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Wizards of garage sales

New buyers and sellers can easily become experts by following a few tips

On any Friday or Saturday in the spring through fall, Judith Kean of Two Harbors, Minn., descends on the city’s garage sales.

As the economy tanked in the past couple of years, her hobby has become even more time-consuming.

“There used to be six to eight sales every weekend,” she said. “Now there are 15 or more.”

Many garage-salers are entering the market for the first time or re-entering it as a way to raise cash. Experienced shoppers know that because the quality of the goods has gone down, Kean said.

People hold on to possessions longer in a recession, but now they’re trying to sell what they might have thrown away or donated to charity in the past.

For buyers and sellers new to garage sales, here are some tips:

If you’re selling

Price low: That should be the goal if you want to get rid of stuff. For pricing guidelines, visit thrift stores, not eBay.

Heed the signs: Keep signs on every other block and every corner where a turn is required in the city (a half-mile apart along longer stretches in the suburbs). Make sure the address and sale dates are large and easily readable. Add balloons to attract the eye.

Sell with others: Doing it alone is too much work.

Sell to early birds: But charge extra, say a $10 “tax” for a purchase. Keep it short. Make the sale one or two, but not three, days.

Promote yourself: Advertise as much as you can in the newspaper and on Craigslist, Facebook and bulletin boards.

Cut prices: Advertise that on the last day or last afternoon, everything is half-price.

Offer details: Be specific about sale items in an ad, such as a leaf blower, musical instruments or furniture.

Be friendly: Greet everyone who comes to the sale.

Group small items: And sell everything for $1 or more to eliminate coins.

Plan ahead: Take the spring and summer to collect, price and box items to sell in the fall.

Choose the best hours: That’s 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, 8 a.m. to noon Friday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Donate leftovers: Call ahead to have charities pick up what’s unsold.

If you’re buying

Don’t bring your purse: Leave it in the trunk. Keep quarters, ones and fives in your pocket or jacket.

Cruise around: Check good neighborhoods for better-quality goods, but haggle if prices are too high.

Shop later: Browse in the late afternoon or on the last day for the best bargains. Any offer is fair near closing time.

Play it safe: Skip cribs, mattresses, car seats and hockey helmets due to possible safety concerns.

Set limits: If you’re concerned about overbuying, commit to limits on spending or the number of items.

Leave your card: Ask to be called if an item remains unsold and the seller is willing to accept your price.


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