Las Vegas Sun

July 18, 2019

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How to be a garage sale pro

Paradise Palms

Sam Morris

Nadine Bezard surveys her garage sale in the Paradise Palms neighborhood Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012.

Ahhhhh, summertime—sunny days, crystal blue swimming pools, frosty drinks in the shade, and don’t forget—’tis the season for selling your junk. Not to mention, garage sale season is a great time to get out there and find a bargain. You can save yourself some dough and score items you might not buy otherwise. And if you’re hosting a garage sale, purging can feel just as good as making a few bucks. If garage-sale-ing is on your summer bucket list, do you know what to look for?


• Children’s clothing: Kids grow fast, which means they don’t wear things for very long. Garage sales can be a fantastic way to score gently used clothing for your little ones. Look for quality brands and items that will cost you more in the store, such as blue jeans, holiday or formal outfits, sweaters, boots and jackets. The going rate for kids’ clothes at a garage sale is about 50 cents to $1 per piece. Should you find a box or bin of things you like, do a quick count and then offer the seller a fair price for the whole thing. Usually they are happy to see someone else use what was only taking up space in their drawers.

• Toys: Great garage sale buys include blocks (Legos if you can find them); dolls, dollhouses and accessories; cars and trucks (metal and die cast hold up best); and large outdoor pieces that will shine after a good scrub.


No matter how you swing it, refinishing or repainting a piece of furniture will take time if you do it right. If you’re up for a challenge, go for it. Sites like Pinterest can give you ideas for colors and finishes, and the internet is loaded with detailed how-tos. Pro tip: look for clean lines whenever possible, as sanding all those tiny scrolls or roses will be more work than it’s worth.

• Furniture: Whether you’re buying it from Target or from a dedicated store, furniture can be expensive. Garage sales are a great place to score solid pieces that were built to last, or pieces that can inspire you to make it your own. Keep an eye out for older, heavy-duty pieces that are sturdy and high-quality. Look for manufacturers’ marks and clues about how it’s made. Those details can help you figure out how much to pay and if it’s worth refinishing.

• Holiday decorations: If you’re into nostalgia, look for old-fashioned decor such as glass ornaments. Skip the lights; it can be hard to tell if they are up to modern safety standards.

• Office supplies No need to spend a fortune at the office supply store when you can often find reams of paper, binders and other goodies.

• Outdoor decor: Look for things you can spray paint to bring them back to life. Metal lanterns, anything cast iron, and heavy-duty outdoor tables and chairs (yes, even plastic) can be great finds to liven up your patio or garden.

• Craft supplies: Once in a while, you can score collections of craft supplies that someone’s been amassing. Think: ribbon, fabric, scrapbooking supplies such as paper, cutters or books. Look for unique items that might inspire you: beads, tiles, stamps, pinecones, glass, etc.

Pro tip

Skip the helmet at garage sales, no matter the sport. It may have an outdated safety rating or be compromised from a previous impact.

• Sports equipment: Those rapidly growing kiddos are also outgrowing their sports equipment. Garage sale finds can be great for a child who is trying a new sport or is tough on their stuff. Great finds include: youth golf club sets; ice skates; skis; bikes; lacrosse, hockey, soccer or baseball equipment (pads, shin guards, sticks, etc.); weights; accessories (workout DVDs, jump rope, yoga mats, stretch bands).

• Curtains and window treatments:

High-quality curtains and window treatments can often be found in classic styles, colors and fabrics. Don’t forget to measure your windows before you leave the house, and bring your tape measure with you. Once you make a purchase, consider having it dry-cleaned or professionally laundered.


Upholstered furniture, mattresses and stuffed animals: The threat of bed bugs is real, and no bargain is worth having them in your home.

Baby gear: Skip cribs, car seats, bassinets and other items in which an infant or young child might spend time. The safety risk is too great if you don’t know the item’s history.

Liquids: Anything liquid—from glue to paint to lotion—can change with time.


Many garage sale hosts are ready to wheel and deal. But always remember: Be fair. If they wanted to give the item away, they would have done that already. Here’s an example of how to bargain:

1. An item is priced at $20, but you think it’s worth about $10 (you’re willing to pay $10 or maybe $12).

2. Offer $7 or $8, which seems low, but it gives you room to come up on your price.

3. The seller will probably counter with $15.

4. That gives you the opportunity to counter with $10 or $12, which sounds much better than $8, and the seller will likely agree.

5. If they don’t budge, you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to pay $15, which is still cheaper than $20, or walk away.


• To price your items. Shoppers appreciate it, and pre-marked stickers are available at the office supply store.

• Something to draw attention to your sale. Mylar balloons from the dollar store will do the trick.

• Change for your customers: bills and coins.

• Shopping bags or boxes.


• Bring small bills and coins; no one wants to break a $20 bill for a 50-cent item.

• To ask if something works and to try it yourself before you buy it.

• Make room in your car and your home if necessary. Bring large, heavy duty bags or a cart to carry your stuff.

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.