Smart Garage-sale shopping from the rude, but well-meaning quality control officer:
Consider the dynamics of a garage sale from the seller's point of view. People sell things for various reasons. The basic underlying thing they all have in common is that they are selling things from the garage. That's almost where the similarities end.
I guess I just do this naturally (through a lot of exposure), but I am able to discern why people are having the sale and if it is appropriate to negotiate or not. No, I do not always negotiate. In fact, this weekend, I only negotiated once. So, if it doesn't kill you to hear the nitty gritty of how I decide to buy or not to buy something at a garage sale, I'll give you the scoop on how I discern between the different types of sales and what is appropriate at each one.
Don't always assume that nice neighborhoods equal nice stuff. Often the less expensive homes where elderly people live really do have the nicer things. In fact, type of home can have little to no effect on the quality of things sold.
Don't discount apartments either. Apartment dwellers also tend to have good quality things also.
The only places that generally do not have good things are: drug infested neighborhoods or (don't take this too hard) homes like ours--which use everything to death! Big families are hard on their stuff, but be encouraged--there aren't many of us out there! Yes, it's true. I never have garage sales.
Types of sales
Often I can tell just by looking what kind of sale it is. If I am not sure, I say things like this.
"Wow. You have some really nice things here. Are you moving?"
or "These are adorable kids' clothes. Is there more than one family here?"
Or often they'll come right out and say, "We just had to move our parents to a nursing home".
Do I mean to tell you that there are literally different types of garage sales?? They all say "garage sale" don't they? (Or "tag sale" if you are from the east). So, these are a few of the relationship dynamics that surround the sales.
1) Average family just getting rid of stuff: these are the most common types of sales. Their prices tend to be mid-ranged. They generally are not too sentimental about their stuff, but things are often worn out more. Often willing to negotiate. Most of the things I buy are from these types of sales. Stuff is priced well, so I hardly ever negotiate. If I spend like $20.00 or more, I may ask for a deal on something.
2) Elderly couple: Their stuff will be in top notch quality, but their prices may be high also. They do not like to bargain. Also, if I sense someone is really in need of the money, and they have good quality things, I do not negotiate.
3) The very best garage sales are divorce or bad roommate-left -town types of sales. But if the items for sale are a constant reminder of a bad memory or a "bad person" in their book, you can get almost anything on the table for any price. They will often give you several items with any purchase.
I have a funny story related to this type of garage sale. My husband wanted me to find him a Total Gym (as seen on TV with Chuck Norris) which normally runs about $1,500. So, I was really surprised to see one at a garage sale with a $10.00 tag on it. I asked about it, just to figure out if it was working or not. Before I could say, "I'll take it". The owner said, "5.00! I'll give to you for $5.00!" I just want it out of my sight!! So, it's only been 5 years that we've been using the $5.00 Total Gym. Should I try for another 5??
4) Mother/father just died: Any time there is a death and people are selling things, I never negotiate. I feel like it is disrespectful. When something is grossly over-priced and it was obviously "grandma's favorite fridge magnet collection", I just compliment them on the nice collection and move on. Or we looked at a pair of gloves for $9.00 (outrageous!) and figured it was a gift to grandpa before he died?
You can often tell when people are sentimental about certain things based on the pricing. In the same garage sale, there may be things that are "normal garage sale prices" and something way over priced. If that is the case, the overpriced item is often of very sentimental value to them and it should probably go back into their homes.
5) Church/ charity sales: I'm sorry to say, but these are usually junky. I try to avoid them. Nevertheless, many people say they find good things at them. I have not had luck.
6) Homemade craft sales from garage: these are probably the most pathetic out of all of them. Garage sales are supposed to be cheap, not top dollar craft items. And what makes it worse is that they are funky things that nobody buys anymore but someone decides that they like to make them; therefore, people should buy them?! Ugh. Seriously..ugh. If you want to have a craft sale, hook up with some crafters and get the money you deserve for your hard work. I wonder if these people feel bad after working so hard on their items to find that no one has bought anything at the end of the day. It's just the wrong venue.
So, by now some of you may be wondering what are normal garage sale prices?
I will give you a rough estimate of what I expect to pay for certain items for my area. Each area is different.
Mens/ womens shirts/pants $2.00--$4.00
Brand name: up to $12.00
Children's clothing: $1.00-$2.50
socks: $.50 or less
toys: plastic/ cheap $.50
toys: nice quality: $2.00--$4.00
books: $1.00-- $2.00
appliances (small) $5.00--10.00 (for a microwave)
appliance large $75.00--$225.00
Diningroom table/ chairs $$50.00--95.00
sewing machines: $20.00--$40.00
craft supplies: $2.00
fabric: $1.00 /yd or less
Expect to pay more for name brand/ in the box things.
Always compliment people on their things, even if you are not able to buy anything.
Hope this was helpful!