The Seller’s Guide to Garage/Yard Sales in Toronto

So, you've got some old items kicking around the house that you want to get rid of, and you're looking to make a little cash? All you've got to do is stick your stuff out on the front lawn with a few signs and people will come by and pay you to take it off your hands, right?

We Got Stuff by Paul Swansen
We Got Stuff by Paul Swansen

Actually, as simple as holding a yard sale sounds, there's a lot to think about if you want to make yours a success. From following the right bylaws to attracting buyers to getting a fair price for what you're selling, a successful yard sale involves thoughtfulness, preparation, and a good dose of creativity. If you're planning on hosting a garage or yard sale in Toronto, here's everything you need to know to make yours a success.

Toronto Bylaws and Regulations You Need to Be Aware of

While every person living in Toronto has the right to hold their own garage sale, there are certain rules that residents have to follow. If you live in Toronto, there's no need to apply for a permit for a garage sale, but there are a few restrictions to be aware of.

DSC04344 by Mike Gifford
Not a chair by Mike Gifford

According to City Hall, property owners can hold no more than two garage sales per year, and each garage sale can last no more than two consecutive days. On top of that, you're expected to take down any signs advertising your sale after the sale is over.

What can residents expect if they don't follow these rules? Tammy Robbinson, a representative of the City of Toronto who works in the Strategic Communications department says that the city investigates garage sale bylaw violations on a complaints basis.

"We're not out looking for people having too many garage sales,"

she says. Rather, neighbours would file a complaint first and then the city would follow up.

And if someone is caught breaking the rules?

"We would use public education and let them know the rules, rather than fine them,"

says Robbinson.

Items to Consider for Your Garage Sale (and Items to Avoid)

Junk In My Trunk by David Goehring
Junk In My Trunk by David Goehring

When preparing for your garage sale, it's a good idea to think about what items will be good to include and what items are best left out. Michelle Hawco has been holding annual garage sales in Toronto for the last three years, and over the years she's gotten a taste for which items will be hot sellers and which items are better left for the giveaway pile.

"Top sellers are often children's items,"

she says.

"Children's clothing is often expensive, and it's something that people can only use for a short period of time, which makes it a big seller,"

says Hawco.

Adult clothing on the other hand, does not seem to be a major seller, nor does old out-of-date technology like cassette and VHS tapes.

It's All About Merchandising

What's even more important than choosing the right items, however, is displaying those items correctly, says Hawco.

"It's not necessarily any specific items that do sell or don't sell,"

she says. Rather,

"items that are well merchandised will sell."

Yard Sale by Mike Mozart
Yard Sale by Mike Mozart

In other words, if you do your best to make your yard sale look like a retail store rather than a bunch of stuff you've haphazardly dumped on your front lawn, you've more likely to get good results.

"If you have a set of dishes, make sure they're out of the box, unwrapped, and up on a table somewhere so someone can actually see and examine them,"

says Hawco.

"If you have kid's clothing, organize it by size. If it is some adult clothing, try to hang it on racks instead of having it in piles on the ground."

DSC04288 by Mike Gifford
Unger by Mike Gifford

It's also important to have a pricing strategy for all of your items, even if you're planning on bartering with people anyway.

"Take the time to price things because people want a starting point,"

says Hawco.

"[People are] more likely to try to talk to you about it or negotiate if you've put something on the item."

Get the Community Involved

For some, garage sales are about clearing out clutter and making a few bucks, but for others, a garage sale is a great excuse to get together with your neighbours and have some fun.

Westnedge Hill Garage Sale 5 by Luke Larsson
Westnedge Hill Garage Sale 5 by Luke Larsson

Either way you spin it, getting the whole community involved is a win-win, as the more people you get involved in your yard sale, the more money you're likely to make off of your items.

Westnedge Hill Garage Sale 6 by Luke Larsson
Westnedge Hill Garage Sale 6 by Luke Larsson

In addition to putting ads in the local newspaper and using websites like Craigslist and Kijiji, Hawco also recommends using social media to get the word out about your sale. Something like Twitter is especially useful, she says, as you can use hashtags to connect with other people in your local community.

Consider Using Your Sale to Support a Good Cause

Another approach to consider is using your yard sale to support a worthy cause. Hawco uses her yard sales to support the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF) through the Yard Sale for the Cure fundraising initiative. Anyone can sign up to make their yard sale a fundraiser for the CBCF at

November Garage Sale for Haiyan Typhoon Victims in the Philippines by Nick Ballesteros
November Garage Sale for Haiyan Typhoon Victims in the Philippines by Nick Ballesteros

Attaching your sale to a charity cause can help make a real difference for an issue like breast cancer, and it can also be an advantage if you're more concerned about getting rid of your items than making a profit. When you sign up to host a Yard Sale for the Cure, for example, your sale will be placed on a map on the Yard Sale for the Cure website, and you'll also have access to CBCF resources which you can use to promote your garage sale.

Hotdog Lady  They Had Veggy by Mike Gifford
Hotdog Lady They Had Veggy by Mike Gifford

Ultimately, the difference between a successful yard sale and an unsuccessful one is the amount of thought you put into it. Putting on a yard sale shouldn't feel like too much work, but in the end you'll end up enjoying your sale more if you put a bit more effort into things like your merchandising and pricing strategy. Just remember to stay away from those old VHS tapes, and you should be good to go!


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