10 Ways to Score Big at a Yard Sale

"One man's junk is another man's treasure"—you've heard the adage before. Now you can prove it for yourself: With summer in full swing, so are the neighborhood cleanouts. Here's our foolproof guide on how to hit the sales like a pro.

Come Prepared

Prepare for a Garage Sale

Before you leave your house, think about the items you're hoping to bring home. Are you angling for a vintage sideboard for your dining room? Break out a tape measure to get an idea of the height and depth that you need. Do you have a blank space on your living room wall? Estimate what size painting will fit. Don't forget to bring your tape measure with you when you hit the sales. Once you have an idea what you want, pack some small bills for payment (think ones and fives) and some reusable bags to help you carry your finds.

Related: 10 Tips for a Money-Making, Hassle-Free Yard Sale


Pick the Right Sales

Choosing a Garage Sale

Choosing the right sale is all about reading between the lines. The way a sale is marketed in newspaper listings, online classifieds, or roadside signs can often tell you if it's worth your time. If it's advertised as an "estate sale," expect higher prices, a wide variety of items, and higher-quality pieces. A sale billed as "multifamily" means you'll be able to check out several sales in close proximity to each other. Also, if an ad reads “early birds welcome,” feel free to head out 30 minutes before the scheduled start time to scoop up the best items before the crowds arrive.


What to Snag

What to Buy at a Garage Sale

Yard sales are a great places to score dishes, picture frames, tools, costume jewelry, and kids' clothing and toys. They can also be excellent resources for finding lightly used appliances or lighting fixtures. Before you buy any electronic item, however, don't be afraid to ask to plug it into an outlet to confirm that it still works.

Related: The 10 Best Things to Buy Secondhand


What to Skip

What Not to Buy at a Garage Sale

A good price isn't the only thing to consider before you take an item home; it pays to weigh the risks as well. Skip secondhand mattresses unless you're willing to chance a bed bug infestation. You'll also probably want to avoid anything with heavy upholstery, such as couches and armchairs, to be on the safe side. Even more important, do your homework before you buy baby items like strollers or high chairs. Find the model name or number, and do a quick search on your phone to make sure the item meets current safety regulations and hasn't been recalled by the manufacturer.

Related: 10 Safety Essentials That Most Homes Are Missing


Play the Project Game

Garage Sale DIY Projects

It's very easy to get excited by an epic score at a yard sale, whether it's those six-foot-tall antique windows or a shabby dresser that would look spectacular with a little refresh. But before you buy, be honest about the amount of time and skill you're able to devote to a new project. If you're taking the cool find home just to move it from one garage to another, it may not be worth the effort and expense.

Related18 Sneaky Ways to DIY Top-Dollar Decor


Ask for Some History

Ask for the History of Garage Sale Items

Sellers love to talk about the items they're selling. If you want to try getting a better price on something, ask for a little history about the piece before you make an offer. Sellers will appreciate that you care about their treasure and may be willing to accept a lower price if they know the item is going to a good home. On the other hand, you may find out that the piece isn't meaningful at all, which gives you more leverage to get a deal.

Related: 7 Ways to Trace Your Home's History


Haggle in Bulk

Get a Deal at a Garage Sale

Pick out one or two items you like most and group them with some less exciting things. If you're willing to take several items off a seller's hands, he may be eager to give you a bulk deal so he can move more inventory quickly. 

Related:  10 Best Flea Markets for Cool Old Finds


Shop Like the Pros

Pricing Items at a Garage Sale

Most of us aren't professional antiques hunters, but if, all the same, you're hoping to find something that will land you on an episode of Antiques Roadshow, download the eBay or WorthPoint app on your phone to look up a particular find. Even if you're not looking to resell, it's a good way to double-check that the item you love is fairly priced.

Related: 16 New Things You Can Do with Old Furniture


Just Ask for a Better Price

Negotiating Items at a Garage Sale

Rather than coming up with a sneaky way of lowballing a seller, it may be best simply to ask if she's willing to work with you on the price. Being direct will come across as much more polite than making a too-low offer, and that consideration may get you further than pushy haggling. 

Related: Trash to Treasure: 14 Creative Ways to Make Good Use of Old Stuff


Bring a Friend

Garage Sale with a Friend

Yard sales are a fun and cheap summer date idea, whether with a friend or your partner. Not only will you have someone on hand to help you do any heavy lifting, but you'll also have a wingman (or woman) to talk you out of risky purchases

Related: Let It Go: 14 Things to Trash Without Thinking Twice


Savvy Shopper

Savvy Shopper

With these tips in the back of your mind, you’ll be sure to find some great steals at yard sales this year.


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