Here’s my strategy to have the most organized and efficient yard sale (garage sale, tag sale, estate sale, flea market) hunt.
I start on a Thursday night…. Why Thursday you ask? Lately I’m finding that many people in the capital region are hosting their yard sales on Fridays as well as over the weekend. There are two schools of thought. Go on Friday to get the best selection before things are picked over, or go on Sunday when you think people will drop their prices the lowest because they don’t want to have to pack their things back up.
Go online to the Times Union (or whatever your local paper may be) and go to their garage and estate sale section and copy and paste the ads I’d be interested in to a word document. I also check Craig’s List and do the same thing. As I’m doing this I try to group them all to geographic areas. Check out sales in more affluent areas. People in these areas tend to replace things more often with higher quality items. Though if you’re looking for antiques and vintage items you might do better in an older area of homes with retirees, etc.
How do I get there?
I put the addresses into a program such as Rand McNally, Map Quest, or Google Maps. I use the “add additional location” feature that most mapping websites now offer. I put in the addresses of the sales I’d like to visit. Once they’re in the program and the pins are placed on the map, I can sort them by the best order to visit them. I don’t want to be driving north and then south and back north again. With gas hovering at $3/gallon I try to be smart about things and not be driving in all different directions. Once I have a route planned I number the ads in the order I want to visit them. I highlight the address and the hours of the yard sale. When I’m in my car I program all the addresses into my GPS unit. My Garmin has a “recently found” feature to make it easy to go to each address on my list.
**While writing this I discovered a cool site called Yard Sale Treasure Map that looks pretty cool for mapping routes as well. I tried it out over the weekend and it works well, but if you want to modify the route or the order based on the time a yard sale is ending, I don’t believe it let’s you do this. I’m still learning though….**
What do I bring with me and my interesting way to “haggle”?
I tend to bring a small tape measure, a note pad and pen, in a small purse or wallet with me. Other items that might be a good idea are sunglasses, sunblock, bubble wrap for fragile items, shopping bags, a couple of bottles of water, and some hand wipes for grimy items and to wipe your hands when they dirty. I try to have small bills if possible and also load a small handful of change in the bottom. I keep larger bills in a separate section of the wallet. On more than one occasion while paying at a yard sale I’ve owed the person $10 – as I start pulling out singles, by the time I get up to $7 or $8 they say “that’s good enough, don’t worry about it.” I just saved $2 or $3 without even saying a word.
Some people suggest picking out everything you’d like and then make them an offer on the lot of things. If it adds up to $15 you could nicely ask them if they’d accept $12 for it all. Have $12 in your hand when you ask – nobody wants to see you stuff that money back into your pocket if they say no. If you have a $20 in your hand they’re less apt to drop their price, so bringing small bills is always a good idea.
Another way to get a good price is this one – if you’re buying a woman’s item wait until the wife is distracted and ask the husband and if it’s a male’s item wait until the husband is distracted and ask the wife. If they’re not emotionally attached to the item, the opposite spouse is apt to give you a lower price to just get rid of the item. Also they might not know the value of the item either. I scored an authentic Coach purse for $3 this way once 😉
If you’re going to yard sales with your kids, have them pay for the purchases. Many times people don’t like to take money from kids so they tell them to just take it, or they reduce the price. Plus helps teach your kids how to handle money.
If you see an items that you’d like, but it’s priced higher than you’d like, you may try giving the yard sale host/hostess your name and number or a business card. Tell them you’d like the item but don’t want to pay that much. If they don’t sell it by the end of the day and would drop the price to give you a call. You’ve got nothing to lose right?
I am not one to haggle. It’s not in my nature. I did have a situation which became humorous. The person had an attachment for a Kitchen Aid mixer. I asked how much they wanted for it. (For the record I can’t stand it when people don’t put prices on their items. I don’t like feeling like they change the price based on the appearance or actions of the person who asks) When she told me $25 I said thank you and put the box back on the table. She asked me how much I thought it should be. I told her “I don’t know, but I can’t afford $25 right now.” She kept pushing me “What would you be willing to pay?” Finally I told her $7 or $8. When she asked her husband he said “I paid like $40 for it and it’s never been used.” I assured her it was fine, I respected that he wanted more for it, I just couldn’t afford it. She went back and told her about my $7-$8 comment and he said “Well I really don’t want to pack it back into my garage so just give it to her for that.” And that’s how I got it for $7. I didn’t haggle, I didn’t intend to haggle, but by being honest and friendly I found a treasure.
Things to keep in mind.
Wood furniture can be refinished or repainted. Last summer I got an end table, a plant stand, and two night stands. I painted the plant stand and two night stands, put new hardware on the night stands and they look awesome!! I recently picked up a desk – I’m still on the fence if I want to refinish it or if I want to paint it.
Smell things. I know this kind of sounds silly, but if you’re a non-smoker buying something from a smoker’s home you might not be happy in the long run. When you’re outside in the sun, it’s not always apparent unless you get up close and personal with the item. Keep this in mind for books too.
If you’re looking for something specific ASK. You could get lucky. It’s possible the person has what you’re looking for in their basement and they didn’t think to put it out in their yard sale until you mentioned it. Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask right?
Be careful buying glass items. I’ve learned to remove the price tag because on more than one occasion it was covering a chip or crack in the item.
Make sure you get what you pay for. People have been known to buy a replacement item and place their old item in the old items box, so make sure you open the box to make sure what’s on the box picture is what’s really in there.
Check DVDs and CDs for scratches. Also make sure you’re not buying Sponge Bob’s Greatest Hits and get home to find a slasher movie in it, etc.
Be friendly. It’s more fun that way.
Things to keep in mind if you’re hosting a yard sale.
Take down your signs after. As I’m driving around to the advertised sales, I always keep my eyes open for yard sale signs at the end of streets. If your yard sale is over though, take down your sign so people like me don’t go on a wild goose chase looking for a yard sale that’s not going on!
Don’t try to get $5 for an item that has the Target price tag on it that says you got it for $1.50.
Do you like going to yard sales?
If so, do you have a strategy?
Have you had any cool finds?
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