Earn Thousands a Year Shopping Garage Sales

Garage sale sign in yard
Photo by Paul Velgos / Shutterstock.com

Psst! Want to earn $20,000 a year with only three to five hours a week?

All it takes is to follow those big “Garage Sale” signs posted all over town and shop smart, Corey Levitan wrote in Men’s Health, because he’s done just that.

“Any moron can do this, as I prove every year,” he wrote.

Consider these secrets and strategies from Levitan and others to jump-start your own side gig as a garage sale “picker”:

1. Grab a newspaper

Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock.com

Yes, a newspaper. Sure, you can search for garage sales online, but the most profitable ones are advertised in the paper. Many of these ads are placed by older people, who tend to be less internet savvy than younger sellers, said Levitan. You’ll find the most profitable items in established communities that have plenty of seniors and the areas with the highest property values and incomes, he says. In one sale in a wealthy community, for example, he found a new $400 GoPro Hero4 for just $50.

But targeting the best areas will only pay off if you rise-and-shine. Start with 7 a.m. Saturday sales and try to be the first to arrive. Bring cash — maybe $200 or $300 — in smaller bills since the sellers may not have much change.

2. Hunt for new items

Alexandru Nika / Shutterstock.com

New items in their original packaging — with the UPC barcode — may well net you the most money, says Levitan. If you download an Amazon app to your phone, you can scan the UPC barcode on the packaging and it will identify the product and the going price on Amazon. There are also a number of apps that allow you to quickly scan eBay listings to find the rates at which similar items are being sold. There are plenty other resale sites, of course, but these two are among the largest.

3. Consider out-of-town buyers

Olivier Le Queinec / Shutterstock.com

Civil War memorabilia is plentiful in the South, but not in Maine, Colorado and other parts of the country.

“The same goes for Western memorabilia — it’s popular in the Midwest, where there’s less of it,” Aaron LaPedis, author of “The Garage Sale Millionaire,” tells MintLife. “So when collecting, consider the place you’re doing it in: What is that state or region known for? That’s where you’ll get the best price and the best value.”

4. Specialize

Sergey Ryzhov / Shutterstock.com


Are you an avid coin collector? A music savant? A doll collector? Put that specialty to work, says LaPedis.

“For example, I’m an expert on presidential and sports memorabilia and coins,” writes LaPedis. “You can’t be an expert on everything, but knowing about just a handful of categories can be very profitable.”

5. Negotiate with the seller

haeryung stock images / Shutterstock.com

Sure, many garage sale hosts are friendly folks. But you need to negotiate, hard, to get items at low prices so you can resell and make a profit. An avid reseller who blogs as BigKidPowerSports on eBay, advises that you offer half of the asking price.

“It is a garage sale. These are normal people, not salesmen. When I offer half what they are asking, I have the cash in my hand ready,” writes the reseller. “People like to see cash and it makes it harder to say no.” Holding the cash in your hand also shows you are serious about buying, he says.

6. Consider your costs

Pathdoc / Shutterstock.com

Sure, a grandfather clock may be a great bargain, but transporting it from the sale and to a potential buyer will likely cost you a fortune. Small, light items are ideal for resale, says Levitan. And don’t forget to factor in any fees or costs you’ll incur when re-selling on eBay, Amazon or elsewhere.

7. Remember “The Big 5”

Yulia Grigoryeva / Shutterstock.com

There is no guarantee of resale, of course, but online lending platform Bitbond published a list of the five most profitable items to sell on Amazon and eBay. So if you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to focus on shopping for these items — books, video games, electronic tablets, Lego and bicycles — and follow the guidelines above to make a profit.

Bottom line? The way to really make money off of garage sales is to shop them, not to host them.

What was your best find at a garage sale? Did you keep it or sell it? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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