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How to have a great yard sale

June 01, 2000

The fruits of spring cleaning are for sale on roadside tables, blankets and racks throughout the Tri-State area.

Signs advertising yard sales are everywhere - tacked on poles, taped under road signs, staked in fields.

Just lug your stuff out and they will come, it seems.

But having a successful yard sale requires more than that, say yard sale veterans.

Here's a 12-step guide to success based on their advice:




1. Check the rules.

Residents of Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia can have a yard sale or two every year without worrying about collecting sales tax. But there are some restrictions, which vary by state.

In Maryland, there is no limit on the number of yard sales you can have or on their duration, but there is a value limit of less than $1,000 per item, according to Deputy Comptroller Steve Cordi.

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"It has no practical effect in a typical yard sale," Cordi said. "In general, selling your used stuff is always going to be regarded as casual, even if it's every weekend."

However, if you incorporate items purchased for resale or made to sell, that changes the nature of the sale, and you would be expected to start collecting sales tax, he said.

Pennsylvanians are allowed three yard sales, lasting a total of seven days or less, in a given year, according to Todd Seidel, a revenue enforcement and collection agent with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue in Harrisburg, Pa.

West Virginia residents can have four yard sales, each lasting no longer than 48 hours, in a 12-month period before they have to get a license and start collecting sales tax, according to Steve Keffer, a taxpayer service representative with the West Virginia Department of Tax and Revenue in Charleston, W.Va.

Counties and municipalities can place their own restrictions and requirements on yard sales, so it's best to check with them before scheduling your sale. You might need a permit. Or there could be zoning restrictions limiting where you can put your signs.

Smithsburg doesn't require a permit, but it limits residents to two yard sales a year, according to town account clerk Lorie Wiles.

Chambersburg, Pa., doesn't allow signs to be posted on borough utility poles and signs, according to assistant borough secretary Jamia Wright.

Check the rules first to avoid problems and wasted work.

2. Gather stuff you want to sell.

A lot of people spread the process throughout the year by setting aside any items they decide they don't need anymore in a yard sale pile, said Harriette Bowers, who has helped organize the annual Paradise Church Road mile-long yard sale in Hagerstown for the past several years. The sale is July 4 unless the date falls on a Sunday.

Other people go through their things as part of their spring cleaning, said Bowers, who suggests getting things together about a month before the sale to give yourself time to go through the items and price them.

Pretty much anything from your home, as long as it's in decent shape, can be sold at a yard sale, the veterans say.

"If you have something, try it. It's interesting what people will buy," advises Lou Lutz of Plantation Drive near Hagerstown, who said she and her husband, Henry Lutz, clear out their old stuff at their annual sales.

"Put it out. Put a dime on it. That's better than filling your trash cans," said Lutz, noting her husband's success selling old bottles and her own luck selling old canning jars at yard sales past.

The more variety you have, the greater chance you have of appealing to shoppers who happen by your sale, said Julie Jones of Sycamore Drive in Hagerstown, who said she usually has a yard sale in the spring and another in the fall.

"What sells depends on the people and what they're looking for," Jones said.

3. Price the items. (MORE ON PRICING)

You won't find individually priced items at Julie Jones' yard sales. It's too time-consuming and people will just ask what you're willing to take for the item anyway, said Jones, who puts up price signs pertaining to all items in a particular box or on a particular table.

Harriette Bowers takes a more mainstream stance on pricing. She thinks it's important for the price to be marked on the item.

When the price isn't marked, it puts the interested party in the position of having to ask the seller, something many people don't like to do, Bowers said.

You could end up losing a buyer due to their discomfort, she said.

4. Price the items - to sell.

Harriette Bowers said her pricing depends on how badly she wants to get rid of an item. The higher the price, the less chance the item will sell, Bowers said.

Henry Lutz agrees.

"Don't overprice if you want to sell it. People are looking for bargains," he said.

If something isn't moving at the price you set and you really want to sell it, drop the price, Lutz advises.

You need to detach yourself from the item to set a realistic price, said Julie Jones, a yard sale veteran.

If you aren't ready to let go of an item at a low price, take it to a consignment store, Jones said.

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