Sunday, October 18, 2009

Making a Living at Garage Sales, Yard Sales, Moving Sales, and Estate Sales

I predict that you could make a living from garage sales, yard sales, moving sales, and estate sales, as follows:

Every week, consult local newspapers and websites to find the upcoming garage, yard, moving, and estate sales. Especially note those in middle- to upper-class older neighborhoods. Why older? Because their residents are more likely to have been there for years and thus have more good stuff to sell. Use to print out a map of the area, and put an X on the locations of all the sales you plan to visit.

On the first morning of the sale, plan to arrive at your first stop at least 15 minutes before its scheduled start time. Bring your iPhone or other wireless internet device with you so you can check to see what similar items sold for.

Generally, the professionally run sales are the worst for you because they charge high prices. If you see a professional sign, skip it or come back 1/2 hour before the sale ends--at that point, they may be willing to give you a real bargain. In any event, you must be a tough negotiator or you probably won't make enough money to make this endeavor worth your while.

To take advantage of auction fever, sell your lightweight items (jewelry, collectables, etc) on ebay. Sell heavier items, for example, furniture, at a consignment store, on, or a publication read by people likely to buy the product you're selling.

Keep track of what sort of products are yielding you the highest net profit and focus subsequent treasure hunts on those items.


F.S. said...

A tangentially related story: I met a 91-year-old guy on BART a few weeks ago. He was carrying a trumpet case. He buys used instruments at flea markets, repairs them, and sells them. He does it as a hobby, not for a living, but clearly enjoys it. Clearly there are gems to be had out there if you know what to look for.

Jeff said...

Marty - my wife and I used to do this. It was a lifetime ago and we couldn't find work. We made enough to put food on the table. One gold mine for yard salers: auctions at public storage facilities. They auction stuff off when people don't pay their bill.

Anonymous said...

I think that your last sentence makes the most important point but I don't think it's emphatic enough.

The most important point is that your profit margins (on the items you successfully sell) have to be large enough to cover the purchasing prices of the items you fail to sell. Only after you recoup the cost of the things you can't sell--or sell at a loss--do you begin to make money for yourself.

Anonymous said...

I encourage you and any of your interested readers to go see the film "The Providence Effect" now playing at the Landmark Shattuck in Berkeley. It is a remarkable documentary on two schools educating poor, disadvantaged students from the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago. It shows what can be accomplished when standards and expectations are high for students and teachers. The high school seniors go on to some of the best universities in the country and boast a 72% college graduation rate. It's a fine, uplifting movie that shows one model of what can be done to close the achievement gap.

Marty Nemko said...

I've been burned by such movies too often. For example, the legendary Stand and Deliver speaks of a great teacher who got inner-city kids to pass the AP exam--what they didn't tell you was that he creamed the very best students from across the entire Los Angeles Unified School district for his classes. They also didn't tell you that soon after the movie was made, he quit teaching and went on the lecture circuit.

Ian Random said...

Yes, you can make a living. A former coworker was doing it with his brother. Basically, hit every book sale you can think of, paying no more than one dollar, and sell them online. Usually, the odder the book, the better the chance of it being worth something. Last I heard, a major auction site ruined the way it handled books and that really cut down business.

dbaldwin3 said...

I make a living doing just this, and I have to say I am LOVING it! To the nay sayers.... you don't get it. I sold 1979 diapers (8 of them to be exact) for over $400! I only paid $4 for them. If an item doesn't sell, which is very rare, I simply put it back into MY garage sale for the price I paid for it. If it STILL doesn't sell, I donate it to a thrift store and take a tax deduction. Duh. Simple. You can do it too!


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