Garage Sailing for Ebay Resale
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The second question people always ask me when they find out I sell on ebay for a living is always "Where do you find things to sell?" (The first question, of course, is what I sell, to which I always answer "RecordsToysBooksGamesCDsVideosClothingVideoGamesandotherVintageStuffThatIThinkisCool). I always tell them exaclty where I go: garage sales, estate sales, and sometimes flea markets and retail stores. By far garage sales are the greatest oppotunities to turn a 100-1000% profit on your investment.
Most ebay sellers start off selling items around the home or from garage sales and then "graduate" on to sourcing products from wholesale souces. I have always sourced (re: bought) at garage sales and I never felt the urgency to source products. The beauty of what I do is that I get to handpick items for my ebay inventory, knowing their value in the ebay marketplace as I make offers at garage sales. I don't have to speculate and buy huge amounts of a product to get them at a low wholesale price, crossing my fingers hoping I can quickly resell them before I am undercut by competition. My items may or may not sell for what I want for them, but I relist them in my ebay store and my store sales are beginning to match my auction sales.
As long as there are people who need to get rid of spare stuff, there will be garage sales, or as I refer to them, "product sourcing events." (As in, "honey, your breakfast is in the fridge, I have to go to a product sourcing event.") Rain and holidays are my enemies because they cancel garage sales, but I buy about 80-90% of my ebay items from garage sales.
Garage sales are fantastic places to buy things for .50, $1 or perhaps $5 to sell for $15, $50 or $100, provided you have one thing that is the key to what to buy and what will sit in your spare bedroom collecting dust: product knowledge. (SIDEBAR: Yes, I have purchased a few items for $0.50 and sold them for over $100. One such item was an old newspaper I picked up on a crowded garage sale table. Upon closer inspection, it happened to be my hometown newspaper reporting the breaking news of the plane crash of hometown band Lynyrd Skynyrd. The paper was dated October 21, 1975, the day after the fatal crash. I purchased the paper for $0.50, listed it, and watched it get bid up to $112.00.)
Pick a few areas that you are interested in, and become knowledgable about ebay values of products in that area. From completed listing searches, create a cheat sheet or notebook to take with you to sales. In doubt about whether to buy, hold off and try to jot notes about the item so that you can look it up later and perhaps kick yourself for not buying. I try to keep a mental database of many common garage sale items and their values: Gameboys, newer CDs, rock record albums, video games and systems, stereo equipment, collectible knick knacks like Far Side coffee mugs or Jack Daniels flasks, and many other items. It gets easier the more you buy and sell. You will have mistakes, but when you are risking $0.50 or $1, it is ultimately a lesson you can afford to learn and more product knowledge gained.
The knowlege of resale values, seasons and times in which to time your auctions to end, which specific items to buy and which to pass on is the knowledge that enables you to powerbuy at garage sales. 5 of my best garage sale rules for buying are below. I live by each of them every Saturday morning around 7:30 a.m.
Always start early. It goes without saying that the earlier you arrive, the better deals will be available. Popular items that almost always sell well on ebay, such as Sony stereo components, CDs, skateboards, Gameboys, etc. are the first to sell. Be sure they get sold to you and not the other guy by being in your car, with the classified ads in hand, at around 7:30 a.m. I usually find my best deals of the day before 9 a.m. By 10 a.m. I shift my strategy. The garage sails I arrive at in mid-morning are picked over, so I spend more time at each, looking for offbeat items overlooked by others. An example of this is a Regis and Kathy Lee coffee mug I found at the end of a big estate sale. (I usually boycott the kitchen in estate sales after making sure there are no chrome waffle irons, which are collectible.)
Always go to as many sales as you can by scanning and buying quickly at each sale.
Never pass up going to one garage sale on the way to another. Just a quirky rule I have made for myself. The reason is that you can go to garage sale #1 on the way to #2, then leave garage sale #2 a different way, thereby being able to spot other garage sales.
If you find a good sale, immediately start a pile of items and add to it. This gives you time to mentally calculate how much you want to offer. Sometimes I look at other things to give me time to calculate how much I need to offer. I make a mental list of the ebay values of the items in my pile. I mentally add up rough garage sale prices of the items, and then usually offer about half of that number for the whole lot. This offer is rarely rejected, so be sure to know how much your items are worth on ebay before you make an offer to buy.
I would call this an "advanced tip" because the trick to it is knowing the rough ebay values of the items you are interested in. You just saved time and money by buying in bulk!
. Preparation, preparation, preparation! Have lots of cash available (ones, fives and quarters; I bring about $200 but usually only spend $100), scout garage sale signs the night before, use the Classified ad section of the newspaper and plan a driving route in advance.
Buying at Garage Sales for Ebay Resale
October 14, 2005
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