|I didn't even try to lower the price.|
The Chit Chat. I always try to immediately befriend the seller. Smile. Small talk about the weather and about how many people have come by. Compliment the merchandise. Never mutter criticisms to your companions. Very often how friendly the seller thinks you are is in direct proportion to how flexible prices will be.
The Approach. Scope out everything immediately upon arrival. Zero in on the good stuff and don't get distracted. Don't knock anyone over getting to a prize piece on the opposite side of a driveway, but don't dally over the blankets when what you really want is books.
The Grab. Who among us hasn't hesitated, and then watched someone else walk off with a coveted treasure? Most garage sale items are one of a kind. This ain't retail, folks.
Asking the seller to set something aside doesn't work. It's still easy for someone else to not know it's "reserved." Often there is more than one seller, and I've seen arguments spring up about which buyer had dibbs on an item.
The Demographics. Buy from little old ladies, and I can say this because I am a little old lady. I'm not endorsing exploitation of the elderly. I'm saying that older people are often happy to downsize, and they usually have the kind of things that were made (in America!) before manufacturers realized how flimsy they could make things that people would still buy.
Don't confine your garage sale shopping to the better neighborhoods, on the theory that people with money have more taste or better stuff. Wrong. Not only is the merchandise sometimes crapola, but it's usually overpriced.
The Vehicle. Don't drive an expensive car. Buddy up with someone who drives an old pickup. We owned a Jaguar a few years ago (before we realized how expensive repairs were). I told Mr. Lucky, "I can't drive that car to a yard sale. I lose all my negotiating power. Leave me the van."
Sellers will judge your ability to pay by what you drive. Look like one of the people, not a wealthy cheapskate.
The Outfit. There is a way to dress for yard sale shopping. You want shoes that don't absorb the dew that is still on the grass early in the day. Forget cutesy shoes that don't give you the comfort required to last the morning.
Look poor. Get your old sneaks out. Dress for functionality. The latest styles will only hamper your bargaining power.
Wear pants or a jacket with pockets for money. Don't carry a purse because you need both hands free to rummage.
The Schedule. Get there early or get there late. Everyone knows this. Have a plan. If you are getting your addresses from Craigslist, map them so you can make a travel loop.
Don't be so early that you risk annoying the seller. Some professional pickers may differ with me on this point, arguing that arriving while it's still dark, and the harried sellers are just setting up tables, is okay because you are a serious buyer. Do what you're comfortable with, but I don't think sellers like the idea of selling to people who are making a profit. Don't act like a pro. Even if you are.
The Mindset. Train your eye to isolate objects. In the row of junk vases there may be a genuine Roseville. Don't be influenced by surroundings. Instead, envision the lamp or chair the way you will use it. Maybe you'll be faux finishing that ugly flower pot, or changing the hardware on an old dresser.
Last month my friend Julie found a signed crystal bowl at a yard sale that she bought for $5. She sold it on ebay for $3,000. True story. She's also found diamond rings and sterling place settings for pennies on the dollar. She's educated herself about what's valuable.
The Money. Have cash, and have it in small change and small bills. Sellers are wanting to see profits. Some even have set a monetary goal for the day. Make it easy for them, and yourself, by having exact amounts. Checks sometimes are acceptable (life in a small town, ahhhhhh), but usually cash is king.
The Locale. I know that many bargain hunters shop flea markets, thrift stores and and consignment shops while on vacation, but have you looked for yard sales when you're away from home? Vacation shopping in souvenir shops, gift stores and outlet malls bores me, but show me a yard sale sign and I'm gonna follow that arrow. Besides prices being a plus, my chances of finding something with local color, something not common back home, are going to be pretty darn good. I still have the bamboo furniture I bought cheap while visiting the Florida Panhandle ten years ago.
I know that each of you will have your own tips to scoring great deals at yard sales. If you liked my bargain-hunting ideas, download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, where you'll find plenty of pointers for thrifty buying and decorating, whether you are presently selling a home or not.