How to Write a Great Garage Sale Ad

Tips to Writing an Effective Ad Listing

Young woman writing yard sale ad.
Woman writing yard sale ad. Cavan Images/Taxi/Getty Images

No matter how many signs you hang, you still need to place garage sale ads on Craigslist and in your local newspaper’s classifieds. Serious yard sale shoppers plan their routes in advance, and they might miss yours if you skip the ad. Here's how to write a great garage sale ad, including specific wording and tips: 

Your Headline is Your Hook

The headline you write for your yard sale ad creates the first impression potential shoppers have of your sale.

On Craigslist yard sale listings, shoppers may not even open your ad if the headline doesn't appeal. Thus, your headline is your hook. Make it count. Use your headline to convince shoppers to prioritize your sale by telling them what and generally where. 

Start with the General Where

Serious shoppers target the neighborhood's most likely to have what they want. They scan for those areas when planning their routes and prioritizing the most promising sales. The headline isn't the place for your full address. It is the place for your subdivision name, part of town, street name, or whatever briefly identifies your location as a place shoppers might choose to prioritize.

Next Is What

The words "Garage Sale" or "Yard Sale" do not an effective headline make. Readers already know they're looking at garage sale listings. Your "what" is where you tell shoppers why your sale is more promising than the rest.

 

If you're moving out of state or cleaning out the attic, for example, say so because that tells shoppers you probably have lots of stuff. The same goes if you're having a huge church sale or if you have five families participating. If your sale isn't particularly large but your merchandise is superior, tell us why.

"Antique Collector Downsizing Sale" sounds a lot more promising than "One-Family Garage Sale."

Work On the Wording

  • Midtown (your general where) Moving Sale (your what)
  • Poplar Avenue Block Sale
  • East Memphis 4-Family Yard Sale
  • Berryhill Area Emptying the Attic Sale

Craigslist Headline Tips

  • Don't save the general location for the location and postal code boxes on the right. Go ahead and fill those out too, but make sure you put your neighborhood name in the box labeled "posting title" along with the rest of your headline. If you don't, the general location won't show up when users do a certain type of search.

Newspaper Headline Tips

  • If your newspaper doesn't have a headline option for its classified ads, pay extra to bold the first line of your listing and write that one as your headline.
  • Don't waste your money on borders and goofy graphics to draw attention to your yard sale ad. Savvy shoppers just want to know where you're located and what you have.

Say Exactly Where and When

Now that you've grabbed our attention with your headline, we need to know when and exactly where.

The address part is easy, but you'd be surprised at how many people forget to include their addresses in their garage sale ads.

Even if you're sure you've already added it, check again.

Some advise sellers not to include their exact address. In an attempt to foil early birds, they suggest providing the general where and using yard sale signs to lead shoppers to the sale once it starts. I think this is a mistake. You will annoy some of your best potential shoppers, including me. I plan my shopping route the night before. If I can't map your exact location, I'm probably leaving your sale off of my list. At best, I'm leaving it for last, which is when I'm tired and running low on cash.

For the time, you can include the complete hours of your sale (7 a.m. to 2 p.m., for example) or just list the time your plan to start. Be precise about times. Avoid phrases like "starts at sunrise" or "dawn til dusk." You many assume sunrise means the sun is up, but the early birds will interpret it as "as long as I can see with a flashlight." 

If you can't be bothered to set a starting time because you don't want to set your alarm, so be it, but don't get huffy when shoppers bang on your door at 5 a.m. You asked for it.

Make It Easy to Find

Unless you live in a small-town location everyone knows, include an intersection or landmark to make your sale easier to find. In larger areas, you can't assume shoppers -- especially those who don't map their routes -- are familiar with your street or subdivision. "One block from Eastway Elementary School" is a lot easier to locate than "21356 White Wings Way Circle East" for shoppers who aren't using GPS.

Tell What You Have 

The body of your yard sale ad is the place to tell potential shoppers what you have for sale. There's no need to list every last piece of lidless Tupperware you have for sale. In fact, please don't. But, you do need to include these two things:

  • list the overall types of merchandise you have
  • list specific pieces for merchandise that's particularly desirable. 

Examples:

Don't: coffee mugs, t-shirts, headbands, florist vases, 

Do: vintage linens and kitchenware, garden tools, furniture, plus-size clothing, mcm arc lamp, Victorian fainting couch

Be honest about what you have. If you lie to make your sale sound more impressive, you'll annoy the shoppers you mislead, but you're financially hurting yourself. You may trick me into attending your sale because you listed antique furniture in your ad, but I'm still not buying your beat-up Broyhill Fontana bedroom suit. But, because you were embarrassed to say your sale was 90 percent toys and baby clothes, the shoppers who really wanted that stuff didn't even show up.

Show Your Stuff

You know what they say about what photos are worth. Snap a few photos of your best stuff (the biggest or most desirable pieces, not the junk) and add them to your Craigslist ad. If photos are free for your newspaper's online listings, include them there too. But, don't pay extra for the privilege, and definitely, don't pay to put them in print.

Make sure your photos are well-lit and in focus. Snap them outside, if possible, and avoid using the flash. Bad photos are worse than not having them at all. 

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