Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Garage Sales/Estate Sales Tips, Advice and What Works for Me

 I've been enjoying visiting lots and lots of garage sales and estate sales this summer, and even a few church rummage sales. Most of them have been with my fellow treasure seeking buddy Chicken's Auntie.

While we have been out and about, one or the other of us will make a comment, or give a suggestion about shopping sales or something to do with the sales, and she often says, "you should blog about that."

When you are about to go out to hit some sales, how do you "prepare"? Or do you just drive out and visit what you find along the road?

I started garage sale shopping with my parents when I was a kid, but not to the extent that I now shop the sales.  When I was a kid, it was more of a hit or miss adventure. I don't remember my parents ever looking up the sales in the newspaper before heading out.

From the time my boys were little, I used to get the local paper on Wednesday, and go through all the ads, circling the ones that looked interesting. Then I'd pull out my local county map, and map out all the sales for Thursday (since the majority of sales in our area start on Thursdays).

I still check the paper, but now I check it online and print out one sheet with all the interesting sales on them. Then I visit Craigslist, estate and to see what other sales  might be interesting and in my area.

Then I compile my list and visit Mapquest and type in all the addresses (adding a new location for each new sale) then, while I'm looking at the Mapquest map of my travels, I rearrange them so that I start with the furthest one out and work my way back toward home. Sometimes I change the order if there is one particular sale that really pops out at me as being one that I HAVE to visit first.

Then on sale day, I type the address of the first sale into my GPS and so on and so on as we visit each of the sales.

My top 10 tips and advice for sellers...

     1. Have BIG, easy to read signs-preferably in bright colors, big letters and have them all be the same. There is nothing worse than following signs only to lose the trail, or get off track because you picked up a different sign (to another sale) along the way.
     2. Put a sign or balloons at the end of your driveway! I once went to a sub sale, and walked up to a house with tables set up in the garage (with just a tiny amount of stuff on them) and a sign leaning up against the garage  (that said Garage Sale")with the owner in the driveway-and he asked me what I was doing...when I said I was here for his garage sale, he said, "I'm not having a sale today." Boy, was I embarrassed!! It sure looked like he was having a sale! So now, I am VERY cautious before approaching a sale-if it isn't very clearly marked as a sale,I usually pass it by.
     3. Please price your items! It gets REALLY old to have to ask prices on every thing you are interested in! Sometimes I see something that I already have, and would just like to see what they are selling it for-just for comparison purposes-not to buy it. (Do you ever do that?)  When everything is priced, it is a lot easier for you and for your customers. I've been to several sales were I've just walked away without asking prices, because at previous sales, I've heard sellers offer up several different prices based on who was asking-and I can't stand those kind of pricing practices.
     4. Please have bags and/or newspaper or something to wrap glassware in when someone purchases it. 
     5. If you advertise a sale to be a three day sale, you should be open 3 days. It is no fun as a shopper when you show up to a house and the garage doors are closed, and there are boxes out at the curb-especially if you drove out of your way to get to it!
     6. Please be specific in your ad. Take  note of the ingredients lists on the food you buy and list your garage sale in the same manner. The first items listed should be the main focus of your sale. If you have a lot of baby stuff and one old piece of furniture, start the ad with "LOTS of Baby stuff, toys, clothes, books and an antique dresser". Don't just throw in the words "vintage" or "antique" to get people to show up at your sale-you'll end up with frustrated shoppers who might skip future sales at your house (or from your company if you are in the business of garage or estate sales)if you don't have what you advertise. Be specific in your wording...household items could cover a huge array of things-it's just as easy to say kitchen items, or decor, and it helps shoppers to determine if your sale is worth the trip.
     7. Be willing to barter back and forth with a shopper making an offer. Wouldn't you rather have $7 for a $10 item and no item to have to put back away after the sale is done, than no money and all the stuff to put away?
     8. Just because you paid $50 for it new (and you barely used it), doesn't mean it is still worth $40 ten years later. Decide what the goal of your sale is...are you trying to get the most money you possibly can, and aren't worried about hauling all the stuff back inside? Or are you trying to get rid of some extra stuff and make a little money while you are at it? My suggestion would be to start at your top price the first day and offer discounts each day thereafter-letting your customers know that on the last day, everything will be half off (or whatever you choose)-I've had a lot of customers return on the last days just to see what is left. If you have things you don't want to sell for the discounted price, then put them in the house and save them for another sale. Just because something is listed at a certain price on Ebay, doesn't mean you should try selling it for that at your garage sale. People come to garage sales looking for bargains, not out of reach prices.
     9. Take some time to arrange your sale so that like items are together. If someone is looking for kitchen items, and you have them grouped with all the other kitchen items, they might see something else they want because it was right there with the items that first caught their eye, rather than having it across the room with some other stuff.
     10. Have plenty of change so that if someone has been out treasure seeking all day and they are left with a twenty dollar bill or two, they can still buy something from you even if it ends up being a lot of change to give back.

Last but not friendly and greet people who stop at your sale-the old adage "you get more flies with honey" applies big time! I know I'd rather buy more from a friendly person than someone who looks me over and ignores me or is snarly-wouldn't you?

My top 10 tips and advice for buyers...
     1. Plan ahead. Make a list of addresses of the sales you want to visit and map them out. It saves time and gas to have a plan of action rather than just driving around randomly.
     2. Bring a good amount of cash to pay for your purchases-most people will not take checks anymore.
     3. Get a good GPS-it makes finding sales a breeze-especially when there is construction or detours or you miss your turn.
      4. If you pull up into the driveway, you really should get out of your car and go through the sale. It's almost like a snub to the sellers when people pull all the way into the driveway or yard, only to pull out without even getting out of the car. Scope things out from the road and if you see a majority of items you aren't interested in (for me that would be kids toys and baby stuff), then keep moving and go on to the next sale on your list-before you pull in to the driveway or park. Don't be afraid to take a chance though-sometimes you can't see from the road what might be sitting at the back of the garage-it could be that one of a kind item you've been searching forever for!
     5. Don't be afraid to make offers! What is the worst the seller will say??? "No". Most of the time though, they will either accept it, or make a counter offer. Don't be too stingy either in your offers. If something is already priced at a great price and you are willing to pay it, then pay it! If it is a little higher than you'd like to pay, then offer a little less. If something is really a lot higher than you'd like to pay-don't expect them to be willing to come down really low to a price you are comfortable with. When I've been the seller, I've actually had people offer me half (or less than half)of the price I've had something for sale at -I think that is just rude.Whether I'm selling or buying, I don't have a problem offering or accepting a $5 offer on a $7 item, a $7 offer on a $10 item, and so on. I don't usually make offers on items that are $1 or less-some people do.
     6. Set a time limit. Make a mental note of what amount of time you'd like to devote to treasure seeking for that day and stick with it. You'll feel better at the end of the day
with your treasures if it didn't take you all day to find them!
     7. Don't forget to eat and drink while you are out and about. Take a break, smell the roses-it won't be very much fun after a while if it becomes like a job or a chore to go treasure hunting-make it fun and enjoy the trip!
     8. Schedule treasure seeking outings with a good friend once in a while. You'll enjoy the treasure of their companionship and your adventures together will make great memories!
     9. When treasure seeking with a friend, keep your purchases separate when you load them into the car. Keep all of your purchases on one side and theirs on the other side-it makes it a LOT easier when there area a lot of things to divide up at the end of your adventure.
10. Make sure, when you are ready to make your purchase that you have thoroughly looked your item over, top to bottom, and inside out so that there won't be any surprises when you get home with little hidden chips in glassware or china, or holes or stains in linens, or missing parts or damaged parts. Generally garage sale and estate sale items area "sold as is" and there are  no refunds-buyer beware.  

Now if I could just find that one in a million sale with all kinds of vintage Fiesta ware-a whole box lot-for $10 (dream on-right?!!?)-I'd be one happy Treasure Seeker!!

What are some of your tips for finding good sales? Do you like the prepare ahead approach or do you like to wing it and just start driving? Do you ever make offers or do you generally pay the asking price? Are you mostly a shopper or do you hold your own sales too? What are some tips/or advice you can offer me on my treasure seeking adventures?


  1. These are some very good tips. Thanks.

  2. Hi Grammie/Mom!
    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!!! Nice to meet you!!!

  3. Your tips on both sides are great! I am a buyer and a seller, so I appreciate all of them and agree. I do like to ask what's your best price, or can you do better first--sometimes they say LESS than what I was going to offer! Also if their price is still too high, I like to say "Thank-you, it's nice but just out of my budget" or something like that, which I hope is polite and not insulting.
    I don't have a blog, but was excited to find someone in MI, as most blogs I frequent are not in this state. So happy to find you!

  4. Hi Laurel! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!! Nice to meet you! :)