The thing about yard sales, says Sheryl Cronin, is you never know what to expect.
The Marietta resident holds an annual yard sale to get rid of consumer buildup in her household. But she ended up donating to charity a vacuum cleaner she was confident would sell at her spring garage sale.
“There’s always stuff you think is going to go that didn’t go,” she says.
By the end of the day, Cronin had unloaded an old lawn mower, a computer and boxes of children’s clothes, among other items, successfully navigating the sometimes choppy waters of yard sale pricing.
“Sellers tend to think their things are worth more than shoppers think when they come to the sale,” Cronin says. She suggests sellers consider placing valuable items on Craigslist.com, especially if they don’t want shoppers making low-ball offers on them.
“People are going to try to pay you less than you want. If you want to move the stuff, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.”
Karen McCoy, who was holding her own garage sale in Norcross the same day, says she compares prices at the thrift store down the street before selling her own items.
“So if someone said, ‘This is so expensive,’ I could say, ‘My prices are lower than Goodwill,’ ” she says, adding that sellers can bump up their sticker prices if they’re prepared to haggle.
McCoy made about $300 from her sale without any big-ticket items such as furniture. Dishware was her best seller, but her daughter’s CDs — $1 each — seemed glued to the box on the driveway.
“We heard from somebody that came that someone else was selling them for a quarter. So you’re in competition with other garage sales.”
McCoy says jewelry also was a big seller, an observation echoed by Judy Friedman, president of Norcross-based Atlanta Antique & Estate Liquidators. Friedman notes today’s precious metal prices are comparatively high: Gold has been trading at more than $1,500 an ounce; silver fluctuating around $35.
“We’ve been selling a lot of silver,” she says. “We’ve had individuals standing in line to buy it starting at 4 in the morning. It’s a really aggressive market.”
Friedman, who has almost 1,000 Atlanta-area estate sales under her belt, says this season’s a good time for buyers and sellers, especially when it comes to appliances.
“With the real estate market as tight as it is, people are renovating and staying in their homes, so they’re finding washers, dryers, refrigerators at yard sales that they pick up for a fraction of the cost,” Friedman says. “They’re usually difficult to move and expensive to move, but people are seeking them out.”
Her list of worst things to unload include clothing and bedding. “You’re not going to recoup the value.”
For some sellers, it’s not about redeeming the value. Friedman says she’s found some amazing deals over the years, including an elephant tusk she bought from a Vietnam veteran.
“He was aware of what it was worth and sold it to me for $40 or $50, and it really is worth thousands. It just goes to show you, you can find really valuable things out there.”
Timing: Shop off-season — fall and winter — or holidays when there are fewer buyers.
Tools of the trade: Don’t forget to bring cash.
Do your research: You run the risk of insulting someone if you offer too far below an object’s value.
On haggling: Be respectful. Insults will not get you a lower price.
Insider tip: Show up early if you want the best selection; show up late to bargain for a better price.
Timing: Sell off-season or holidays when there’s less competition.
Tools of the trade: Have about $20 to $40 in change, in both bills and coins.
Do your research: Consult eBay, Craigslist, consignment shops or thrift stores before pricing.
On haggling: Be prepared to negotiate. Your old junk might not be worth as much to others.
Insider tip: Visit the IRS website. Some goods are worth more to you as a charitable donation if itemized under their “fair market value” on your tax return.
Have you had a yard sale yet this year? What was your best seller? What’s the best thing you’ve found at a garage sale?
– By Lauren Davidson, Atlanta Bargain Hunter