‘Tis the season for garage sales! It’s one of my favorite times of the year.
The air is still cool in the morning, so I don’t sweat while downing the coffee it takes to get me up at 5:30 on a Saturday morning.
Oh wait. I get excited enough about it that I probably don’t need the coffee at all.
Garage sale-ing can be both exciting and disappointing- for the same reason: you never know what you might find.
You might find an amazing piece for a steal. Or you might find nothing but cigarette-infused clothes and old baby toys.
We have been doing this for years. And the last 2 years we have been doing this for more than just fun- to make a little money by finding quality pieces we can makeover.
So how do we find good furniture at garage sales?
1. Go early. This is probably the best tip. There are more people like us out there trolling for furniture to sell, and the good stuff typically goes fast. If you go to a garage sale later in the morning, don’t see any furniture, and ask if they have any for sale, you will often hear, “well, we did, but it’s gone.”
If you want good quality furniture for a good price, go early. Yes I mean like 6:30 am early. Then you can go back to bed.
2. Have a plan. We used to just drive around looking for signs. Then I started checking the Craigslist app haphazardly. Now, I look the night before and write down the address of the promising ads that mention furniture. Then check again in the morning. Head to the best sounding ones first and work geographically. Having a plan minimizes down time. That way you only hit the sales that have potential and you can get there quickly.
3. Inspect and know your DIY limits. So you did it. You woke up early, downed your coffee, and found a garage sale with furniture. Now what?
Move it around- is it wobbly? Pull out the drawers- are they broken/on tracks? Look at the sides and legs- are there bite marks/gouges/scratches/peeling veneer?
Not all of those things are deal breakers for me. A lot of times all you have to do to fix a wobbly table is tighten a screw. Some wood filler and a light sand will fix a lot of dings. Know what you are capable of and what you don’t want to mess with. For me, broken drawers are a no-go. And I have learned that most peeling veneer is not worth my time.
4. Look for quality. You determined that the piece is not going to fall apart or you can fix it. Now look for quality to determine its potential value. This is important not only if you intend to sell it, but also to understand how this should be priced at the garage sale. Indicators of good quality include solid wood (including veneer- which is not the same as particle board), dovetail joints at the drawers, and a mark of the maker.
I check inside the drawers and on the back of pieces like dressers and end tables for the maker mark. We have come across high-end pieces like Drexel, Henredon, and Hekman at garage sales. If you don’t know the name, look it up! But it’s possible the owner doesn’t know what they have either. If you have a piece with good quality, you are ready to buy!
5. Be willing to walk away due to price/value differences. Read this post of mine about how to get a deal at a garage sale. Before you approach the owner, determine the max you want to pay for it. If it’s marked and you don’t think it’s a fair price, you can say, “this needs some work. Would you take less (with a specific price)?” Hopefully they will gleefully accept your offer. But, some owners either know the quality they have, or sometimes forget they are at a garage sale. Either way, there are times where you don’t want to pay more and they aren’t budging on price. That’s ok. Understand that you value the piece differently, be polite, and walk away. If you have done your diligence and know what you want to pay, don’t feel pressured to buy something for more! Eventually something else will come along!
I hope these tips are helpful and you find some great pieces of furniture for your home!