This past summer I had been going to a lot of garage sales on the weekends, comparing how much money I could make at them versus on Craigslist. One of my biggest frustrations was going to worthless garage sales. You know the kind, where two-thirds of the items are old Christmas decorations and the other third being actual household trash. I used to walk up the driveway out of courtesy for the person who put the effort into the sale. Now I won’t even get out of my car and just drive on to the next sale.
I got burned out and stopped going to garage sales for a while. I know a big part of it was that I was not willing to drive across town to the wealthier neighborhoods that usually have nicer items. Even then, there’s a decent risk that you will come away empty. That’s what got me thinking of a better way to filter out the sales.
Most garage sales are now being listed on craigslist. They are also posting pictures, descriptions and often will list all the items or types of items in the sale. At this point, a person could just click on every single ad looking for great deals. This might be fine for small towns that only have a few sales on the weekends, but I live in a relatively big city that has hundreds of garage sales posted on the weekends. There’s a better way to do your garage sale vetting process.
Search all your local garage sales all at once
Once you click on the Garage Sale sub-section for your local craigslist, there is a search field at the top of the page. Use this search field to search all the descriptions of all the garage sales listed in your area all at once. You can also setup alerts so you will be emailed whenever a “Honda lawnmower” is listed in someones ad. Use your RSS subscriber to set up the alerts.
I’ve found making a running list of items that you are looking to buy really helps. Make some of the search terms pretty general. For instance, searching for a specific model of laptop will probably get you few results where just searching for “lawnmower” can get you dozens. Then you just need to read through the ads to find the best ones.
Once you’ve found something you are interested in seeing, email the person and ask them for more information on the item. Ask about the condition, problems, issues, age and how much they are asking (this reminds them that you are still undecided about purchasing their item). After they respond, if you are still interested, ask them when they would be available for you to pick it up. (This usually only works with garage sales, as estate sales almost never allow people in early.) This is important because once Friday or Saturday comes around you can only be at 1-2 garage sales when they open. Getting the items before they make it to the garage sale is the key, especially if it’s a really good deal.
Another tip is to look at what else they are selling and let them know that you might be interested in a few other items. Some people are not interested in catering to one person wanting to come over for to by a single letter opener from them. If you might possibly buy a bicycle and their computer, this gives them more incentive to allow you to come over.
This past weekend I bought a Bose Companion 3 Series II, brand new unopened for $80 and a like new Snapper lawnmower for $40. I made $150 profit on the two items and spent less than an hour picking them up. Once your at the person’s garage, it’s easy to glance around and see what else they are selling. Going through a garage sale before the public is a blast! (and highly profitable) Let Craigslist steer you to the right ones.