Yard Sale Tips


Ah, yard sales: one of the best things about spring, summer, and even fall. Some of the best prices on items can only be found at yard sales, and many people devote their weekends to searching and rummaging through other people’s stuff on lawns and in garages. Here are some quick tips to make your yard sale experience more rewarding and profitable:

Check craigslist and any local neighborhood newsletters as well as the newspaper.

The Internet is a wonderful resource to find out when yard sales are happening around your neighborhood. One of the best websites is craigslist; in its “for sale” directory is the “garage sale” link you’ll want to check often in your city. Of course it’s also worthwhile to read over any local neighborhood newsletters for yard sale notices, as well as the larger newspapers.

Find out when the annual neighborhood yard sales are happening, especially in the better areas of your town or city.

Many neighborhoods will choose one day or weekend during the summer to have a large yard sale made up of many residents in the area. These are some of the best yard sales to visit, since you save a great deal of traveling time not having to walk far from one sale to another. Find out the more prosperous areas of your city and when they have their annual yard sale. In one city I lived in, one of the richest areas of towns would have a yearly neighborhood yard sale and I bought some great items there at even better prices. Rich people get tired of stuff fast, it seems.

Bring necessities.

If making a day of going to yard sales, remember to bring: extra bags, a hat & sunscreen, wear comfortable shoes & clothing, bring water & snacks. If you don’t have a car, set aside some taxi money if you buy something large and heavy that needs to be hauled home. If you have a car, bring rope and/or bungee cords in case you need to tie a large purchase down. Also in your car bring some cardboard boxes to put small items in so they won’t roll around, and some newspaper in which to wrap glassware or anything otherwise fragile.

Bring some small change and bills.

It’s a bit embarrassing when you haggle an item down to a dollar or two and then you pull out a twenty to pay for it.

Don’t show up early for the yard sale, show up right on time.

Many yard sale enthusiasts think they’ll get the jump on the best items at a yard sale if they show up before the stated opening time. Don’t do this! More often than not the person running the yard sale will still be setting up for the day, and will be annoyed with you for arriving early. It’s hard haggling for a good price with someone who is upset with you.

That being said, to get the best items, arrive at the yard sale at the time stated on the notice or advertisement. Even if people are still setting up for the sale, they won’t be upset and will let you look through the goods as they put them out.

If you want to buy an item but still want to look around, don’t come back to the item later, grab it now!

This may sound like a very obvious tip, but I’ve missed out on good stuff by thinking they’d still be out for sale while I looked through other yard sale goods. If you see something that you’re even considering, grab it! Look through other items and if at the end of your browsing you have a few items you’d like to buy, haggle with the person running the yard sale for a bulk price for the lot.

If you’re interested in something large that you can’t carry, it’s best to make a purchasing decision right then and there. Asking someone to “hold” an item for you at a yard sale and then changing your mind is bad form.

Sometimes the price on individual items is so good you don’t need to haggle.

Respectful haggling will save you a lot of money, but yard sales as we all know can often be wildly different in their prices. At some yard sales the owner overprices items in expectation of haggling. On the other hand, at other yard sales the prices are so low it can be insulting to ask for a lower price. Look over a few items to get an idea of a yard sales pricing. If you legitimately think the prices are too high, haggle. And even if the prices are already very low, it never hurts to haggle on a bulk price for a bunch of stuff you’re buying. For example, when I’m buying a few books for a quarter or less at a yard sale I rarely haggle, since the price is already so good. But if I’m buying a lot of those books, I won’t haggle the quarter price but I will ask for a “wholesale” price on a box of books.

Check out the clothing!

One of the most overlooked items at yard and garage sales is clothing. When buying clothes at yard sales, check each garment carefully. Obviously they’ll more than likely be somewhat worn in quality, but make sure there aren’t any rips or stains. Remember too that clothing will be a little shrunk from being washed repeatedly, so that “XL” t-shirt may actually fit as a “L”. If a lot of clothes are for sale, ask if you can fill bags with clothes and pay a set price per bag.

Ask if there are items for sale not on the lawn/in the garage.

Sometimes people running yard sales will have furniture or other items in their house for sale that they haven’t brought out. Often they’ll post a sign saying what’s for sale in the house, but not always, so it can be rewarding to ask them if there’s any items for sale not out on display. I once got an incredible price on a great desk by asking the owner this very question.

Check and double check items you’re buying.

Obviously you’re buying used goods at yard sales, but it doesn’t hurt to be careful about what you’re buying. If an item is in a box, check the contents. If you’re buying CD’s or DVD’s, make sure the right disk is in the right case. If you’re buying glassware, run your finger along the edges carefully to see if there is any broken jagged chipping. If you’re buying children’s toys, be particularly careful: also make sure there aren’t any broken pieces, or any small pieces that could fall off. It certainly doesn’t hurt to find out if a particular toy you’ve bought at a yard sale has been recalled by the manufacturer for safety reasons.

The last hour or two of a yard sale is a good time for even lower prices.

People hold yard sales to get rid of stuff they don’t want to haul back into their house. Usually near the end of the day they’re in a much more receptive state of mind to haggle down to lower prices. Many yard sale operators automatically lower their prices during the last hour of their sale, so always ask before buying.

I hope some of the tips will be helpful to you in the weekends to come during the yard sale season. May you find some great deals!

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