"Lilburn, GA, USA - April 21, 2012: Containers labeled with prices hold merchandise being sold in a parking lot at the Lilburn citywide garage sale"

Scoring Big at Yard Sales

The thrill of wading through random items at a thrift store has somehow not been lost in the age of iPhones and Instagram, but yard sales can offer even better deals that often go unnoticed.

Larry Johnson started the Atlanta Garage Sale Facebook group, which currently has over 26 thousand members. The group serves as an online exchange and as a place where community members can find information on physical yard or garage sales nearby.

“I was tired of going to different garage sale groups that were allowing too many services to be shared like selling cars, homes and business services,” Johnson said. “I just wanted to look for items and purchase them if interested. I have had people thank me for the way the group is managed because it was their main source of income. They didn’t have to fight for visibility with service posts which allowed them more potential sales.”

It’s not just Facebook that has the tea, however. Websites like garagesalestracker.com, yardsalesearch.com, and yardsales.net allow users to post their sales and search for upcoming sales in their area. Craigslist is another place where community members post yard sale ads, and several towns and communities have formed similar online exchange and yard sale groups via Facebook. Smalltown media outlets like local papers are another great place to look, according to moneycrashers.com. The website suggests forming a relationship with the seller by asking about the origin of items and to buy in bulk. Buyers must be willing to walk away when items are overpriced and when sellers are unrealistic or unwilling to negotiate. Time matters too. Moneycrashers.com suggests hitting the lawns as the sun rises and sets, noting that the earliest people have the biggest selection while the latest people are often offered the best deals in last-ditch efforts to clean house.

Consumer Reports list multiple ways to get the best deals and have a great time when shopping at garage sales, suggesting that shoppers who wish to go to multiple sales should plan out their trip in advance. Yard Sale Treasure Map is an app that pulls postings from Craigslist to display the location of nearby yard sales, even offering mapped-out GPS routes for optimal timing. The Consumer Reports article also suggests narrowing your search by item, like going to higher-end neighborhoods when looking for used luxury items. Shoppers are also advised to pack newspaper, bungee cords, boxes, tape, wrapping paper, bags, and any other items that will help them pack-up the new finds.

Checking items is also an imperative aspect of yard sale shopping. This includes checking clothing items for stains and bringing batteries to check if battery-operated items still work. Checking items can also mean verifying that an item meets current safety standards. Consumer Reports suggests visiting recalls.gov to look up an item before purchase, especially if that item is food related, safety gear, furniture or a car seat. To make sure they are getting a good deal, shoppers can download selling apps like eBay, Letgo, and Offerup to check the web for prices on the item they’re interested in buying before purchasing. When negotiating, always start lower than the desired end price but be prepared for some sellers to be unmovable.

Cash is a necessity at most garage sales. While more and more small businesses are taking credit cards via phone and tablet, and with cash services like PayPal, CashApp, and Venmo, it’s a lot easier to find bargains without carrying cash. Still, there’s nothing more disappointing than holding the crown jewel of a yard sale hunt, and knowing that you can afford it but you just left the cash at home.

For Johnson, yard sale shopping is a game he has spent years perfecting. “I would say for me it’s a hobby,” Johnson said. “I like seeking hidden treasures that people don’t want anymore. I take photos on the side and was able to purchase a very nice drone for far less than what it was originally worth.”