Yard sales offer buyers and sellers a different kind of
marketplace, where one-of-a-kind knickknacks become priceless
Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning, lamp posts, cars and newspapers around the South Valley look a little different than they do the rest of the week. That’s because they’re plastered with announcements for local yard sales, each claiming to have the widest variety of merchandise for the best deals.
Although Internet sites like eBay have turned the idea of selling personal belongings into a giant online marketplace, the traditional yard sale remains a popular activity.
For those who hold yard sales, getting rid of age-old items that have accumulated over time can earn some extra cash as well as clean out a cluttered house. Customers of yard sales have a different agenda. Perhaps they’re in search of hidden treasures and killer deals. Maybe they’re looking for artistic inspiration. Or perhaps they simply want something to do on a boring weekend.
Driving from yard sale to yard sale is an adventure for Aromas resident Marty Olson, and what he heads home with at the end of the day is anyone’s guess.
“One time I found a real nice antique accordion, and other times I usually find things that I need for around the house – like pots and pans or a TV tray,” he said.
Other yard sale aficionados, such as Lidia Sanchez of Gilroy, find more practical uses for neighborhood shopping.
“My kids grow out of their clothes so fast, it kills me to have to always pay full price for new ones,” she said. “If I buy something here, and they stain it or it gets too small, who cares? I can toss it and not feel like it’s a waste of money.”
Heading out for a day of yard-sale shopping doesn’t require nearly as much planning as does holding the event. Logistics, advertising and keeping the cash box in order are all ingredients to a successful sale. So is strategic planning, something Gilroy resident Christine Drysdale, along with her mother and sister, has down to a science.
Each year, the three plan a group yard sale at Drysdale’s mother’s home on Mantelli Drive. Instead of setting up shop on the typical Saturday and Sunday time slots, the family sells their goods on Fridays to attract people passing by on their way to neighborhood schools. Last Friday, the three racked up $250.
For the past six years, the group’s earnings from their yard sales have contributed to several family vacations, including a trip for nine to Disneyland last year.
To promote their sale, the three placed ads in the newspaper. Other people who hold yard sales post signs up around their neighborhoods on lamp posts or on the windshields of their cars, which they park on the street for higher visibility.
What some people in Gilroy, Hollister and Morgan Hill may not know is that it’s against city ordinances to post signs on public property, such as telephone poles and stop signs. Although staffing shortages make it difficult to enforce the regulations, residents are encouraged to clean up after themselves when they hold yard sales.
“A lot of neighborhoods take it upon themselves to take down their signs,” said Charlene Hannibal, senior support services assistant for the city of Hollister. The corner of San Benito Street and Nash Road, she said, is a common spot to advertise sales.
Kathy Molloy Previsich, community development director for the city of Morgan Hill, said residents holding yard sales should keep their signs on their properties and cars.
“It hasn’t been a big issue here,” she said. “We have a code enforcement officer who goes around on Mondays and takes down any signs that are still up.”
In Gilroy, the regulations are more stringent. Along with not being allowed to post signs, sellers can only hold one sale a year, said Jackie Martin of the city of Gilroy’s finance department. In addition, to hold a sale at their home, sellers must have owned their home for at least one year. Sellers are only allowed to be open for business between 8am and 8pm, and the sale cannot exceed seven days.
Despite the rules and regulations, Martin said many sellers still put up signs all over town, especially on the corner of Third Street and Wren Avenue.
“It’s usually the city that ends up going around and taking them down, anyway,” she said.
Making the Most of your Yard Sale
Although they can be fun, yard sales also can be frustrating – if you don’t know what you’re doing. Here are a few pointers to get you started if you’re thinking of holding a sale.
• Clearly demarcate for buyers the area where the garage sale begins and ends, or you might have a shopper inquiring the price of a favorite chair that you’re storing in the garage.
• One of the most common mistakes made by inexperienced sellers is to set prices too high. Remember that you can’t ask store prices in a garage.
• No matter how useless an item may seem to you, someone may want it.
• Sale days on or near the weekend will get the most passers-by.
• The longer your sale lasts, the less you’ll probably sell on each sale day.
• People who regularly patronize yard sales know the best stuff goes first, so realize that the first few hours of the sale will be busiest.
• The more things you offer for sale, the more you are likely to sell.
• Clean up your merchandise before selling.
• Remember to call Goodwill, The Salvation Army or another donation-based charity before throwing away items that don’t sell. The organizations might be able to use them.
– by Katie Niekerk, Staff Writer