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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Starting a garage sale business in a recession

With all of the hype about the next big business opportunity of the 21st century being foreclosure cleanups, it cracks me up as to how little most people understand what all is involved in taking on that kind of business. Sad truth is that is expensive to start, requires bonding, connections and in some rare cases, haz-mat certifications. In other words, do not waste your time. Let the other morons chase after that soon to be flooded industry and instead, take a simpler approach.

If you are like most people who just received a pink slip in these tough times, you do not have the time nor the cash flow to start some complex business. You need something that is a recession proof business anyone can start, easy to get going and is flexible enough to be started with very little cash.

This brings me to something I have found myself amazed with time and time again, it is garage sales. While most of us think that in times like these there is no way anyone in their right mind is going to be shopping around at these things, the truth is now more than ever, garage sales are a consistent hit. So it would stand to reason that starting a garage sale business in a recession would be a great means of generating income in tough economic times. Why? Because they provide the feeling like the shopper is able to get stuff as a “deal”.

The obvious downside to all of this of course, is that opening up a perpetual flea market is not really very practical for most people. And this brings us to Craigslist. At its core, Craigslist is a fantastic place to sell goods that others might wish to buy. Unlike eBay, there are no fees and you are also dealing with people on a local level, as to again avoid the usual eBay headaches that involve credit card transactions, shipping and so on. The down side Craigslist however, is much of the stuff that might be sold at a garage sale is not going to float in a Craigslist sale. So clearly, a hybrid of the two is in order here.

Cleaning out the crap from garages

I myself, could use this service. And what is really frightening is how much of the crap I have in my garage is actually worth a pretty penny. Yet out of frustration brought on by clutter, I would be happy to have a team of people come over to my home and clean out my garage just so I did not have to deal with the bulk of it. Just so long as all boxes were check by me before being officially loaded onto the truck, a form was signed by me giving these guys the okay to keep everything, I would be quite happy with such a service.

Here is the kicker - cleaning out the garage would cost me nothing. Yeah, the people providing such a service would do this for free - nadda, nothing. And it would also cost only time and gas for the crew to do all of the work. Yet at the same time, they get to pick and choose from all of the stuff they rummage through. Often times, there are at least a few hundred dollars worth of goodies that can easily be resold for a profit.

Craigslist - your silver bullet

Out of the pile of stuff you ended up with, enough of it will likely be sellable on Craigslist, even if most of it seems like junk to you. The key however, is fully understanding whether or not the stuff collected is actually just junk or if it can indeed be resold on Craigslist.

To get a better handle on this problem, I recommend a guide that I personally swear by called:

The Ultimate Guide To Buying & Selling On Craigslist

The above linked guide is going to save you a lot of wasted time and money trying to sell stuff that should never have been listed on Craigslist in the first place. And while it also deals with the buying side of Craigslist as well, that is something you can try for yourself later on.

What I see as the most important aspect of purchasing the guide is what you will learn in attracting the right kind of buyers with your Craigslist ads, along with knowing what is going to sell on Craigslist and what is better of in a yard sale.

Yard sales vs Craigslist

When you start up a business cleaning out garages for other people, chances are excellent that much of what you will end up with will indeed be junk. This translates into some of this stuff going to the junk yard while other aspects of it might do well enough being sold cheap at a monthly garage sale.

Depending on your local city ordinances, location of where you live and if you have the time, I suggest taking whatever you find is not appropriate for Craigslist and doing a three day yard sale each month to sell off as much as possible. This provides you with an occasional venue in which you can sell off the stuff that might not be doing well on Craigslist while at the same time, saving a trip to the dump as well.

Items that do very well at garage sales include:

  1. Clothing
  2. Tools (make sure to provide an extension cord for testing power tools)
  3. Furniture
  4. Kitchen gadgets (again, provide power for testing)
  5. Computers (Load them with a Linux release like Ubuntu as it is legal and free)

Other items can do well in addition, but these are generally the most successful.

How much can you expect to make?

Impossible to really answer, although I will say you can make a full-time living at this if you know what you are doing. If you live in a big enough market, I see no reason why you could not make $3,000-4,000 per month if you were careful and actively working hard five days a week. It should be noted however that you will have greater success reaching those numbers if you also work in refinishing damaged furniture as well as learning to BUY, in addition to selling. This is a helpful place to grow beyond merely “cleaning out garages” for the leftovers.

What does it take to get started?

  1. A means of cleaning out and transporting garage surplus.
  2. A computer and Internet to advertise your cleaning services on Craigslist.
  3. A haircut, firm handshake and the ability not to look like you just rolled out of bed. Be presentable.
  4. Gas money.
  5. A place to sort and store, surplus. Monthly rental units are pretty cheap this time of year.
  6. Business cards. Even if you are just doing business as a “DBA“, you should always have business cards handy.

Bonus tip!

To get started fast, consider dropping by local storage facilities (storage for rent) in person and introducing yourself as someone who cleans out unwanted surplus. Keep it short, sweet and leave a compelling business card behind.

Think you have a better ways of making a living on Craigslist that can be done cheaply, easily and without tremendous risk? I doubt it. If you had, chances are you would be working that Craigslist business instead of learning to start a garage sale business in a recession.


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