Sale, date, time and address—maybe include a few details like; “moving,” “furniture,” “tools” or “baby items.” It’s very disappointing for a buyer to follow all the signs correctly and arrive to find only baby toys and furniture when they were looking for fishing equipment and tools. The best signage starts on a main road and leads the drivers to the sale with arrows and hints to entice them.

Lastly, having a variety of items and their presentation is a huge factor. If the items are displayed haphazardly or are dirty, the shopper will pass right by them…I like displaying them in categories, such as children’s clothing and toys together, tools and fishing gear in another area, women’s shoes, handbags and clothing in another area and furniture, housewares, antiques and linens, art, books and music in another section. And by displaying the items in a circle forces the shopper to look at everything that’s being sold. It’s only fair that all of the items get to be viewed.

Set a relaxed mood by playing music or serving food and drink to get your customers in a mood to shop. Now that you’ve got them on your property, you don’t want to lose them…but remember not to hover over the buyers. Bargain with them and have fun! Everyone likes a free gift—having a few stuffed animals as a complimentary gift to the kids doesn’t hurt.

Remember, there’s always next weekend to host another, so you don’t need to get rid of everything at once.

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