'Treasures' abound at yard sales, but don't expect to get rich selling old stuff

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People hold yard sales for a lot of reasons. To clear out a basement. To teach their children a lesson about money. To empty a house that is for sale and facilitate a retirement to Florida. Some look to make money, but no one seems to expect to make much.

For some, yard sales are an opportunity to be "nebby" -- a chance to rifle through your neighbors' belongings without having to crack a medicine cabinet.

Joe and Lois Folgarelli of Penn Hills were among several families participating in yard sales on Princeton Drive last month.

While Mr. Folgarelli, 74, manned the sale at their home, Mrs. Folgarelli, 70, was a few doors away, leafing through a table of paperback books.

"That's all part of the street sale experience," she said, "seeing what your neighbors have for sale."

Elsewhere on Princeton Drive, Bob McBride, 77, said he was mostly selling "stuff that was accumulated" when his daughter and grandchildren lived with him.

A sun-bleached, red-and-white kayak was sitting on the lawn. Mr. McBride, a kayaker and former scuba diver, said he has three new kayaks and is ready to give up the older one, which he said was his first.

"It was a great little boat," he said, gamely climbing into the kayak to have his picture taken.

Selling to celebrate loss

Justin Newman was sitting in his yard, a few doors from Mr. McBride's, with his dog, Goliath, surrounded by clothes, some of which were hanging from a tree branch.

Mr. Newman recently lost more than 100 pounds and was selling jeans, T-shirts and football jerseys that no longer fit. He was selling jerseys from a variety of NFL teams, making it appear he had no team allegiance, though he said he's originally from Philadelphia and an Eagles fan.

He said he lost the weight by "counting calories and doing cardio," and now he has eight years' worth of clothes that are too large.

"My wardrobe is out here," he said, looking at the items for sale.

Selling to relocate

Cindy Fialkovich, who organized the June 13 yard sales on one street in North Braddock, was selling the entire contents of a General Braddock Drive home that belonged to her parents.

Ms. Fialkovich was selling nearly everything in the house, including clothes, shoes, purses, cleaning supplies, furniture and sets of Sango china, flatware and glasses.

"I'm trying to move to Florida," she said, and the only thing she wants to bring with her are her clothes.

She said she plans to move to Vero Beach as soon as the house is sold.

"I've never been there, but I've heard it's nice," she said, noting she wants to live in a more active community where she can swim, golf and play cards.

Teresa Jacob, 71, of Forest Hills bought some window clings and camp chairs from Ms. Fialkovich before moving on to the next sale.

Selling to teach

Hiwot Habtegabriel, 38, was surveying the items for sale in her driveway on Evergreen Drive in Penn Hills while three of her four children -- Aleff, 9, Eyoha, 7, and Seena, 4 -- were tending a lemonade stand near the curb.

Ms. Habtegabriel said the lesson wasn't from running the lemonade stand but from selling old toys. She said she wants her children to understand that a $30 toy might sell for $5 at a yard sale a year or two later.

"It's teaching them the concept of money," she said.

She said passers-by "don't really want lemonade" -- they just want to support the children. She said the money from the lemonade stand will likely go toward new toys.

"They'll just want to buy toys I'll have to sell next year," she said.

How to find a garage sale

For buyers, finding a garage sale can be tricky. Twenty years ago, it was merely a matter of opening the classified ads. Now, ads are largely scattered on not-always-user-friendly newspaper websites and Craigslist.

Ms. Fialkovich, who organized the North Braddock sale last month, said she spent $35 advertising the multi-family yard sale in two local publications. She did not advertise on Craigslist.

Chris Cagle, a software developer from Prospect, noticed how challenging it was to find yard sales and decided to do something about it. He created www.yardsalespittsburgh.com and corresponding Facebook and Twitter (@PGHYardSales) pages to make it easier for potential buyers to find sales.

He said the lack of structure on Craigslist -- those posting a yard sale aren't required to include essential information such as a street address and the hours of the sale -- makes it challenging for buyers to find information they need.

"There's not too much structure to it," he said. "It's very unorganized.

"You take out a small classified in the newspaper, or you post it on Craigslist, then two hours later, it's at the bottom of the page and no one's looking at it anymore."

He said he created the site and included a social element to eliminate some of the frustration of finding yard sales. The listings on www.yardsalespittsburgh.com are geolocated, meaning the site will list yard sales within a 5- or 10-mile radius of your location.

"You'd find one yard sale and say, 'What else is around it?' " Mr. Cagle said.

The site will then show all of the yard sales around you and create an itinerary.

Mr. Cagle said the site is "a pretty simple concept" that will improve if more people start using it.

"There's a lot of room for improvement, and I'm surprised no one else has taken that upon themselves," he said. "I'm a single developer. It's not like I have a team working behind me."

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Annie Siebert: asiebert@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.


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