Help! I've never been to a downsizing sale!
Updated: Jan 3
Never been to a tag sale?
Saw something you can't live without on one of our pages, but not sure how to get it?
You're in the right spot! We're here to answer all of your "what to expect" questions and guide you through the downsizing sale shopping experience.
What is a downsizing sale?
This seems like a logical first question!
A downsizing sale is kind of like a yard sale or garage sale.... except on steroids. But good steroids in this case.
Downsizing sales happen IN the person's house that's downsizing. A Tobacco Road Downsizing sale means that those people have made the wise choice to have our team come in to help them sell their personal property. Each week we're at a different area house, in the Chatham, Durham and Orange County area of North Carolina.
You can expect to purchase *almost* everything inside the house if you come to a sale. This means kitchen items, decor, linens, collectibles, tools, jewelry... Or whatever else our clients are parting with. Sometimes even cars!
Typically, our sales are 2 days long, Saturday and Sunday, but occasionally other days of the week or only run for one day. Check the sale description (more on this below) so you know when we're open!
Is the stuff new? Is it damaged?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It just depends on what our clients owned.
Lots of people have TONS of very lightly, like new items while others preferred vintage or antique items to furnish their home. You can always check out pictures and see if there's new in package items and even though it's not glamorous, we typically photograph any damage that items might have (scratches, knicks, and dents) so that we're transparent with our buyers.
That said, we're selective about the sales that we take. We want items that customers will want to buy in the sales. We don't take on sales if everything is low dollar or damaged.
What can I expect to pay for something I want?
We typically don't give out prices before the sale on most items, but we only have 2 days to liquidate a house, so we make sure all items are priced at their "sweet spot"- the price our clients would hope to get for them, but also a realistic price for a resale market.
You can expect prices to be:
around a quarter to half of retail
around or less than consignment shops
around or less than eBay
more than most yard sales or thrift shops (typically because the items are of better quality than what you'd find at either of those outlets!)
How do I know what is at the sale?
Each week we take anywhere from 150 - 400+ photos of what's included in the sale and post them under our sale links in our "Find A Sale" tab.
From there you can browse and see what's for sale. Sometimes it's contemporary, designer grade furniture. Sometimes it's more vintage and antiques, but items are different every week because we're in a different house each week!
We don't want to waste your time if there's nothing you're interested in, so we try to post as many photos of the stuff that's included in the sale as we can the week leading up to the sale. We suggest signing up for our email list that goes out each week (you can find the signup on our home page) or setting a reminder on your phone to check on Thursday or Friday what's available. At that point, we have 95% of the photos that will be taken on the internet.
K... I totally fell in love with that *insert super awesome item you want here* at your sale this weekend... How do I get it?!?
Read the hours on individual sales sites to make sure nothing has changed from this post, but most of our downsizing sales run Saturday from 9 AM - 2 PM and Sunday from 12 PM - 2 PM.
If you *REALLY* want an item, we recommend you get there earlier than the opening time.
We put out numbers an hour before the sale starts. The numbers help to keep everyone organized and we will call them out when the doors open so that people can be organized and not rush the door like black Friday. We believe in creating a safe and efficient order to getting people in the door so that nothing gets broken and no one gets hurt. The numbers are stickers, so you just take one for everyone that's with you, stick it on and that's your spot in line.
If a sale is full of amazing items, it's very common that people will arrive an hour or two before numbers even go out. Most of the time there's about 30 - 100 people outside when we open the sale doors at 9 AM. Sometimes more!
If you get there and feel confused or need help, knock on the front door or ask a fellow shopper to point you in the right direction. Numbers are always outside the front door (maybe on the porch, most of the time taped to the front door).
At opening time, we'll come outside and explain how things work. Most of the time we give a brief layout of the house so you know which way to head if you're looking for something in particular.
So... I just get there and wait?
If you are in line before the numbers go out, yes. Find out who got there before you so you can keep yourself in the right spot and wave to the person that comes after you so they know they're after you.
Tobacco Road Downsizing always provides coffee on Saturday mornings and welcomes folks to bring a camping chair or sit on the front steps and socialize. It's actually a really fun environment! You can make friends with all sorts of people while waiting for the doors to open! Or you can bring a book or play on your phone.
You also don't have to stay once you've got your number... If you've got finer coffee taste than our slow drip can provide or woke up late and didn't get breakfast, you can run to a nearby location and get a full belly or take care of that full bladder. Just make sure you're back by the time the doors open! We can't hold your place if you don't come to the door when your number is called.
(Pro-tip! Make sure you give yourself time to park and walk back to the sale if you choose to leave... Roads tend to fill up as the opening time approaches!).
I'm looking at your upcoming sale, but I don't see the address. Where is this house at?
For security reasons and to cut down on unexpected guests trying to buy items before the sale is open, the address isn't released until the day or two before the sale. Our email list always has the address inside (that goes out Thursday or Friday) or else from our website you can see the address after 9 AM the day before the sale starts!
I want something, but not bad enough to wait in line...
Plenty of people feel the same as you! That's why we're open most of the day. Popping into the sale later in the day means less selection and that item you've had your eyeball on might be gone... But it's a much easier, slower-paced setting if you arrive a few hours into the sale.
We're not going to beat around the bush here. If you hate crowds and don't like competitive buying environments, the first hour of the sale will likely make you want to crawl in a hole and hide. But we'd still encourage you do come later in the day. We don't sell everything in the first hour (most of the time!), so you'll still be able to find treasures if you decide to wait.
Is there a price difference between Day 1 and Day 2?
Yes! We're so glad you asked! Day 1 (most of the time, Saturday) is full price. That means the price marked on the item.
Day 2 (most of the time, Sunday) is half price. We don't reprice each item between Saturday and Sunday... You just cut whatever price is on the price tag in half and that's the price!
Why doesn't everyone just wait until the second day to shop?
Our items are already competitively priced on the first day. Check out a sale to see!
I'm inside and I see something I want! What do I do?
If it's small enough to pick up, you snag it before someone else does! If your hands get full or our staff notices you have a few items in your hands, we'll ask your name and take your items for safekeeping to the "DIBS! table".
If an item is too big to pick up by yourself, slap a "DIBS!" sticker on it. We pass these out at the front door. Just make sure your name and phone number is on the sticker too so we know who's buying it! Any items that are too big to easily pick up will have a bigger tag on it that is perforated. Take the bottom half with you so you can cash out with it and then you can get the item out after it's been paid for.
Can I negotiate with you?
Hmm... Sometimes. It depends on the time of day, what the item is (sometimes our clients have a "reserve" or "bottom dollar" price on the item) and, to be honest, if we make better deals with one person, we'd have to do it for everyone.
That said... if you're buying lots of items, don't be scared to ask. We want to empty the house and believe in treating everyone the way we expect to be treated. The worst that can happen is we say "No..." and you'll still leave with items at prices you can't beat!
I just want that one item. I'll pay you more if I don't have to wait! Does that work?
We don't presell items unless they're advertised as such. If we are preselling something we'll note it in the sale description and in the photo description. This typically isn't small items, but rather specialty items or items that require movers (think vehicles, pool tables, pianos...).
I'm interested in something big, like a dresser or a China cabinet. How long do I have to move it? Are there people to help me?
Unless it's a special circumstance, all items have to be out of the house by the end of the sale. Talk to either Morgan or Mariah directly if you're planning to buy a larger item but will need next day pick up (if you purchase on Saturday).
We try to accommodate our customers with help as much as possible. If a tag says, "you move", you'll have to find help to move it, but we do have some mover connections we can put you in touch with depending on the item.
Our team takes customer service and safeguarding the house very seriously. We typically do have someone on hand that can help move that fabulous dresser into the back of your SUV. Just ask and we'll try to accommodate if you do need help!
What forms of payment do you take?
Cash and card.
Can you tell me exactly where something is so I know where to head?
Yes. Either call the night before the sale or knock on the door between 8 AM and 8:50 AM and we'll give you directions.
Anything else I need to know?
Yes! Have fun! Tag sales are a great way to buy household essentials (cleaners, linens and basic furniture), but also a great spot to pick up odd and fun items.
Introduce yourself! We love getting to know our shoppers. Many folks come every weekend and we love building relationships with our "regulars".
Be respectful! Sales happen in local people's homes and we're helping them through a huge obstacle! We don't appreciate rude comments and it can ruin the whole mood. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar! You can make friends with fellow shoppers, our team and anyone else that might be at the sale. We prefer our vibe to be happy and light! It makes everything run smoother for everyone involved!
If you have other questions we didn't answer, feel free to give us a call or shoot an email or text! We want all new customers to have smooth sailing at their first Tobacco Road Downsizing Sale so that they too can become regulars!