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Whether you are a home seller trying to add a few extra home staging touches without spending a whole lot of money or a home buyer looking to score a few great bargains to help make your new home feel a little more lived in, pulled together and well, just plain old furnished, a flea market – or even a yard sale – can be a great place to shop, as long as you know a few of the basic ‘rules’.
The very first time I went to a flea market I came home empty handed and more than a bit cranky after wandering around in the baking hot sun all afternoon only to come away with nothing. The next time however I went with some flea market shopping pros and they showed me all kinds of little tips and tricks for getting the most out of such a trip and now, as a seasoned veteran myself (as a Realtor and interior designer I have a double interest in getting my hands on unique pieces) I am going to share some of that wisdom with you:
You’ll Need a Decent Sized Car
There are very few flea market or yard sale vendors who are willing to deliver so if you are looking for furniture as well as smaller home decor items then you are going to need a decent sized car (probably an SUV with fold down seats at least) , some blankets (to protect your buys and your car) some bungee cords and if you can borrow one maybe even a little hand truck for extra ease.
Pick One – Go Early or Go Late
Seasoned flea marketers tend to pick one of two times to head off to a flea market; either very bright and early just as things are getting started to get the chance to cherry pick the best of the best or much later on in the day when the vendors are starting to pack up and are probably more willing to make a deal on items they really don’t want to transport back home again.
Super seasoned flea marketers stay all day. They scope everything out first thing and then stick around to see what kind of deals they can score as the day goes on.
Cash is Always King
You may be used to using your credit and/or debit cards to pay for almost everything these days but they really won’t be of much help to you at most flea markets where cash is still almost always king.
As inconvenient as this may be in some ways it’s a good way to stop you spending more than you can afford. Begin the day with your available budget in cash and then make a deal with yourself that you won’t hit the ATM again.
Learn the ‘Rules’ of Haggling
To a certain degree almost any price at a flea market is negotiable to a point. But you are likely to be more successful if you know just how – and when – to try and score a bit of a discount.
For example, if you already know you are getting a great deal it’s a bit insulting if you try to haggle the seller down just to save a buck or two for the sake of it (and they may be so offended they decide not to sell to you at all, I’ve seen it happen)
There are however three scenarios where negotiation may very well be rather successful; if the item is damaged in some way, if it has a bigger price tag, or if you’re buying multiple items from the same vendor. Then ask, politely, “Is this your best offer?” Or if the total purchase comes to, say, $74, you can safely ask: “Can you do $70?”
Don’t Walk Away From All Damaged Goods
Not everything you’ll find at the average flea market is going to be in pristine condition but don’t walk away from an item you otherwise love if the damage is minor without giving it a closer look and a bit of thought. Nicks and scratches in wood may be quite easy to sand away, or, especially if you are a fan of the wildly popular ‘shabby chic’ decor style paint in a beautiful new color.
The same is true for some chairs and even sofas. Small rips and tears can be mended and if a piece has a particularly great shape a slipcover may help, or you can cover the seat of a dining chair with relative ease.
However if an item has water damage, very musty smells or seems to be more significantly damaged walk away from it, it’s not going to be an investment you’ll be happy with by the time you get home.