Hooray! Yard Sale Season has arrived!
Ahhhh, Yard Sale Season, how do I love you? The thrill of the hunt, the exhilaration of finding that perfect thing, super-cheap…What fun! About half my house is Yard Sale finds (the other half is from thrifting, trades & barters, and found treasures) I actually have my Mother to thank for my deep love of Yard Sale-ing. She started dragging me to sales when I was but a wee thing, and it stuck. Now many many I-don’t-want-to-say-how-many years later and literally thousands of sales under my belt, I have a system that works, and I’m sharing it with you here today. (I will be hosting my own Annual Garage Sale in 2 weeks, and will lead you step-by-step in how to host your own awesome, high-profit sale here on this blog. Subscribe so you won’t miss a thing!)
Yard Sale Shopping – The How-To Guide
1. Find the Sales
These days, the best source of yard sale listings is Craigslist.org. It’s definitely my go-to. Check the Garage Sale listings the day before you shop (the majority of sales are on Saturdays, with some on Fridays and a few on Sundays) and check it again in the morning just before you head out.
Some folks are still “old school” and list their sales in the local newspaper. Check that as well the day before you go a-sale-ing. Also, keep an eye out for signs around your neighborhood, community bulletin boards, and even Facebook and twitter posts. A few notes on finding the best sales: In general, the best sales tend to be in the nicer neighborhoods in the city. It does depend on what you are looking for, but I generally find this to be true. I don’t usually go to sales in the suburbs anymore (though if you’re looking for family/kid stuff, these may be the sales for you) Denver-ites: The best neighborhoods are usually Baker, Cherry Creek, Congress Park/Cap Hill, Bonnie Brae, Park Hill, Wash Park/Platte Park, and increasingly, City Park/Uptown. (though there are always exceptions to the rule).
2. Make a List
This is a very important step. It keeps you organized and enables you to get to as many sales as possible in a logical order. Arrange your list by start times, and then by their proximity to each other within those times. As you’ll see when you read the craigslist ads, yard sales usually start anywhere from 8am-10am, but pretty much all of them have very specific start times. After reading the ads, some of the sales will be ones you really want to get to. I mark those with an asterisk. My list looks something like this (addresses made-up):
1245 Fillmore St
682 Josephine St.
844 Adams St
1122 Lafayette St
1723 Emerson St.
522 High St (in alley)
*885 Race St.
1st and Cherokee St.
*142 Archer St.
3. Make a Map (optional)
A map is very handy if you’ll be shopping in a new area or are not sure where some of the sales are. You’ll find Google Maps or Mapquest very helpful.
The day before your adventure gather your supplies: Your List (plus a pen to jot down new sales from any signs you drive by); A Friend (it’s so very helpful (and more fun!) to go sale-ing with a friend); A written list of what you are looking for (with measurements where appropriate); Tape measure: Bags & boxes, paper and/or bubble wrap; Water, coffee and a snack or two; and most importantly, CASH, with lots of small bills. (many people hosting sales will not have a lot of change)
5. Timing is Everything
The Early Bird gets the Good Stuff. Do your best to get to sales right when they open. Arriving up to 5 minutes early is ok, but don’t push it. Most people are overwhelmed trying to get everything ready for the sale and will get annoyed if you barge in before they are ready. Remember, this is someone’s home, so have respect, and be kind. That being said, there is One Big Advantage to hitting sales late. While the selection may be small, the bargains are big. People are ready to wheel and deal at the end of the day. More on that in #6. Also, when you arrive at the sale, scan the scene. You can often tell at a glance whether it’s worth your time to look more closely or to move on to the next sale. You can often do a good scan from the car before taking the time to park. At the sale, if you see something you like, pick it up right away, or someone else will! If you find a bunch of things, ask the folks hosting the sale if you can make a pile of things somewhere out of the way. (and keep an eye on your pile, I’ve had my piles pilfered more than once!)
You’ve found some treasures and it’s time to pull out your cash. Bargaining is pretty much expected at yard sales, but don’t low-ball. It’s just not nice. Offering $10 for something marked $12 is ok, but don’t offer $5. It’s frankly insulting. If you are buying a few items, ask for a “package deal”. Most folks are happy to give you a bulk discount. The only exception to the bargaining rule is if it is the End of the Day. You can get away with offering just about anything if it’s at the end of a sale. Most people would rather you have it cheap than have to pack it back up or drag it to the donation center. What should you expect to pay? If you are new to yard sale-ing, a general rule of thumb is 10-15 cents on the dollar, unless the item is new (then it should be about 60-70% off retail), collectable, vintage/antique, or high-end designer. Your Smartphone is your best friend if you’re not sure. I will usually look at the Ebay “Completed Listings” final sales prices to get a feel of what things are worth if I’m uncertain. I usually mentally compare to what I’d expect to pay at the thrift store. If it’s much more I usually pass (unless of course I’ve fallen in love and have to have it). Sometimes people are a little too attached to their stuff and price everything too high. I leave these sales quickly and move on to the next…Oh, and always check over your purchases carefully before you pay. There are no returns at a Yard Sale.
Always be nice. You are visiting someone’s private home, and trust me, they have worked hard to put their sale together. Be kind. (besides, people are more apt to give a good deal to a nice person!) I’ll be honest. I’ve had a few really rude people at my sales, and not only did I refuse to sell them anything, I asked them to leave. Have fun! This is an Adventure, a Treasure Hunt! Get out there, get sale-ing, and enjoy yourself. I usually treat myself to a nice lunch after a hard morning of Yard Sale-ing. It’s fun to sit and chat about the morning’s finds and the ones that got away…
Tell me about your great Garage Sale finds! I’d love to hear about your treasure in the comments section below. (stay tuned for a 2-part series on preparing to have your own great Yard Sale, coming soon!)