More Garage Sale Buying Strategies

Last week I started to share some of my garage sale buying strategies.  This week I share how I select items to purchase and a little bit on dickering.  I’m writing from the perspective of someone who plans to resell the items.  This is where I make my profit…when I purchase the item.  The price I get for the item is independent of the price that I pay and it is up to me to make sure that I don’t pay too much.  I have to account for the hidden costs of selling (eBay fees, advertising costs,shipping supplies, etc.) I usually figure that if I can sell an item for double what I paid for it, I will make a profit after the hidden costs are paid.

  • OK, you’ve been directed to the “whoosits”, when you arrive at the table scan quickly for items of interest.  Pick up those items and hold onto them as you check the price.
  • Look over each one for any signs of damage. I have a loupe in my pocket or around my neck so I can really see any potential flaws. Sellers at garage sales don’t usually have time to check each item or may not have recognized the damage. Ask yourself if the damage is enough to keep a potential customer from purchasing it.  If so, don’t buy it.  If not, do a reality check on the price.  Most certainly you’ll get a lower price for it with damage than without. If the seller dickers, you can negotiate on the price.
  • Look for maker marks or original labels.  These are a good sign that the item has been lightly used and carefully cared for.
  • If you have a smartphone, and you are unsure about the saleability of an item, you can access the web and your favorite research site (mine is TeraPeak) to see what the item has sold for recently.
  • As you accumulate items, place them in the seller provided box or at the checkout table while you continue to shop.  In your head you should total up the full amount the seller is asking.  This is important for dickering later.
  • It is also useful to know what the item sold for originally.  Most garage sale items actually sell for 1/4 of the original price unless the item is collectible and has appreciated in price.  The prices the seller is asking may be higher or lower than this average, and it is useful to infer the seller’s mind set about prices from the ones being asked.
  • And then begin the dickering.  I start dickering before the seller has begun to total the items. If I have a fairly large number of items, I’ll  start with an offer for all the items for a single amount.  This is where knowing the full asking price is helpful.  If the seller’s prices are on the high side, I’ll usually start with an offer that is about 1/2 of the asking prices.  If the prices are more reasonable, I’ll start at 2/3 or 3/4 of the asking price. 
  • If the seller responds with a counter offer that is higher than I want to pay, I usually come up a bit in my offer and see if the seller is ready to come down a bit more.
  • I usually don’t go too many rounds with a seller, as my time and theirs is precious and we’ll either come to an amicable agreement within 2-3 back and forth offers, or we won’t.  I also don’t disparage the goods.  It’s insulting to the seller and doesn’t bode well for an amicable agreement.
  • If we don’t agree and the seller sticks to the original price, I have to decide whether or not I want to pay those prices.  I will then weed out the less profitable items as we total up the items. And reduce my total purchase as a result.  If the seller is amenable to lower offers on individual items, I’ll make them one by one as we total.
  • And I have to pay attention to my bottom line.  I have to ask myself, will I be able to sell these items for twice what I’m paying?  If not, I’d better not make the purchase.
  • And one last thought, if the seller’s prices are reasonable and I’ll make my necessary profit or a bit more, I don’t dicker at all.  I pay up and move on to the next sale.
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