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

yard sale sign

The Spruce / Almar Creative

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 using yard sale ads on Craigslist or in the newspaper is a must when planning your event, whether it's a community or solo effort. Signage near your site is important, too. Here are the do's and don'ts of yard sale signs and ads.

Yard Sale Signs

Do's

  • Do advertise your yard sale with signs. Yard sale signs attract drive-by customers who don't read the newspaper's 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.
  • 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 well at a corner because you can put a sign on more than one side.
  • 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 the 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, in order to avoid early birds. 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 or placing the sign.

Don'ts

  • 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 write 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. 
  • 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.
  • 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 follow the arrows without reading the details.
  • Don't leave your yard sale signs up after the sale ends. Outdated signs are confusing to shoppers, and they turn into a soggy mess when it rains.

Yard Sale Ads

Do's

  • Do list your yard sale ad 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 other.
  • 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 the wrong day.
  • Do mention any prominent local landmarks—such as an 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.
  • Do include your subdivision or neighborhood name and your zip code in your classified listing. 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 and more merchandise, such as entire rooms full of furniture instead of just a few pieces.
  • Do list your yard sale with local publications—such as community message boards, church bulletins, and neighborhood newsletters—if possible. They won't draw the types of crowds your Craigslist and newspaper ads will, but the extra exposure can only help.

Don'ts

  • Don't forget to include your address and the sale dates and times. Too many sale listings tease with a list of fabulous merchandise while neglecting to tell where and when.
  • Don't publish your yard sale ads so far in advance that shoppers forget by the sale date. Plan to run the ad during the sale and on the day before.