Thursday, August 2, 2012

ANSWERS!!! Garage/yard/estate sales

Whoo hoo! Answer time!

First of all, thank you so much for everyone who wrote me asking questions about garage and estate sales.  A lot of you wrote me through the "Contact Us" button above and I am going to do my best at answering your questions... 
 1. "In your experience, what types of neighborhoods have the best garage and/or estate sales?"

This one is tricky and it’s different for different people/places, but in MY experience here in Dallas, I like to stick to the upper middle class/middle class neighborhoods.  There is a REALLY posh neighborhood next to ours (Highland Park) with million dollar houses, but I've found those with the most expensive stuff don’t always have the best garage/estate sales.
Pretty to look at? YES!... Good garage sale where you can score a deal... probably not
1. If they are selling their SUPER expensive furniture, it’s still pretty darn expensive by my standards. "Oh a $15,000 china buffet that you are selling for $5,000? Yes that’s a deal but still too pricy for my blood!"
2. Most of their garage sales have stuff that I’m not exactly interested in (IE: used kids toys, hunting equipment, etc) but even if they do have some furniture, they aren’t willing to part with it for a deal. EXAMPLE: I saw some awesome wooden chairs that would have looked get with a little TLC, but her kids had taken some paint to the wood and torn up the upholstery... it would have been a LOT of work to clean it all up AND get it reupholstered.  When I asked how much the pair was, the woman replied "$75 for each chair.  The wood itself is worth 4x that much"... Umm I’m sorry, but the wood is covered in paint and to sand down past the paint and the stain would take a LONG time due to the style of the chairs.  $150 plus all the hours sanding, staining, painting, buying new fabric, getting it upholstered, etc... just not worth it to me.
On the other hand, lower end neighborhoods are tough too.
    1. I’ve just found a ton of junk and not that many treasures... sometimes some fun decor which I can spray paint or some old books, but nothing too great.
    2. Plus a lot of times, I find that people have strong emotional attachment to their pieces, furniture, etc and don’t want to part with them.  And if they do, they tend to ask for a bit more than I’m willing to pay (especially if I'm the one putting in all the man hours to fix up old, mistreated pieces)
Middle Class to Upper middle class areas:
I am VERY lucky/blessed/stunned/and shocked that my husband and I got into the neighbor where we did (We honestly avoided the area for many months while looking because I thought it would be too big of a tease for something we couldn’t afford).  Luckily for us, we found our house the DAY it went on the market and put in an offer then next day.  Yes, it is a bit small and it definitely needs some updates (although the “Pepto Bismol” pink tile all over the bathroom is growing on us...lies!) it was worth it for us to get into such a great area and we both aren’t afraid of a little hard work.
Virtual house "hug"
How this relates to garage sales?  Our neighborhood is just that, a neighborhood: about 3 square miles of just houses.  Its pretty condense and has a great variety of house pricing (180k's to 800k's).  This makes for some great sales for a couple reasons:
    1. All garage/estate sales are pretty darn close together.  I only have to drive up and down 3 main streets and can hit anywhere from 10-20 garage sales during one Saturday morning!

2. It’s a growing neighborhood.  What do I mean by that?  It means families are growing.  Constantly upgrading, getting new stuff, and getting rid of their "old" stuff they may have bought a couple years prior.  Families who are continuing to expand, I find, are also extremely friendly.  If I see a good piece or something that I'm interested in right when I walk in, I may go and chat up the family.  At least to say hello, comment on their house, and to give them props for waking up so early on their day off.  More times than not, this has helped me close a deal after I look around and ask them about a certain piece.  People are more willing to haggle if they like you.  That’s not being braggy, that’s just being honest, AND the way sales have gone since the dawn of time. "I like you! Let me cut you a deal" 
What time of day is best to go- early when all the finds are still there, or late when you can get a good deal?
Honestly, I have had success both ways!  I'm a big fan of sleep so when I first started, I wouldn’t really get out the door until after 9-9:30am.  However, the past couple weekends I have been out early (by 7:30a) and have actually found MORE stuff.  Stuff can be either good or bad.  More options, yes, but people normally wont cut a lot of their price if they just started... They could be thinking that someone else can come in right after you and give them their full asking price (as all people throwing a garage sale hope).  
Seeing this garage sale seriously almost made me teary eyed I was so excited.  That was until a woman growled at me for touching a rug she had already claimed... touche.  I see this is war.
Sometimes, if someone isn’t willing to cut a deal early in the morning, I leave them with my business card (with a brief description of me on the back IE. Tall blonde in the baseball hat with glasses... so they remember who exactly gave them the card) and tell them that I am very interested in the piece.  If it doesn’t sell, I would love to talk about it.  People have garage sales to get rid of their stuff, so if something doesn’t sell during the normal sale, they rather sell it for a deal and have you come get it rather than worrying about putting it back or having to list it on Craigslist.  So far this has worked out twice for me!  (out of 5 times, so don’t be upset if they don’t call you.  It has to be a gamble you are willing to make)
Going in late has worked best for me at Estate sales.  People will usually hire out companies to run these estate sales for them and in doing so, earn a commission for everything they sale.  By the last day, usually Saturday or sometimes Sunday, prices are slashed but as much as 50% and are willing to sell things for even cheaper to make their promised numbers and have an empty house for the people who employed them.  Sometimes a great spot to get furniture since people walking through a house often forget that EVERYTHING at an estate sale is for sale and overlook the old furniture.
pic from here
How Do I determine if something is worth the cost?
Easy, does the price have 2 digits in it?? I kid, I kid, but really... Im not joking when I say Chris and I are on a budget... Budget like, only-replace-one-battery-in-the-remote-instead-of-using-two budget. 

I look at a couple things when determining if something is worth the price.
1. Quality - Is this something that is going to hold up? or is going to fall apart in a week (it doesnt matter how cheap something is if you can't still use it in a month)
2. Cost of a similar item... ie. Pottery Barn has this table new for $799... they are asking $150... with a little wiggle room, I can talk them down to $100 and save $700 vs something thats brand new!
3. Difficultly of project - some pieces just need love.  There is no getting around it.  But if something is going to be intrinsic to work on, redo, and is at the top of my price point, it may not be worth my time (or the best bang for my buck in the long run! See my above story about the Highland Park garage sale chairs)

4. Resale value - I know that not everything I get is going to be a home-run 100% of the time. That's a given.  So if I'm really on the fence about something, I have to determine if I can resell it, and if so, for how much... Lets take this guys below as an example

This was an awesome cedar trunk I saw at an estate sale that had a bunch of stuff on it and people were using it to sit on while texting throughout the estate sale... but I saw it for what it really was and sorta fell in love with it (minus the ugly cushion hat). I scored for $37 (marked $80, but it was the last day so everything was 50% off and I only had $37 cash... they took it... I wanted it for the foot of our bed but when I moved it in place, it just didnt work. They next day, I searched Craigslist to see what similar trunks were going for (about $200) and posted this guy up for $150.  It sold for the full price the next day...$113 profit. Boom!
P.S- If you cant tell, I LOVE craigslist and sell most of my stuff on there... I had a couple questions asking who/how I sell my pieces... honestly, its Craigslist or for friends... Im pretty small-time but if I get better I will definitely keep you  updated!
When is the best time of year for "hunting"? 
So far, I have had the most success in spring/early summer... its not too hot and people "Spring Cleaning" their house want to get rid of a lot of their old stuff.  
Summer is also a very popular time for garage/yard/estate sales because thats when people tend to move (avoiding the school year for kids).  People are willing to sell a lot of their stuff if it doesn't fit in the mover or just decided to buy new stuff when they move into their new place... 
Biggest piece of advise?
BE PATIENT!!! I know thats a hard one, but 9 times out of 10 you aren't going to find EXACTLY what you are looking for the first time you go out to a garage sale.
It took Chris and I WEEKS/(maybe) MONTHS before we found out outdoor couch. (as read HERE)  We were seriously about to spend $1,500 on a set from Costco when we found this one at a garage sale for $60...
Totally worth the wait!!!
If you ARE looking for something specific, don't be afraid to check out Craigslist and even put some feelers out there on Facebook to see if anyone is looking to get rid of something... 
 *Shameful secret, I got my first job here in Dallas via Facebook... no lie. I had $34 dollars in my bank account and put on Facebook "Hey Im in Dallas and really need a job! Any takers?"... it was my best friend from high school's friend from college's girlfriend's best friend's boss who had a job...(5 bonus points if you were able to following that)... 3.5 years later, Im with a different company but same industry and couldn't be happier... you never know what can happen unless you ASK!!!

Ok wow! That was a lot! HA... over-share much? maybe... but I hope you guys get something out of this!  If you have any additional questions, please don't hesitate as I would love to answer them for you!

Happy Hunting!


  1. That was a lot, but a lot of good information. I always ask people if they are selling anything else. Often times this leads me into the house or the backyard and I get to see more items the folks are willing to part with. Also, looking under and inside of things. The best items are sometimes buried, like your couch. Craigslist is my favorite place to sell my overflow! It's convenient, free and popular.

    1. SPOT ON!!! Great suggestions! I knew I couldnt cover it all!! Great pointers

  2. Great advice! I went to about 12 garage sales last Saturday with my sister (she used your tip about leaving your contact info for if they still had what she was after at the end of the day) and used the advice you gave me. We had a rough time though- 3 garage sales were really the weekend before even though the add said the day we went, and 1 house was totally nonexistent!
    Your advice on the neighborhoods really helped us choose some amazing areas!

  3. Thanks so much for the advice! I need to remember to be patient! Thanks again and I hope to share some new finds!

  4. Great info! My SIL and I have been shopping garage sales for the past 3 years now. It's amazing what you find. My best ones still give me goose bumps. Like $5 Joovy stroller, $40 cricut cutter with 3 extra cartridges, $50 bunk bed, $5 computer desk, etc. I have also found it depends on your area and weather for when the best yard sales are. Where I live spring is often too cold and wet and summer is too hot. There are people out, but not as much. Right before school starts though is when the entire state has a yard sale. Oh and even if you aren't looking for kid stuff for you, if you know a little about higher end kid stuff and you get something for a great deal- jump on it! I didn't need a baby front carrier because my baby was too big for it. But I got a Bjorn for $1 and sold it on craigslist for $30 making $29!

  5. Just found your blog through a linky party you were featured at (I think, sometimes I just click around and never know how I got there!), but I really enjoyed this post. We just moved to Dallas (Richardson, technically), and I'm out of decorating budget, so I need to start garage saleing! What neighborhood in Dallas is the best?

    When we first moved, I found a fun Facebook group for Texas Bloggers, and it's been a fun community. The link is:

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