Yard saling has to be one of my all-time favorite past-times. I’ve been hitting yard sales with my mom since I was a little girl. She’s the ultimate yard sale queen.
My mom taught me the best way to negotiate prices, from seeing her do it hundreds of times to watching her work with customers as we held sales in our own yard.
I learned that, as a rule of thumb, you can expect to get garage sale items for at least 50% off retail price. But, if you employ savvy negotiating tactics, you can easily save 75% to 90% discount off retail. Getting good deals at yard sales is easy; getting excellent deals takes a little negotiation.
If you can handle the fact that most garage sale items will be used, you will be able to stock your garage, decorate your house, and clothe your children for a fraction of what you would pay in the store.
Getting the Best Deals at Yard Sales – Taking Cues from the Seller
After shopping at hundreds of yard sales over the years, I’ve gathered a few tricks that help me get more for my money. Why pay full asking price for an item when you can get the seller to agree to a much lower price?
If you have the chance to do so, before even beginning to negotiate at a yard sale, listen to how the seller deals with other shoppers. Does she stick firmly to high prices? Does he seem to take all reasonable offers? How the seller negotiates with other buyers can tell you a lot about the best tactic to use.
By listening to these conversations, you will be able to find out what kind of seller you’re dealing with. You may find that he or she simply wants everything GONE. You might also find out that the seller is emotionally attached to everything and prices items so high nobody wants them. You might also find out that everything is overpriced; some sellers believe just because they wasted their money on a $100 trash can, you should do the same and pay them $90 for it.
My 3 Best Garage Sale Negotiation Tips
First of all, keep in mind that no matter what type of seller you’re dealing with, being nice will go a long way.
Beyond simply being courteous, there are three primary methods of entering into a negotiation at a garage sale:
1) Offer your preferred price. As long as it’s a reasonable sum (low, but not insulting), the buyer will often say yes. Most sellers want to sell their items and would rather have cash for them versus giving stuff away or making a visit to the dump.
2) Ask “How much?” then counter with half that amount, rounded up. I’ve found this tactic to work the best; this counteroffer is accepted more often than not, and when it’s not, the counteroffer will be somewhere in the middle. Assuming the original quoted price is good, then you just scored yourself a great deal!
For instance, I scored this lovely poppy print below from a yard sale for only $8. The seller was asking $15, but it was later on in the sale (around 11:45 a.m.), and I could tell she was just trying to get rid of everything, so I counter offered $8 ($15 divided in half, then rounded up), and she happily accepted my offer!
3) Ask the seller, “How much?” then simply say, “Would you take any less than that?” When you do this, make sure to let the seller speak next. You will likely be pleasantly surprised by a really low adjusted price.
The third method is the one I use most often nowadays. It’s the least confrontational of the three methods, perfect for anyone new to negotiating or uncomfortable with haggling. When I want a leisurely morning of deal-finding but am not concerned with getting absolute rock bottom prices, I use this tactic. When I need to make a sweet deal, especially on a large ticket item, I use the second method.
How to Politely Make the Seller Reconsider
If, after negotiating back and forth, you are still not 100% satisfied with the last stated sales price, kindly tell the seller than you need to think about it a little bit and continue browsing. You may find that you have a change of heart OR the seller may rethink the price and counter with a lower one.
If you make it clear (in a nice way, not condescendingly), that you think the price is too high for a particular item, you may be surprised to find that sellers change their mind before you leave. I don’t know if they start imagining having to bring that unwanted item back in the house or if they start thinking your price was fair, but I’d say this happens at least ¼ of the times I decline to purchase an item based on price.
3 More Tips for Getting Great Deals at Garage Sales
1) Ask for bulk discounts. As soon as you realize you might be buying a lot at a single sale, ask the seller if they will cut you a bulk deal at the end. You will almost always end up getting a much better package deal this way. A common practice: the seller will mentally add up all the individual prices, then cut that total by a good amount, knowing that you expect a deal. I’ve seen as little as half the original asking prices, all without haggling beyond “Will you cut me a deal?”
2) Don’t be the first one to wiggle. No matter who made the first offer, continue the negotiations with a one-to-one exchange. Don’t ask the seller to take $4, only to immediately change it to $5. Odds are, they will take your first offer, but you’ll never know if you offer a better price before they can respond!
3) Go late. You will definitely get the best selection if you hit sales early in the morning, but you will undoubtedly get the best prices at the end of the sale day. After a long, grueling morning of haggling, sellers just want their stuff gone. It’s not uncommon for items to be already discounted 50% of original asking price during the last hour or so of the sale, and the same negotiating tips apply late in the day; so, you just might get items at 50% off the 50% off price! These people are just one step away from listing their items in a Craigslist curb alert. You just have to strike a balance between selection and price. You also need to keep in mind that sometimes sellers thrown the towel in early; a sale that advertised a run time of 7-12 may end early at 11:30, and if you don’t get there until 11:35, you’re out of luck. Being nice makes a really big difference late in the day, especially if the seller has seen her fair share of rude Susies. Sometimes, they just want someone nice to talk to, and often you’ll get stuff for free without asking.
Worst Yard Sale Advice Ever: Dress Down
This is not the car buying episode of The Cosby Show, and you are not Cliff Huxtable. While it seems like a good rouse, looking poor doesn’t help you negotiate. I would wager that it hurts you more than it helps. The last thing you want is the seller thinking you are just there to steal their stuff. Just be nice – that goes a long way. It’s no secret that well-to-do people love getting bargains as much as the next person.
Where to Find Garage Sales – Online Listings, Newspapers
Used to be the only way to find out about garage sales ahead of time was to read about it in the newspaper classified, in local trade journals, or on the bulletin board at the grocery store. If you were lucky, you would see a directional yard sign that was placed out a day or two ahead of time to advertise the sale.
These days, the best place to find out about yard sales is the internet. Namely, Craigslist. If you live in or around a rural area of any decent size, Craigslist is the easiest way to find out about tons of yard sales in no time.
In my area, hundreds of listings populate the For Sale -> Garage Sale & Moving Sales section of Craigslist. The bulk of the listings for an upcoming weekend will be listed on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday morning.
Most yard sales are held on Saturday mornings, with an occasional sale on Friday and a handful each Sunday. I’d say the most common garage sale times is 7 a.m. – 12 p.m. on Saturdays. Some run 6 a.m. – 10 a.m.; others 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. Another popular choice: 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. But sometimes sellers give up early, so don’t count on the 2 p.m. crowd to stick to their word, especially on super hot days.
How to Spot the Best Yard Sale Listings
After years of perusing Craigslist for yard sales, then visiting them based on my hunches, I’ve learned how to spot the best yard sale listings online. This comes from being burned many times by seemingly excellent descriptions that turn out to be a grandma selling her crafts or an older couple selling their 30-year-old decor. I now know what to look for in an online yard sale listing. Which ones are best for you really depends on what you’re looking to buy.
In general, look for these yard sale buzz words:
- Need collectibles / antiques / nice furniture? => Look for “estate sales” or “empty nesters” looking to downsize.
- Need tools? => Look for “down-sizing,” “moving out of state,” and “retiring.”
- Need baby stuff? => Looking for a list of infant clothing sizes like “2T/3T” and toys.
Almost everyone will have some clothing and random household knick knacks to sell, so any yard sale will do if you are looking for those items.
The best sales are hosted by people motivated to move inventory, so to speak. Anyone facing an upcoming move or drastically reducing the size of their home will be selling perfectly good things that they can no longer use or store. And the prices will be good because they need the stuff gone.
Which Garage Sale Listings to Avoid
I’ve found that super short descriptions means the seller either doesn’t have much of note to list OR the stuff is really old. Even if the sale potentially has some gems, you won’t know until you get there, and your limited window of shopping time is better spent hitting sure winners.
Any sale that claims to be the best ever, yet doesn’t list any specific awesome items isn’t worth the trouble. You could be pleasantly surprised; however, you will be disappointed more often than not.
Related Articles About Yard Sale Deals
Here are a few websites that offer more tips on dealing with sellers, haggling down to the price you want, and finding great yard sale deals:
- This EverSave article contains solid tips for getting great deals at yard sales. I follow almost all of these myself, and I especially recommend the one about not badgering the seller. People can be pretty set in their ways, and if you badger them, you’ll only make them angry and put yourself in a bad mood.
- The About.com Guide to Flea Markets offers haggling advice for garage sales. Best tip here: offer less than you want to pay. Caveat: This author does recommend dressing down. Other than that, this contains solid advice. LOL
- At Popular Mechanics, real men weigh in on finding the best deals on tools and gadgets at yard sales.
Are You a Weekend Yard Sale Master?
I love sharing garage sale tips with friends and family, and I hope you’ve learned something about getting the best deals on your next yard sale adventure.
Do you have any of your own tips to share? I’d love to hear them!!