Do's and Don'ts of Advertising a Yard Sale

Yard Sale Advertising Tips

Place yard sale ads on Craigslist and in your local newspaper.
Place yard sale ads on Craigslist and in your local newspaper. Tim Robberts/Stone/Getty Images

If nobody knows you're having a yard sale, you won't sell anything -- no matter how great your merchandise or how stunning your display. Advertising your yard sales (Craigslist, newspaper, and signage) is a must. Here are the do's and don'ts:

Yard Sale Ads Do's and Don'ts

  • Do list your yard sale in the appropriate classified sections of both Craigslist and your local newspaper, including both the newspaper's print and online listings. Old school shoppers may depend on newspaper listings, and the computer savvy crowd probably uses Craigslist. Additionally, yard sale apps for smartphones may aggregate from one or the either.
  • Do arrange for your classified listings to run on the days of the sale, and on the day before it starts. Some shoppers plan their outings in advance. Be sure to include the actual sale dates so nobody shows up on a wrong day.
  • Don't skip the paid newspaper listing. Not all areas use Craigslist equally -- especially in small towns without Craigslist city pages.
  • Do mention any prominent local landmarks -- such as prominent intersection, a retail shop, a large church, or a park -- located near your home in your listing. It helps people find your sale, even if they don't recognize your street name.
  • Don't forget to include your address and the sale dates and times. I see at least one yard sale listing a week that teases me with a list of fabulous merchandise while neglecting to tell me where and when.
  • Do include your subdivision or neighborhood name in your classified listing. Include your zip code as well. Some shoppers map yard sale routes based on location, but they may not be familiar with the street.
  • Do list your sale as a moving or estate sale if you're clearing out for a move or after the death of a loved one. Both get high priority on yard sale routes because they typically have better merchandise and more of it, such as entire rooms full of furniture instead of just a few castoffs.
  • Do pay for the extra space to list your most desirable items and your general merchandise types. The person looking for those items will make your sale a priority.
  • Do list your yard sale with local publications -- such as community message boards, church bulletins, neighborhood newsletters, etc. -- if it's possible to do so. They won't draw the types of crowds your Craigslist and newspaper ads will, but the extra exposure can only help.
  • Don't publish your yard sale ads so far in advance that shoppers forget by the sale date. Run the ad during the sale, and on the day before.

Yard Sale Signs Do's and Don'ts

  • Do advertise your yard sale with signs. Yard sale signs attract drive-by customers who don't read the classifieds, and they help all shoppers find your home.
  • Do make your signs from neon-colored poster board, and convey your information with thick, black, block letters. Yard sale signs with a white background aren't as noticeable, and letters of a single marker width aren't thick enough to read from a moving car.
  • Don't try to cram too much information on your yard sale signs. This isn't the time to list each piece of merchandise. Remember that motorists have to read the signs from moving cars. Limit the information to the basics.
  • Don't letter your signs with a skinny-tipped marker or print them with fancy, curving fonts. They won't be legible unless the reader is standing right in front of them. 
  • Do think of yard sale signs as a breadcrumb trail that leads shoppers to your house. Place them at local landmarks and busy intersections near your home. Install additional signs at each turn along the way, and mark the signs with thick, black arrows pointing the way. Place a final sign at your home to mark the spot.
  • Do tape your signs to street sign posts and utility poles, assuming that's permitted and possible. If it's not, mount them on posts you can plant in the ground, or affix them to the sides of boxes that have been weighted down with rocks. A box works particularly well at a corner because you can put a sign on more than one side.
  • Don't nail or staple your signs to utility poles or affix them to traffic signs if it's prohibited in your city. One fine for violating an ordinance can wipe out your yard sale profits, and it's not like they don't have your address.
  • Don't place yard sale signs on private property without permission from the owner. At best, they'll disappear.
  • Don't put out your signs the day before the sale. Some shoppers just follow the arrows without reading the details.
  • Do place your signs at eye level for someone in a vehicle if it's possible. Sometimes it's not.
  • Do add a few festive balloons to your yard sale signs, except when they'll impede vehicular visibility. Balloons draw they eye, and they imply a festive atmosphere.
  • Do put your signs out on the morning of the sale, ideally just as you're ready to start. Once the signs go up, shoppers start arriving. If you can't do it that morning, put them up after dark on the night before.
  • Do drive past your signs after placing them to make sure they're easy to read. The view from inside a moving vehicle isn't the same as you had while making the sign.
  • Don't leave your yard sale signs up after the sale ends. It's rude. Outdated signs are confusing to shoppers, and they turn into a soggy mess when it rains. Once your sale ends, those signs are just litter.