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Econ 919 — Garage and estate sales

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Hunter Morrison

Even though summer has come and gone, garage and estate sale season is still in full swing. Each weekend, folks across the peninsula stroll through residential areas and into strangers homes to scout the best bargains on secondhand goods.

As garage-salers know, not knowing what you’ll find is part of the experience. It’s also a good way to meet people in the community and learn about the history of an item that you can’t always get from a retail store.

Robert McCabe recently held an estate sale for close family friend Hope Smith of Soldotna. Up for grabs were many books, puzzles, kitchen supplies, and furniture.

“A lot of the items that are here are personal to us, we’ve known the family for a very long time," McCabe said. "It’s kind of closure, I think, it was tough at the beginning, even getting stuff out and marking it. To get rid rid of a person’s life, that’s tough.” 

Originally from Maine, Smith lived on the peninsula for most of her life. She enjoyed bowling and reading National Geographic Magazine.

Upon taking charge, McCabe briefly considered hiring a cleaning specialist to take care of the many items that were left behind. But, he felt these items should go back to the community more directly.

“Most of the stuff here is from here, and it should go back to the people in the community," McCabe said. "The people that came and bought stuff have been back and they’ve enjoyed it. You can make a garage sale enjoyable, have a conversation, that’s the big thing.” 

Even with competition from online sellers, garage sales bring in millions annually. According to H&R Block, Americans make more than $200 million a year just by hosting garage sales. Estate sales, on average, earn even more.

In this day and age, hosting a garage or estate sale has become easier. McCabe says the best way to promote a sale is through the internet. Those who came to his sale heard about it through Facebook Marketplace or word of mouth.

“Our garage sale signs are still sitting in the garage," he said. "To this hour, and we’re over three quarters of the way through, we still haven’t had any garage sale signs put out.”

Avid garage-salers on the peninsula know that asking prices are often negotiable. In many instances, sellers are more concerned that their unwanted goods go to a good home. McCabe spoke about an item that I ended up buying after this interview.

“You, a perfect example, wanted a piece that we had and it was marked at a price and I’m like ‘are you going to use it?’ and your response was “yeah, I’d love to put it in my place,’" he said. "It’s got a price tag on it but what do you want to give me for it? That’s the way I run a garage sale, if someone wants it bad enough they’re going to make an offer.”

Sales like these keep the money local, and that was part of what drew McCabe to hold the estate sale in the first place. Even so, he and his family aren’t necessarily concerned about how much money they’ll make. Instead, they’re looking for closure.

“Estate sales/garage sales are kind of the way to go," McCabe said. "If you go to them you can talk with the people and learn about the history of what the people that passed away offered to the community.” 

McCabe added that hosting this estate sale has been a learning experience and has allowed him to meet people he never would have on his own.

Hunter Morrison is a news reporter at KDLL
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