from Florida Realtor Magazine,September2007 | page 60 Yard Sale ... Everything Must Go, Including the House!
People flock to Julie Norton’s yard sale/open houses, where she turns bargain hunters into prospective home buyers and sellers.
The best ideas are sometimes born out of frustration. Julie Norton, broker-owner of Prime Real Estate Inc. in DeBary, and her staff were dismayed about the poor turnout at one of their open houses. When a sales associate joked that if he’d advertised it as a garage sale, more people would’ve come, Norton felt that he was onto something. Then a seller came along who had some household items he needed to get rid of. On a hunch, Norton and her colleagues offered to set up shop on the front lawn during his open house.
“It started from there,” says Norton. Now, every Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon (barring holidays), she and three or four of her sales associates hold a yard sale for one of the company’s listings. “We’ve been doing it for about a year, and we pick up three or four [home]buyers and a new listing each week from these yard sales.” If the pace continues, she expects to generate up to 20 new buyers this year from the yard sales.
Here’s how she does it:
1. Replenish Merchandise If a homeowner doesn’t have items to sell, Norton and her staff stock the yard sale with their own merchandise. “Agents donate items from their garages,” she says. “If a seller needs to leave items behind we pay a small amount for it, but most of the time they give it to us and we add it to our collection.”
2. Be Methodical “One of our agents has a pickup truck, and we bought a flatbed trailer so we could keep all the merchandise together,” Norton says. “Everything is stored in weather-tight plastic bins, and it takes about 10 minutes to set everything up and break it down. It’s like military precision.”
The yard sales are typically booked two to three months in advance, Norton says. “Agents sometimes call me from the listing presentation [to schedule their Saturday].” [Check with your local municipality to find out whether you need a permit to hold a yard sale.]
3. Enlist Your Team Yard sales are an agency event for Norton and her staff, who operate as a team. Two sales associates regularly serve as primary “anchors,” and the others vary, she says. “One takes care of the merchandise. I’m present every week, and the listing agent is there. It creates camaraderie for new agents [because] they learn from the others.”
Norton has considered having two yard sale teams selling two sets of merchandise; however, her company currently hosts just one sale at a time.
4. Keep It on the Cheap The yard sales/open houses cost Norton less than $100. She uses generic garage sale signs bought from the hardware store for less than $3 apiece. She also places a classified ad in the local Pennysaver newspaper (cost is $11.50 a week), that list the address, date and time of the sale under the heading, “Garage Sale … Everything Must Go, Including the House.” And one week prior to the sale, a flier goes into the company’s outgoing mail.
None of the goods that are for sale has a price tag. “We [ask for] a nickel, a dime or a quarter,” says Norton, “Each sale brings in $20 to $50—enough to cover gas and sundry expenses.
5. Give the Seller Feedback “We invite people [who stop by the yard sale] to tour the listing and fill out a survey card so they can give us their feedback on price, curb appeal, etc.,” says Norton.