One man's trash is another man's treasure
Yard sales are often true gold mines for unique and antique furniture, where a diligent shopper can come across treasures that have the potential to change the whole landscape of their home. Just one unique accent piece can tie an entire room together, and some of the best furniture finds come pre-loved.
Successfully shopping for furniture at yard sales is an art form, one that takes patience and tact. Check out this list of the best tips for yard sale furniture shopping so you can find your new favorite piece with ease — and within your budget!
Where to find the best yard sales
Luckily, the days of scoping out weekend yard sales in the classified ads are over, thanks to websites like Facebook and Craigslist. Now, there's an app for that (or 10) like Yard Sale Treasure Map and Garage Sale Map that collect Craigslist listings so you can always find a yard sale close to you.
Also, people hosting yard sales often make Facebook event pages to spread the word of the event, so make sure to browse your local Facebook event listing page for "yard sales," "garage sales" and "moving sales."
If there's something super specific you're thrifting for, consider the context of the neighborhood you're thinking of visiting for a yard sale. What's the demographic of the area like? Does it include many young professionals who likely have a more modern style? Or is it in the hip part of town, where the items for sale might be funkier and more eccentric? Think about the kind of item you want to find and visualize the part of town you think yourself most likely to find it.
Also, it's a good idea to plan your yard sale shopping trip strategically. For example, spring is a time when a lot of families are doing spring cleaning and might host a garage or yard sale. The beginning of summer and end of fall, when students are moving back and forth from to college, are other times when people are likely to be shedding their belongings in neighborhood sales.
What to look for — and what to avoid
Before you head out to any garage or yard sale, try to have a good idea of what you'll be shopping for. Some things are absolute steals at these sales, like sturdy furniture, unique artwork, kitchen utensils and china. Other things, like mattresses, pillows, linens and towels can come from questionable sources and are not the best to buy secondhand.
When you find something you love and are ready to make the purchase, make sure to do a thorough inspection of the item before you hand over money to the seller. Many sellers may refuse refunds or exchanges, and you don't want to be stuck with a "new" dresser just to find out three out of five drawers are broken once you arrive back home with it. Buying secondhand, you'll likely have to be OK with minor scratches or dings, but it's important to look for major damage that affects the integrity of the furniture.
Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate! (And don't forget cash)
The No. 1 reason people throw yard sales is that they're trying to get rid of a lot of stuff in a little time. Often times, they'll be willing to negotiate on the price of an item, especially pricier ones like nice furniture.
Remember to start low, but not so low the seller doesn't take you seriously. While you definitely don't want to be aggressive, gently pointing out small flaws on the item may entice your seller to budge on the final price a bit more than normal.
If you're feeling unsure of where to start negotiations, ask the seller if the price is 100 percent firm. If they say no, negotiations are fair game. Consider that you may get a greater discount if you purchase more than one thing or a complete set of something like a dining room table and chairs.
If you see an item you actually love, show the seller how enthusiastic you are about it! Sometimes sellers will be happy to give you a discount on an item if they can tell it's going to a good home. Start off with a compliment, then tell them how it would look so perfect in "insert room in your house" if only it would fit into your budget — then give them your offer. These items they're selling often have great memories attached to them, and enabling the seller the opportunity to visualize it like you are will lift their spirits for the sale.
An important tip is to bring cash, and not just big bills! Yard sales often involve mostly smaller transactions so small change will likely be scarce as the sale goes on. If you can whip out exact change of your offer, you may be able to get a better deal on an item than if you're asking the seller to blow all their small change on your purchase.
Pro tip: The best deals can be found when a yard sale is close to ending. Sellers often will take low offers just to get rid of the item.
For apartment living, consider asking management to host a sale
While it's not commonplace to find many yard sales in apartment complexes, perhaps consider coordinating with your complex's management to host a "yard sale" of sorts for people living in the complex. This is a great way to shop for new home items with your neighbors and make your trash someone else's treasure. Management could pick a day on a weekend and notify residents several weeks beforehand so people have time to sift through their "donate" pile.
Have fun hunting!
Hopefully, this list gives you an idea of how to be successful when you're hunting through yard and garage sales. For more ideas on things to shop for, check out these thrift store buys (which you can find at yard sales too!), and for advice on furnishing your home with thrifted finds, read this.
Don't know what you should be furnishing your millennial apartment with? Check out these 15 items. And if you're ready to spring clean your own home, here are some celebrity spring cleaning tips to help you get started.