7 Tips for Making Thousands of Dollars Shopping Yard Sales

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A yard sale sign with an arrow
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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.

He would know. Levitan pockets an extra $20,000 a year by spending three to five hours a week as a garage sale “picker,” buying and reselling other people’s unwanted stuff.

Consider the following secrets and strategies from Levitan and other experts to jump-start your own side gig as a “picker.”

1. Grab a newspaper

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Yes, a newspaper. Sure, you can search for garage sales online, but the most profitable ones are advertised in the local 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 being unloaded in established communities that have plenty of seniors and in the areas with the highest property values and incomes.

For example, Levitan once found a new $400 GoPro Hero4 camera for just $50 at a sale in a wealthy community.

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

comparing prices
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New items in their original packaging — with the UPC barcode — may well net you the most money, according to Levitan.

If you download the Amazon app to your phone, you can use it to scan the UPC barcode. The app will identify the product and the going price on Amazon. There are also similar apps for scanning eBay listings to find the rates at which items are being sold.

3. Consider out-of-town buyers

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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,” told the MintLife blog. “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

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

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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.

Some experts advise having the cash in your hand, prepared to hand it over, when making a low offer. This conveys that you are serious about the purchase while making it harder for the seller to refuse your offer.

6. Consider your costs

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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, said Levitan.

Also, 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”

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There is no guarantee of a profitable resale, of course, but your odds of profiting are better with certain items than others.

For example, online lending platform Bitbond published a list of the five most profitable items to sell on Amazon and eBay. They are:

  1. Books
  2. Video games
  3. Tablet computers
  4. Legos
  5. Bicycles

It’s not a coincidence that we also cited a few of those five items in “Hunt Down and Cash In on These 21 Thrift Store Treasures.”

So, if you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to focus on shopping for such items and then follow the guidelines above to make a profit.

What was your best find ever 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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