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Signs of the season: Are yard and garage sales returning in full bloom?

Along with the greener grass, expect another seasonal sign returning across lawns now through summer: bright message boards for yard sales.

Those yard and garage sales thinned considerably or halted last year with pandemic shutdowns. Under Phase 3, they’re expected to mushroom because people are eager to unload the extra stuff they’ve culled in a year’s time or because of brisk home sales, say event organizers.

One of the larger neighborhood events, Five Mile Prairie Community Yard Sale, just set a date of June 26. Also, there are newly posted dates for the Liberty Lake Yard Sales, supported by Kiwanis, now scheduled 4-8 p.m. June 18 and 8 a.m.-3 p.m. June 19.

The Liberty Lake group plans to request mask-wearing and social distancing with signage, said Cheri Hoagburg, Kiwanis yard sale chair.

“The community wants it. I’ve had so many questions, ‘Are we having it?’ ” said Hoagburg, who will post any changes or updates on the event’s Facebook page. “We need to get back to some kind of normal.”

“I have talked with the health department, and I’m also planning with the city of Liberty Lake to make sure we’re doing the proper things to keep people safe.”

Phase 3 guidelines for outdoor social gatherings allow 50 people outside a household. After last year’s event was canceled, Hoagburg said she and others are looking forward to seeing people in their community. But they also want to unload a lot of stuff.

“We’ve been pent up in our houses, and I know me, personally, I’ve been going room to room cleaning things out, so I’ve had lots of time to find things to sell. I’ve been piling everything up until I can get it out of the house.”

“I know I’m not the only one doing that. A lot of my friends have said they are, too.”

Wade and Tina Khail have organized the Five Mile Prairie yard sales event. She thinks this year could have 300 homes registered because of demand. The first year drew 125 homeowners who participated, and the second year had more than 200. Last year’s event was canceled.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of people who couldn’t do yard sales last year,” Tina Khail said. “It’s like a sport, seriously, for some people who like to go to them.”

Plus, she’s aware of homes selling fast and people wanting to unload household goods. Or in staying home, people bought extra stuff online such as homeschooling supplies.

“I do think as people have been stuck at home. It will probably be a little more busy with yard sales this year from the sellers’ side.”

The region’s housing market uptick has created a pent-up demand to clear out furniture and decor, said DeAnne Wilfong, a move manager for seniors and co-owner of Smooth Transitions in Spokane.

“We have more seniors now because of the aging population, and because they see a gold mine in selling their home, they have been anxious to get their homes’ contents downsized enough so they can move into something smaller and sell,” she said.

“The second thing that happened is so many people have been staying at home – not going into the office or traveling – and they’re cleaning things out like garages, basements and, oh my, the storage units.”

Wilfong predicts a surge in yard and garage sales but a slower rebound for estate sales, which are geared toward emptying more of a household’s contents because many older residents still are uncomfortable, she said. Some seniors don’t want people going through a home they’re trying to sell or are wary because of COVID-19.

For estates with loads of furniture, household items and delicate dishes, it doesn’t make sense in most cases to take that all outside or to a separate building. But for the traditional yard sale with scattered extras on tables and across the lawn, it’s bound to be booming, Wilfong said.

Many people are eager to find treasures. Wilfong joked that even advertising two items for a yard sale could draw 50 people.

“Outside garage and yard sales are probably going to be really popular, and the earlier the better,” Wilfong said. “Even if they don’t make a whole lot of money at it, they have built up so many things in the house.”

Some services are doing estate sales as by-appointment visits to lessen the number of people in a home, said Cindy Adams, co-owner of Resolution Estate Services in Spokane.

But she also thinks that yard sales, and to an extent estate sales, will pick up soon. She said Spokane vendors with vintage merchandise need to restock their stores, and many Spokane residents just enjoy going to yard sales.

“Spokane is one of the No. 1 places for second-hand,” Adams said. “We have a lot of thrift stores. Buyers love to come to sales because that’s how they keep their stores alive, so it’s not just the general public that loves to go out garage sale-ing and estate sale-ing. I hope they come back because we need them.”

She’s also aware that more people are selling a home while clearing out furniture and clutter.

“There is still a need to get items sold that they don’t want to keep,” Adams said.

Wilfong is helping clients handle estates in more than a dozen new ways since the pandemic started, she said, including Facebook Marketplace. She’s also offered private vendor sales. With another technique, Wilfong has posted a photo of a garage wall with items as a total sale.

She and her husband also are opening a consignment store in Spokane.

Called Born Again Collection, 2801 N. Monroe St., the space is set to open in early April to help people sell household items, vintage and upcycled pieces. Some residents, who have stayed home mostly for months, have told her they want to get more comfortable furnishings and sell high-end items.

“Are we going to return to the traditional estate sales quickly – no,” Wilfong said. “If it does, it’s going to be after people are confident that COVID is a thing of the past, and my question is, ‘how long will that take?’ ”

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