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April 17, 2013

Communities gear up for garage and yard sale season

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

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Temperatures have just begun to climb ever so slightly and, already, Cindy Schlacht can feel it — that familiar itch to get out and head to some garage sales.

Schlacht, like so many, is an avid fan of shopping at the garage and yard sales that pop up around her community each year as the weather gets warmer. The Taylor resident has been hunting for resale bargains for nearly 30 years.

“I went more when my kids were little and we went all the time for kids’ clothes,” she said. “I’m always looking for a good deal, even if I don’t necessarily need (an item) right away. I go in and look for what I can find. I redecorate my house every summer, it seems, just changing the color with what I find.”

The concept of getting rid of unused household clutter while pocketing a few dollars is an appealing concept for many. After years of searching through other people’s discards, looking for a treasure in the bunch, and having hosted a few sales herself, Schlacht knows a thing or two about what it takes to make a garage sale a success.

“Clean, organized and good prices,” said Schlacht about what she looks for in a sale. She said when sellers price their items too high, they’re likely to make less money in the long run because items might not sell. “I want to make money, but I don’t want to take it all back in the house, either.”

Of course, a garage sale is little more than spring-cleaning if no one stops by to check out the goods. Making sure you attract plenty of visitors is perhaps the most important, and trickiest, part of having a sale. Schlacht said that one way to improve sale traffic is to participate in a communitywide effort, where multiple homes host sales on the same day.

“The citywide sales are getting really big right now, and those are good because (shoppers) can get around a lot quicker. Even a block sale: You could have 20 houses there and you can walk,” she said.

The city of Berkley began hosting a citywide garage sale back in the summer of 2007. Tom Colwell is the director of Berkley Parks and Recreation, which promotes the sale each year. He said the popularity of the annual citywide garage sale is all about timing.

“We do it every year on the same weekend that the Berkley Dad’s Club Youth Baseball Organization has its big annual tournament. We have nine parks in town and usually baseball is happening at each park. People come in for this tournament from all over Michigan and, really, all over the Midwest. We have the event that weekend because there’s a lot of people with some downtime looking for something to do,” said Colwell.

It’s a combination of heavy traffic through the city, along with smart, persistent promotion that helps make the Berkley citywide garage sale such a hit with shoppers and sellers alike, with an average of 100 residents participating and countless shoppers coming to check out the finds.

“We post our flier on all the online garage sale sites like Craigslist. We give everyone a neat little yard sign, and we promote it pretty good. We have a map to all the homes that are having sales, and we put it online so people can check out the map ahead of time,” he said. “People have said that they’re happy with the fact that their sale gets a lot of traffic that way. And, it’s also doing something to be a part of a communitywide event, and people like that too.”

Similar sales are held around metro Detroit each summer. In Berkley, this year’s citywide sale will be held June 22-23. More information can be found on the city’s website at www.berkleymich.org. Look under the “departments” tab for parks and recreation.

Whether you choose to participate in a citywide sale or not, it’s always a good idea to give city hall a ring before you haul your stuff out to the yard. Some municipalities require residents to obtain a permit for a garage or yard sale. Your city could also give you tips on what weekend might be best for your sale, depending on city happenings, or they might be willing to post your flier on a community bulletin board for added publicity.

Schlacht agreed that advertising is a huge advantage to sellers. When she prepares to go on a garage sale excursion, she checks online listings and local newspaper classified ads for tips on where to go and which sales might be worth her while.

Once there, she takes stock of the space. She doesn’t like going to sales where items aren’t priced and advises sellers not to leave their items up for haggling, as it can cause an uncomfortable exchange when a customer undervalues the item.

Coffee and doughnuts or cookies could be set out to keep shoppers around long enough to see everything, and it could be a good idea to put some more impressive items out on display near the sale entrance, as opposed to the back of the garage. If you’ve got a few great items to boast, you could even add it to a sign or a sale ad online or in the paper.

She also considers the look of a sale — is it clean? Organized? Attractively merchandised? Appearance is everything, so it never hurts to run a dust rag over those relics from the basement. At the same time, though, she said she advises buyers to try to look for a diamond in the rough.

“If it’s clean and in better condition, you can get more money for it. But then when I’m buying something, I can see past something that’s missing a button or looks worn,” she said, explaining that she loves to scope out DIY projects. “So, I like it when it’s in worse condition because it’s a better deal for me.”