February 2010 Archives

February 16, 2010

Are Garage Sales Worth It?

This isn't an idle question on my part -- having just bought and moved into a new house with almost no advance planning, I've got piles of things that seem just a little too valuable to drop off at Goodwill (where I've already taken carloads of stuff).

So, I'll probably give them a try on Craiglist, and then have a garage sale one of these Sundays -- knowing full well that I'll probably get no more than $10 for any of the items in question.

If I work out how many hours I'll likely spend, first on posting the items online, answering emails or calls, meeting potential buyers, and then, for the garage sale,  attaching price tags, setting up, sitting outside in hopes of customers, and finally cleaning up afterwards, it's probably not worth the time at all. A savvy friend of mine likes to say that anything you can't sell for at least $50 bucks isn't worth the hours of effort (and sometimes aggravation) you'll put in. Probably sound advice -- which for some reason I probably won't take.

At least a garage sale might be a fun way to meet the new neighbors! And a few extra dollars wouldn't hurt right now, either.

In the meantime, I was interested to see Kiplinger's magazine provide a list -- in its March, 2010 issue -- of what items that might be sitting around in people's attics are selling best these days (particularly on eBay or Kovels.com).

According to them, boys' toys from the '50s and '60s are a good bet, along with art pottery, sterling silver from famous makers, Griswold cast-iron skillets and other kitchen ware from the '30s to '50s. But don't try selling Hummel or Royal Doulton figurines -- the market is saturated.

Wouldn't you know it? The only one of those things that I own is a Hummel figurine.   
February 8, 2010

Bought a New House -- But Can't Afford to Dress It Up!

I didn't think of myself as someone who Likes to Shop.

But there's nothing like being told you can't do something to make you (that is, me) want to do it. And having just  spent every dollar I had -- and a few I didn't -- to buy a house,  now is definitely not the time to do any shopping.

I saw a survey that said that, for people having to be extremely frugal, dining out was the hardest thing to give up. That actually hasn't been true for me -- we'd stopped doing much restaurant dining a long while ago, in order to save up for this purchase. For a treat, there's always Vietnamese food. (My apologies to all the underpaid cooks and waitstaff who I'm indirectly exploiting at the Bay Areas' wonderful Asian restaurants).

But I'm discovering the awful sense of conflict that comes up when the need to NOT SHOP coincides with being in maximum nesting mode -- just moving in, envisioning new curtains, new furniture, new rugs, and more. I'm spending time on websites, dreaming if not drooling.

Fortunately, there are ways to have fun dressing up a house for very little money -- especially during a recession.  I bought a little wastebasket  for a mere $4.61 at a Going Out of Business sale yesterday.  (I'd even found the penny on the ground -- yes, things are getting obsessive around here.)

And there's Craigslist, which is as great as it is addictive. I scored some free landscape pavers from a nice woman who was moving. They're now just waiting for my grand back yard plans. Of course, you've got to act fast on those freebies -- I responded within 20 minutes, and was the first in a line of interested people. And you've got to be ready for some misfires -- like the futon whose owner truthfully promised it had hardly been used, not knowing that it had been mildewing during all that time it was rolled up in the corner.

 I've also been scouring thrift shops in hopes of the perfect wide, flat plate to serve as a bird bath on our patio. Haven't found it yet, but the quest is engaging.

In fact, when you come right down to it, I'm spending an inordinate amount of time in this post-house purchase phase . . . shopping.  


February 2, 2010

Home Stagers a Casualty of the Down Economy

This doesn't seem to have made the headlines yet, but I know of at least a few home staging businesses that have gone under of late. Fewer people are selling their homes, so fewer home sellers are hiring stagers.
I found out about one such bankruptcy the most direct way possible -- I was in the process of buying a house in which the stager's furniture and decorations were being claimed by the bank foreclosing on the stagers's loan, and everyone was worried about whether the stager's property's fate would be decided in time for the closing.

That actually worked out nicely for me -- we ended up buying all the property from the bank for a very reasonable amount ,and moving into a fully furnished home!  But I may forever feel a twinge of sympathy as I look around at various objects that the stager had painstakingly collected, presumably over years of being in business. In other cases, I've seen ads for entire warehouses of stagers' furniture and property up for sale, cheap.

I'm not a fan of every stager's work, so in part I see this as a market correction rather than a tragedy. But having also recently seen the wonderful work that a home stager did in preparing my house for sale (that would be Ken McHale Design, in Berkeley), I'd encourage sellers to help keep the good ones afloat by hiring them -- and not pulling sneaky maneuvers like bringing them in for a free consultation knowing that you have no intention of paying them for anything more, a common complaint among stagers!

In a tough economy, a house that looks its best really can rise above the general market malaise, and a good stager can work magic in this regard.