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Garage Sale Season is Here

Web posted on March 24, 2017

A Curmudgeon's View

By Les Enekes

Spring has sprung (well, officially anyway) and it's time to get rid of all that stuff you haven't used in years, and is cluttering up your closet/basement/garage (or all of the above). Perhaps it has taken on a life of its own and is trying to evict you. Your loved ones may be working on an intervention. We all know that one person's trash is another person's treasure. Every item sold at a garage sale is one less going to the landfill. The weather should start getting warm and pleasant shortly and outdoor garage sales will be starting within a couple of weeks. This should give you a little bit of time to get ready.

Last year I wrote a two part column about hints and trip for both buyers and sellers. Here are some of the highlights.

For all you sellers, do your homework, and be realistic about your price expectations. Check out places like eBay to get an idea of what stuff is going for. That will give you a reasonable idea of a fair selling price. Consider that to be a retail price. Don't ever think you will get anywhere near that price. Dealers expect to at least double their money, some prefer to move the decimal point. Reasonable expectation would be 20 to 25% of retail, and be prepared to negotiate. The whole point of having a garage sale is to get rid of all those treasures you have been stashing away for years. The more appealing you make your prices, the faster you will get rid of your goodies. The last thing you want to do is to put all that stuff away.

There will be stuff that will be hard to sell no matter what price you are asking. For example anything Victorian is not very desirable these days and nobody seems to want formal dining room furniture anymore. On the other hand, anything Mid Century Modern (stuff from the 50-60s) is very hot these days. I have no idea why, because some of it was ugly back then, and even uglier today. Trends change quickly and by the time you read this something totally unexpected could be the new hot item.

If you want better prices or you think you might have some real treasures, you might consider taking your stuff to a real live auction and take your chances. There are a number of reputable auctioneers within an hour's drive who hold live auctions. For the most part you should be able to get somewhat better prices depending on location. (One of these days I will get around to doing a column on auctions.) If you want retail prices, or Antiques Roadshow prices, rent a booth at an antique mall or flea market. Maybe you could set up your own antique store. Don't waste everyone's time by thinking you can get anywhere near retail price. Dealers are cheap, the rest of us are even cheaper.

Don't be lazy, always price your stuff. If you put coloured stickers on everything you can have one price chart. It also makes it easy to lower your prices as the day progresses. I would suggest starting to drop your prices after a couple of hours. If you don't price your stuff, I will assume that everything is one dollar.

When I look at ads for garage sales on Kijiji or in the want ad section of our local twice weekly newspaper, the first thing I want to see is your location. Then I expect to see your hours. I think that 8 AM is a civilized time to start your garage sale. Always indicate if you are going to be running the sale rain or shine. If it's pouring rain, I won't be out. On the other hand it is rather frustrating to find that people have wimped out because of a few drops of rain. I want to know as many specific items as possible. If you have baby stuff or material left over from your renovation, I am not interested. If you have movies or books, there is a good chance that I will drop by for a look. Whatever you do, don't say you have something for everyone. From past experience it's not worth wasting my time to even have a look. If you are having a street or neighbourhood sale have one person post the ad. Don't put multiple ads for your sale on Kijiji. I really don't like wasting my time reading several ads for the same sale. It just gives the impression that you are desperate. The people who advertise auction sales, online garage sales (when the technology exists for me to send my loonies and twoonies over the "line" and the goods sent back over the same line I might be interested), or other events in the garage sale section of Kijiji should be banned for life, it should also include all known relatives and descendants. They are really wasting our time.

I spend a fair amount of time profiling every ad. Yes, I look you up on Google Street View. I also keep records of every sale advertised and the ones I go to. There are a few dealers who hold an annual clean out sale, and you can get some real bargains. Then there are some of you who have delusions of being a dealer and have been running sales every season for years. One place has been advertising a "final moving sale" for at least three years. I know who you are and you are wasting my time. Guelph has a limit of three garage sales per year per address. If you go over that limit, I will be reporting you this season. Like the guy from the North Pole, I make a list and check it twice. If you do not advertise your sale, don't expect me to stop and have look. Don't be lazy, make sure you advertise.

When you are putting up your signs, keep it simple. I don't want to see detailed driving directions to the location of Montezuma's lost treasure. Street address and an arrow are all you really need. The bigger you make the lettering the better. My eyes aren't what they used to be. Put your signs up well before the intersection. This gives lots of lead time for drivers to signal their turn. Don't put signs up at the intersection, this is too dangerous. When your sale is over, don't be lazy; take down your signs before sunset. There are several signs out there for garage sales that have been up for at least two years. The penalty for not taking down your signs should start at $500 and a lifetime ban from holding a garage sale.

To all the buyers out there, obey the rules of the road. Don't park facing the wrong direction. This is illegal, and by-law officers should be out there writing tickets. Don't block the driveway. People may need to load their new treasure, besides it is just plain rude. If I were running a garage sale, you would not be served.

It would be nice if all side streets had a 40km speed limit on Saturday mornings from April to October. As usual, I will not be going to any garage sales on streets that have been destroyed (or what they call road diets) by the city. If your street has speed bumps, or other road abominations I will not be attending your sale. If you don't want people driving through your neighbourhood, don't expect them to show up for your garage sale.

We all like to negotiate to get the best price. Many people use the posted price as a suggestion, and try to get a better deal. This is no problem, but be reasonable. Don't insult the seller with some ridiculous offer, unless there are no prices posted. In that case feel free to insult the seller.

Everyone hates early birds. I have seen many signs at garage sales telling early birds not to bother and other somewhat impossible things, in some very creative and interesting terms. One of my favourite signs from last year was for special early bird pricing at half the posted price, but you had to eat a plate of worms. They actually had a plate of worms. By the way, there were no takers for the worms.

If you don't have enough material for a garage sale, can't find the time, or are just feeling rather generous there are several charities and church groups out there looking for donations of goods for their indoor garage sales. Almost all of these sales are early in the season. Check out the ads in Kijiji. The food bank has at least a couple of sales a month from May until September, have a look at their web site for exact times and dates. They are always looking for good quality stuff.

Enjoy your Saturday mornings, and good luck.

Les Enekes can be reached directly by owl. For those not owl equipped, he can be reached at

The views of columnists in The Fountain Pen do not necessarily represent the views of the principals of the publication.

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