Living Columns & Blogs

Top tips for yard sales

I have been advising people about yard sales for decades. Here are my top tips for those of you who love yard sales — both buyers and sellers.

Many of us have spent a weekend driving around neighborhoods to shop on other people’s lawns. Typically, you end up buying a few things that you really don’t need but you just can’t leave on a neighbor’s lawn, like a watering can, vintage poster and a bunch of silk napkins. You spend $12 and call it a day.

As an expert appraiser, there are many things that people don’t know about yard sales. The first thing is that it is big business. You may think it is just small-time stuff neighbors found while cleaning out their basement, but in reality, yard sales are the source of objects that command six-figure price tags in other markets far from someone’s freshly mowed front yard.

That’s right, the elite auction houses and internet markets for art, antiques and collectibles use yard sales as a major source for their inventory. And many of the major auction houses and smaller estate auction houses regularly send people, known as pickers or runners, out to yard sales to get some of their auction inventory.

The pickers are sent to neighborhoods where the homes have reached the 50-year-old mark, assuming that their original owners are ready to move on to assisted living facilities, in with family members or on to smaller, downsized residences.

Most unknowing yard sale hosts think that they are just selling their stuff to naive shoppers. Well, be warned if you are a yard sale seller or shopper. Yard sale buyers and sellers are competing with the pros. These big-time buyers know what you’ve got, what it is really worth, where to sell it for top dollar, and they are not in the game to tell you that you just made a big mistake putting out that Eastlake table or vintage Guerlain perfume bottle on the front lawn for $25 dollars or 50 cents, respectively.

And your asking price is all wrong, too. These guys are going to get you down on the asking price and take away something very valuable that was once in your house as a treasured family heirloom.

Know what you’ve got before you schlep it out to the front lawn. At my website,, you can send a photo of an object from a yard sale and I will tell you its value before you buy it. This is how technology will help you cash in.

Lori Verderame is an antiques appraiser, nationally syndicated columnist and author and award-winning TV personality with a doctorate in the field. She presents antique appraisal events, keynote speeches and lectures to worldwide audiences. Visit Follow her on or call 888-431-1010.