Looking forward to garage sale season

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Garage sales are now allowed with the easing of COVID restrictions in the province. Nevertheless, guidelines regarding group sizes (50 people max) and physical distancing should still be observed. Frequent hand sanitation/washing is recommended.

A garage or yard sale is an informal event where used items are displayed and sold in people’s garages or front yards. Spring cleaning is often the activity that leads to this event. After winter, families get their houses in order and weed out things that they don’t need anymore. And with the great weather, you can have items out in the open for people to check out. You will start seeing signages and banners around the neighbourhood around late March or April announcing these events.

Garage sales are a great opportunity to buy appliances, furniture, equipment and other items at a lower cost. If you’ve just arrived in Manitoba and looking to furnish your home, a garage sale can be a good option. It’s also a great way to meet your neighbours!

Garage sale tips

  1. Follow rules

    Vendors are adopting new ways to conduct sales in view of the pandemic. This may include displaying their merchandise online first then setting up appointments to see the items in person before buying. Doing this ensures that items won’t be frequently touched and group size limits are observed. Know and follow such rules to ensure safety.

  2. Be nice and friendly

    Greet the sellers and welcome the opportunity to make small talk. You should do this while maintaining distance. Be polite when asking about their goods. Don’t criticize or complain about their items – this is impolite. Remember that these are second-hand items so don’t expect them to be shiny and perfect.

  3. Double check items and ask questions

    • Examine items closely for damage, missing parts or for rust or mold.
    • Test electronics to see if they are working. Most sellers would be ready with batteries or a working electrical outlet.
    • If you are buying a more expensive item like a bike or an exercise machine for example, ask the seller about frequency of usage, storage and the year they bought it. Sellers may clean and polish these items so you won’t see the wear and tear. It will give you more wiggle room to negotiate the price if the item was well-used or if it has been in storage for a long time.
    • Knowing the original price of items will help you gauge whether you are getting value for your money. You may not be familiar with market prices yet so check online, bring a friend who can help, or ask the seller.
  4. Don’t buy these items

    • Upholstered furniture, mattresses, bed sheets and stuffed toys – These are prone to insect infestation. Unless you are assured that the item is 100% clean, it will be wiser to buy them brand new.
    • Old shoes and hats – Accumulated sweat and dirt may not be worth the low price.
    • Underwear (including socks) and swim suits.
    • Makeup – Used or opened ones may harbor molds and bacteria.
    • Items that have specifications in order to be effective – Examples of these are helmets or child seats. Once these have been in an accident, they cannot be re-used. Wearing sports gear that are too used or damaged can lead to injuries.
  5. Haggling

    It is alright to negotiate prices in garage sales. Sellers expect it unless it is already indicated that the price is firm, they don’t allow low-ball offers, or if the item is already dirt cheap. Always negotiate reasonably and ask nicely. Be gracious if the seller does not agree. You can pass up or buy the item, but don’t get mad. Fighting in a garage sale is not worth your time.

    A good way to get a bigger discount is to gather items you like and ask for a group price. Remember, sellers are trying to get rid of these items to declutter their homes. Any way you can make this happen faster will be welcomed.

  6. Return policy?

    It is understood that items bought are “sold as is”, meaning there are no returns or refunds. This is why it is important to check items thoroughly so that you won’t be stuck with junk. However, for instances when an appliance worked and then malfunctioned when you got home, return it as soon as possible. They may give you a refund or at least give half of your money back. Don’t let more than two days pass. They can say that you damaged the item yourself and refuse your claim.

  7. Best times to go

    Going to a garage sale as soon as it opens will allow you to have the best picks. On the other hand, going there on the last day before closing will give you better deals; sellers will be more willing to part with the items than put them again in storage. The best time to go actually depends on your needs. If you have a good idea of what you want to buy, go there early while there are still a lot of items. You’ll have a better chance of finding what you need. If you are just looking around for something that may catch your eye, go on the last day and don’t forget to haggle.

 
Article updated May 28, 2020.
 
Sources: The ultimate yard sale guide: All my yard sale tips to make the most money, Lynnette, Household Tips Guide; 21 things you should never buy at garage sales, Reader’s Digest. Accessed April 26, 2017.

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Community Resources

Do you need free or reasonably priced furniture, houseware, or clothes? We have compiled resources here: Do you need assistance for getting settled? Here’s where to get help.

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