Brought to you by our friend Laura Putnam from Finding Home blog:
Tag sale, yard sale, garage sale and sometimes even, estate sale. No matter what you call it, they are a great place to find treasures for your home. Whether you are looking to find gently used furniture, unique vintage accessories or outdoor items, yard sales are a great option. With the right strategy and plan, great deals, lifetime treasures, and best of all a story of how you found it, can be easy to find.
Here are some tips and tricks for finding treasures at a yard sale.
Know Where You Are Going
Look in your newspaper, Craigslist or Garagesalefinder.com for upcoming sales and make a plan. To avoid driving all over the place, map out a route.
As much as I try to avoid it, I do sometimes end up at lousy sales. I have experienced “bait and switch” advertisements for sales that were a dud. However, if you really study how they list the items, you can tell if it is a good fit for you. If the advertisement is only speaking about children’s toys and clothing, you are not likely to find vintage accessories. However, if the ads speaks about “years of collecting” or “entire estate”, those are good key flag words to look for.
Know What You Want
I approach a yard sale two ways. First, I have a list. Sometimes on paper, sometimes in my head of things I am looking for. Some things are items I collect, so they are always on the list. Others are for a project I may be working on. By working from a list, it keeps your eye zoned for what you are looking for. You may notice something you otherwise would have passed by.
Second, I find what speaks to me. Sometimes I come across an item that is just so perfect, but I have absolutely no idea what I would do with it. Now, of course, we want to avoid being hoarders, but often once you get something that you love home, you find the perfect place for it. You have to evaluate how much you will regret not going home with it versus how much you are willing to store it until you find the perfect place for it.
Start a Conversation
This seems obvious but it is an important part of shopping successfully. Most of the time, the person who is running the sale lives there, so don’t loose sight of the fact that it is their home and they may even being struggling with selling some of their items.
I enjoy meeting the unique personalities at sales (most of the time!). I love to find out the story. Where did everything come from? Are they moving? Nothing too intrusive and I try to read how much they are willing to share. Recently at a sale, after all my purchases were made and I was headed to the car, the owner asked, “Would you like to go in the attic?”. Um, yes! I literally scaled a garage wall to get in the attic. I went home with two amazing quilts and a perfect leaded glass window. I was happy as could be with my adventure and the homeowner was so pleased that the items went to someone so excited about them. A true win-win! If I hadn’t engaged him in conversation, let him know what type of things I was looking for, I never would have had that opportunity.
Which brings me too, if you don’t see it, ask about it. If you are at a sale that has items similar to what you are looking for, don’t be afraid to ask if they have it. Sometimes, sellers just don’t get everything out in time and would be happy to make another sale.
It Is All Negotiable
Again, this seems obvious, but “haggling” is something people are often uncomfortable with. I simply ask, “would you take $____ for this?”. Usually, they will say yes if I have offered a reasonable offer. Most of the time, I won’t offer less that 25% of what it is marked.
Often things are not marked and I try to force them to name the price first. Then (unless I am incredible giddy and excited and I forget and kick myself later), I will come back with a “Will you take….”. Earlier in the day, you will find the best selection, but usually less wiggle on price. Later in the day, most people want it gone and they are usually willing to do better on the price.
And of course, always have cash in hand. You never know what you may find and cash is usually your only option at a yard sale.
All that said, my best tip is to “make a pile”. Once I start finding things, I ask the homeowner if I can start a pile of my finds for them to watch. I usually ask pricing on the first item to make sure they are not overpricing, and then I shop the whole sale. Once I have gone through everything and my pile is complete, then I start talking price for the whole grouping. Even if they break it down by item, most people will give a better price if they see you are buying multiple items.
If you are really caught in a difference in price, I simply ask, “What is your best price?” That is the time to make a call. Buy it or walk away. But be sure, there are still items that I didn’t buy that haunt me.
It is a rare yard sale where everything is perfectly stacked, every item has a price and there is a young child handing you a glass of lemonade. Most of the time, things are thrown in boxes, stacked on boxes and half of it isn’t even out yet. Don’t be afraid to dig and get dirty. The exact thing you are looking for may be under that old blazer. Don’t assume that only like items are in boxes – dig through it all. Just keep hand sanitizer and wipes in the car!
Once you get a few yard sales under your belt, you will be an old pro in no time. You will be able to create a unique look for your home, without spending a lot of money. In my book, that is the ultimate “win-win”! Happy hunting!