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Expert shares tips on organizing a community-wide garage sale

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While organizing a block-long multifamily sale is one thing, perhaps you want to kick things up a notch and organize a city-wide garage sale. Realtor Tom Zander of Picket Fence Realty organizes the annual village-wide Mount Prospect Garage Sale in Mount Prospect, Ill., and shared his tips on how to organize a larger-scale sale within a community.

Find a time of the year that works: Knowing when to have a garage sale can make all the difference. Although the Mount Prospect Garage Sale was initially held in April, Zander explained it was moved into the middle of May in the hopes of getting better weather.

Use sponsors: Organizations can sponsor the advertising costs of the community-wide garage sale. “Sponsors help defray the cost of production of the signs and ads. We want to keep it [the sale] free. We don’t want put in barriers to keep people from participating,” Zander explained.

Make your sale’s website user-friendly: The Mount Prospect Garage Sale’s website lets shoppers search for certain items for sale, such as lawn equipment, tools or clothing. Sellers can list their items for sale for free on the site, and can also upload pictures. “The Internet is a big help in organizing these things,” Zander said. He also emphasized that operating a website with sale information and the ability for sellers to register can help make the sale successful.

Provide a map for shoppers: Sorting through a lengthy list of garage sales can be a bewildering task for even a die-hard garage sale shopper, especially if they are not familiar with the area. According to Zander, creating a map that includes every garage sale can help shoppers cover more ground. A map of the homes participating in the Mount Prospect Garage Sale will be available in print and online several days before the sale’s start day. Although the map does not include the address of every home participating in the sale, shoppers can scope the map and find specific neighborhoods they want to visit.

Advertise the sale: Although the sale is advertised via word-of-mouth, other forms of communication are used. The event has an official website and Facebook page, and advertisements are placed in newspapers. Signs are also posted throughout Mount Prospect.

The annual sale, which will celebrate its 21st year, has traditionally had more than 500 homes participating. As of press time, 307 homes have signed up to participate, with additional homes projected to be included before the start of the sale.

The three-day event will be held May 16 through 18, 2014, and sellers can participate for all three days. The event attracts a number of shoppers, too.

“Garage sale shoppers are in heaven, as they’ll run out of time before they run out of garage sales. Friday tends to be the busiest day, and people have been known to take off from work. People plan their vacations around it. They’re very serious about the garage sale,” Zander said.

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