How to Calculate Garage Sale Prices

How to Calculate Garage Sale Prices
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Calculating prices for your garage sale offerings is a process that requires a little research and some marketing psychology. Several factors should be considered, including fair market value, your investment and your motivation for selling your goods. Once you have determined the minimum amount you will accept for your offerings, the marked prices should be enough to cover your overhead costs, such as advertising and merchandising. On higher-priced items, you may want to modify the stated prices to make a little room for price negotiation.

Write a list of your garage sale offerings, in table form. Do an online search on various auction sites to help determine market values for antiques, collectibles and especially precious items. As a word of caution, antiques purveyors often shop for their wares at garage sales, so don't expect to receive full-retail value for these items.

Write, in the next two columns, the minimum price you will accept for each item and the amount you hope to get for each item. Keep in mind that treasured heirlooms may have no special value to the buyer. For items that made their way to your garage sale as part of a de-cluttering project, pricing can be lower or more flexible. Offering your wares in a wide price range may encourage buying from a larger group of shoppers.

Add the amounts in the minimum-prices column. This is the minimum amount you will receive if you sell all of your items at the lowest acceptable price. To that number add your cost of advertising and merchandising. Divide that number by the sum of the minimum prices. For example, if the total minimum total is $1000 and your overhead cost is $50, divide 1050 by 1000. The quotient is 1.05. That means that you will have to average 1.05 times your lowest acceptable price for each item to recover your overhead costs.

Establish prices for your offerings, based on the minimum amount you will accept plus overhead cost, your investment in the items and fair market value for used items. To generate interest, prices for your higher-end offerings should neither be set too high nor too low. Buyers may be concerned that vintage, antique or collectible items are fake if you ask too little for them. For greatest profit, set prices for higher-end items 20 percent higher than the amounts you can reasonably hope to receive to create wiggle room for negotiation.

Use signs to let buyers know that your prices are negotiable. Some buyers will try to negotiate a price, even if you have indicated the least amount you accept for an item. Other buyers may be too shy to make a counteroffer. You can encourage a sale by initiating conversation. If the buyer is seriously considering making a purchase, providing information about the item may clinch the sale. If the buyer hopes to get the item at a lower price, but is too shy to ask, offer a lower price that keeps your profit within an acceptable margin. Encourage sales by letting the buyer, within reason, win.


  • At the end of the day, splitting profits with friends, families or neighbors who have contributed items can be tricky and result in hard feelings if you don't keep a record of your sales. To prevent disharmony, note the amounts received on each of your items.