MONEY Ask the Expert

How Your (Nice) Neighbors Can Save You Money

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Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: Is it a good idea to go in with a few neighbors on some pricy, occasional-use outdoor equipment, like an extension ladder and snow blower. How do I handle access, maintenance, and other logistics?

A: This is a terrific money-saving idea that works best if your group consists of people who are close, in both senses of the word: Everyone should be nearby neighbors, to provide easy access to the tools, and everyone should be friends, so the arrangement can be a handshake deal where nobody is counting every nickel or worrying too much about who goes first on a snowy morning.

“Splitting the cost of the machine is also an opportunity to get higher grade equipment than you’d buy for yourself,” says Peter Orazem, professor of economics at Iowa State University, and co-owner of a commercial grade snow blower with two fellow professors and his eye doctor, who all live on the same block. He recommends setting up a few ground rules:

Decide where it’s going to live. Ideally, one group member has a garage with the space to park the machine—and a keypad everyone can use to open it and access the equipment anytime. That way there’s never an issue with figuring out who had it last, where they parked it, and whether they’re home to unlock their shed.

Plan for ongoing tasks. For a snowblower, chainsaw or any other gas-powered machine, avoid frustration by creating a plan to keep the gas can full and the machine tuned up. Orazem does both for his group, at his own expense, in consideration for hosting the machine in his own garage, a significant convenience for him. But you could also assign the responsibility to a different group member each year, and share the costs among the rest of the group (so the person doing the work pays nothing), or come up with any strategy that feels right for your group.

Don’t loan it beyond the group. Letting someone outside your original club borrow the group’s equipment is a recipe for seeing the machine damaged, misplaced, or lost, says Diane Dodge, of Berkeley, Calif., who shared a beater pickup truck with five friends until it blew a head gasket several years ago. “Stay within the confines of the original group—unless you all agree to allow in another member, perhaps to replace someone who moves away.”

Give members an out. What if someone moves away? For expensive items, Orazem suggests agreeing at the start on how a person who pulls out of the group will be reimbursed for his investment. For example, you might decide that the useful life of the $5,000 riding mower you’re sharing between five households is 10 years. If a member leaves four years after the purchase, he’d get a payout from the remaining four members of $600 (his initial $1,000 contribution, minus 40 percent); after seven years, he’d get $300. This cost could be born by the other members of the group, or they could invite a new member in for that amount- nice neighbors only, of course.

 

Got a question for Josh? We’d love to hear it. Please send submissions to realestate@moneymail.com.

MONEY Millennials

10 Places Millennials Are Moving For Bigger Paychecks

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With 5.1% unemployment and low-priced homes, New Orleans is a top town for millennials. John Coletti—Getty Images

Over the past five years, Gen Yers have decamped for some surprisingly pricey cities in search of a higher-paying job.

Millennials are on the hunt for high-paying jobs, and they’re moving to some unexpected places to find them, according to a new report out today.

Bruised by the rough post-recession job market, Gen-Yers are moving from lower-cost cities to places with a higher cost of living but more plentiful and lucrative jobs, a RealtyTrac analysis of Census data from 2007 through 2013 found.

“Millennials are attracted to markets with good job prospects and low unemployment, but that tend to have higher rental rates and high home-price appreciation,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac. “It’s a tradeoff.”

In the 10 U.S. counties with the biggest increase in millennials, the average unemployment rate is 5.2%, well below the national average of 6.1%. The average household income is $62,496, vs. $51,058 nationally. The median home price is $406,800 (nearly double the U.S. median of $222,900), while a three-bedroom apartment rents for $1,619 a month on average, just over the national average of $1,550.

Riding the robust job market in the D.C. area, two counties in Northern Virginia with unemployment rates below 3.7% top the list. But not all places that the 69-million-strong millennial generation are flocking to are expensive. New Orleans, where the median home price is $140,000, edged out San Francisco, where tech jobs may be plentiful but the median home price is nearly $1 million.

New Orleans, where the unemployment rate is 5.1%, is a transportation center with one of the busiest and largest ports in the world, as well as tons of jobs related to the local oil refineries. Denver, Nashville, and Portland, Ore., all top 10 areas, offer median home prices below $300,000 and a diversity of jobs in technology, health care, and education.

Perhaps the most surprising millennial magnet: Clarksville, Tenn, the fifth largest city in the state behind Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, and Chattanooga. Forty five miles north of Nashville, it benefits from spillover from that city’s strong job market, but Clarksville also has its own industrial base, plus nearby Ft. Campbell and Austin Peay State University. The unemployment rate: 4.7%.

Here are RealtyTrac’s top 10 destinations for millennials on the move:

Rank County State Metro Area % Increase in Millennial Population, 2007-2013 Milennials % of Total Population, 2013 Median Home Price, April 2014 Average Monthly Apartment Rent (3 beds), 2014
1 Arlington County Va. Washington, DC 82% 39% $505,000 $1,996
2 Alexandria City Va. Washington, DC 81% 34% $465,000 $1,966
3 Orleans Parish La. New Orleans 71% 30% $140,000 $1,190
4 San Francisco County Calif. San Francisco 68% 32% $950,000 $2,657
5 Denver County Colo. Denver 57% 33% $270,000 $1,409
6 Montgomery County Tenn. Clarksville 46% 31% $128,000 $1,016
7 Hudson County N.J. New York 44% 31% $330,000 $1,643
8 New York County N.Y. New York 43% 32% $850,000 $1,852
9 Multnomah County Ore. Portland 41% 28% $270,000 $1,359
10 Davidson County Tenn. Nashville 37% 29% $160,000 $1,131
MONEY

$539 Created This Reading Nook

A budget renovation transformed this odd space into a cozy retreat.

In a blank space, there’s a lot of room for improvement. Just ask Vel Baricuatro-Criste and her husband, Gerson Criste. After having a contractor add a windowed egress dormer in an over-the-garage room for their teenage son, they were left with an odd, unfinished nook. Vel saw it as an opportunity to create a quiet reading alcove as part of an overall update of the bedroom.

What They Did
She painted both spaces white with an accent rail of bold navy stripes to create a cohesive look. To keep things cozy underfoot, Gerson installed striped carpet tiles over the nook’s plywood subfloor. Then he built a storage bench from prepainted cabinets, using stock lumber to fill in gaps at the back and sides and painting the exposed sides white so that they blend in. Vel made a seat for the bench by stapling fabric-topped foam to sheet pine that her husband had cut to size. Gerson installed floating shelves to display some of their son’s books; the rest tuck neatly away in the storage bench. Sconces flank the window seat, and a flush-mount fixture hangs overhead, providing plenty of light for nighttime reading. Now the nook is her 13-year-old’s favorite place to unwind. “He has a whole room to hang out in, but whenever he has friends over, they’re always in that space,” says Vel. “They love it!”

The Project Tally
• Painted the room white with navy stripes $109

• Finished the floor with carpet tiles found at a big-box store $98

• Created a bench from laundry cabinets and stock lumber $110

 

For the full tally, see the original story at This Old House.

MONEY Housing Market

Why Americans Aren’t Moving Long Distances Anymore

House-shaped handcuffs
Ryan Etter—Getty Images

Fewer than 12% of Americans changed homes in the past year, near the all-time low. But the reasons why people go or stay are changing.

Yesterday the Census released the Current Population Survey (CPS) data, giving an up-to-date picture on how many Americans are moving, how far they’re going, and why they’re making that move. The mobility rate remains at a low level: 11.7% of Americans moved in the year ending March 2014, unchanged from the previous period.

At this rate, the typical American stays put eight and a half years between moves. Remember the old rule of thumb that people move every seven years? Well, that was true until around 2003. In fact, the mobility rate has been falling for decades, as we pointed out in this post last year. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Americans moved every five years on average. That rate rose to every seven years by the turn of the century and has since increased to the current eight-and-a- half year rate.

Here are the most recent mobility trends, based on this latest 2014 data.

The Long-Term Mobility Decline Continues

With the percentage of Americans moving stuck at 11.7% in 2014, mobility remains near the all-time low of 11.6% in 2011. That’s considerably below the 14% rate from the early 2000s. The housing bust and recession offer possible explanations why people are stuck in place – things like negative home equity and few job opportunities to move for. Still, mobility also declined both before and during the housing bubble. Furthermore, mobility has barely budged since 2011 despite a significant drop in the percentage of borrowers with negative equity and a modest recovery in the job market.

MobilityRate

What explains this long-term decline in mobility? Some academic researchers have found that the economic benefit of switching jobs has fallen over time. Since a job is often the reason people move, that means the economic benefits of moving have fallen. In fact, the decline in mobility has mostly been a drop in longer-distance moves, that is, moves to a different county. Moves within the same county have stayed relatively steady since 2000.

MobilityRateByMoveType

Why People Choose to Stay or Go is Shifting

The reasons why Americans move – which we think is one of the most fun questions asked in any Census survey – have changed over the course of the boom, recession, and recovery. During the boom, compared with the period after the bubble burst, more people moved to have a new or better home, or because they wanted to own instead of rent. By contrast, during the recession, the percentage of people who moved for cheaper housing went up.

Most recently, in the year ending March 2014, the percentage of people who moved because they wanted a new or better home or apartment increased. But the percentage of people who moved for cheaper housing also increased, though it didn’t return to its level in 2009, 2010, and 2011, when more people moved for cheaper housing than for a new job.

ReasonsForMoving

Continued economic recovery should boost the number of Americans who move for a job. At the same time, more homeowners are getting back above water into positive home equity, and that should also increase mobility. Yet, rising home prices and higher mortgage rates might mean that more people move in search of cheaper, rather than new or better, housing.

To see the full article, including more details about the data and analysis, click here.

To read more from Jed Kolko of Trulia, click here.

Related:
MONEY 101: Should I rent or buy?
MONEY 101: What should I do before I buy a home?

MONEY real estate

The High Cost of Failing to Refinance

Many homeowners have missed out on big savings by not refinancing, new research finds. Here's why.

Until recently, I’d never seen a mortgage rate south of 6%. Of course I’d heard that rates had dropped to almost half that, and yet, for a variety of reasons, I did not take advantage of them by refinancing my existing mortgage. Though illogical, my inertia is not uncommon. According to a recent paper by researchers at the University of Chicago and Brigham Young Unversity, the “failure to refinance” strikes approximately 20% of homeowners who could greatly benefit from the lower interest rate environment.

The costs of this failure can be sizeable over time. Say you had a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage of $200,000 at an interest rate of 6.5%. If you refinanced at 4.5 % (approximately the decrease between 2008 and 2010), you would save over $80,000 in interest payments over the life of the loan, even after accounting for refinancing transaction costs. If you had refinanced in late 2012, when rates hit an all-time low of 3.35%, you would save $130,000 over the life of the loan.

Failing to refinance isn’t completely irrational. Refinancing is a difficult transaction requiring extensive paper work, an appraisal and hefty fees. All of which triggers what the researchers call “present bias,” a psychological phenomenon that makes it harder for people to make decisions that may have upfront costs but longer-term benefits.

My own story illustrates the way that present bias impacts behavior. When I bought my current home in 2007, my rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 6.625%. As rates began to drop, I was never entirely clear how to calculate at what point refinancing would make sense financially. At the same time, I was receiving mail offers promising to save me money merely by increasing the number of mortgage payments a year. That made me wary of being taken advantage of by lenders looking to make money in transaction costs off of unsuspecting buyers. (This wariness has also always made me distrustful of any loans with “points.”)

By 2011, however, rates had clearly fallen enough to justify a refinance. But by that point I was considering moving, and I didn’t want to go through all the paperwork and hassle if I was going to be selling soon anyway. Then, like many others, I found that my house’s assessed value had fallen sharply from my purchase price. Given the weak real estate market at the time, it made more sense to stay put. Even though I knew that refinancing would still benefit me, the uncertainty about my future brought about by market forces only delayed my decision more.

Finally, in 2013, I refinanced. I wound up borrowing more as part of another financial transaction, but at an interest rate of 3.46%, my monthly payments are almost the same as they were before. I have since heard of wise colleagues who, instead of lowering their monthly payments, refinanced from a 30-year mortgage to a 15-year mortgage and as a result will own their homes outright in half the time while making about the same payments.

Which, if you think about it, means that they overcame “present bias” twice: first in the act of refinancing, and then by foregoing having extra cash on hand to spend now in order to be debt-free in 15 years. At the end of the day, refinancing isn’t just about saving money; it’s about what you do with that money that can make a huge difference to your long-term financial security.

Konigsberg is the author of The Truth About Grief, a contributor to the anthology Money Changes Everything, and a director at Arden Asset Management. The views expressed are solely her own.

MONEY home buying

When Moving In With Mom and Dad Is a Wise Choice

Having enough money to buy your own place is hard. Here are four strategies, including living with family or friends for a period, that will help make it doable.

Despite the real estate boom and bust and the many Americans who lost their houses or saw the value plummet, most non-homeowners still hope to buy a place one day. Of course, many reasons exist as to why they haven’t yet, including bad credit or too much debt, as well as the doozy: a lack of upfront cash. According to a recent Trulia Trends survey, 41% of millennials surveyed said that saving for a down payment is their biggest hurdle to home ownership. Being able to swing the monthly mortgage nugget simply isn’t enough.

Here are four ways that home buyers (millennials or any generation) can increase the amount they’ve got stashed for the down payment, and build their buying power.

1. Find New Ways To Save

Move back in with Mom and Dad: You might be cringing right now, but don’t worry — it’s not forever, and chances are your folks will throw you out before you are ready to move out anyway. Consolidating housing and moving back in with parents for a short period of time is a huge way to save money.

Cut back on significant spending: Sure, you can cut back on the daily latte and lose a few cable channels, but that is not going to get you enough saved before middle age. You need to cut back on the significant spending areas and big ticket items, like a fancy car (with hefty monthly payments) and yearly vacations. You’ll likely be surprised at how easily you can adapt to spending less, when you know the money saved will go toward an important goal.

Pay yourself first: Set aside money to be saved automatically every time you receive a paycheck — no matter what. Your bank should be able to help you with this by automatically depositing a specific sum into your savings account when your paycheck clears. This way you’ll know when you’ve hit your spending limit for the month.

2. Seek Out Additional Income Sources.

A little help from Mom and Dad: A great and often overlooked source is … the folks. If they are in a position to help you, each parent can “gift” you money every year, tax-free. Currently the allowed amount is $14,000 per year, per parent. If you are married, you can double that to more than $50,000 a year. If you are smart and plan ahead, two years’ worth totals six figures. A very nice start! In fact, according to Trulia’s survey, 50% of all millennials plan to do just that!

Get a roommate: This one is a no-brainer — if you have an extra room, fill it. Let your apartment or your current home work for you. Just be sure you actually sock away that extra income, so you can watch it grow.

Generate a second income: It’s amazing how a few extra dollars can add up over time. A friend of mine taught high school for years and owned an amazing home. When I asked him how he was able to purchase and afford an expensive home in a wonderful neighborhood, he said he had taken on a part-time job as a copywriter for a local paper. He allocated all of that extra income to the purchase of his house. Over time, that money grew and grew.

3. Get Your Credit and Debt in Check

Clean up your credit: A better credit score equals a better mortgage interest rate, which ultimately equals better buying power. Take the necessary steps to clean up your credit. This usually takes time, so plan way ahead—and at least a year in advance. For more on how to improve your credit, click here.

Less debt gives you more buying power: The lower your debt levels are, the stronger your debt-to-income income ratio, which is a key factor when a bank determines how much house you can afford. To keep that ratio in check, and to look favorable to lenders, begin paying down high-interest, revolving balances on credit cards. Also, avoid any big purchases before a potential home purchase. Any big ticket buys (like a new car) can alter your financial picture and prompt a lender to give your finances a more in-depth look.

Student loans do count: For most millennials, student loans can be very high in those early post-college years. Unfortunately, you need to remember that student loans count as debt when the bank is determining your buying power.

4. Downsize Your Dream Home

The starter home: So many people say, “How could I ever buy a decent house in this town?” Well, start thinking smaller. Instead of a $300,000 house, you need to find the one that fits your budget … today. There will be plenty of time to upgrade that starter home into a bigger dream home later. This is where the term “starter home” came from! As you pay down the loan and hopefully build some equity, it’s possible that you may be able to upgrade in five or more years.

Find the same house in a transitional neighborhood: Buying your first home in a transitional area allows you to get into the market relatively cheaply—if you don’t yet have kids, before you have to worry about the local schools—and increase your buying power. It may not be the most sought-after or picturesque community at the moment, but as it improves, your home value will improve with it.

Michael Corbett is Trulia‘s real estate and lifestyle expert. He hosts NBC’s EXTRA’s “Mansions and Millionaires” and has written three books on real estate, including Before You Buy!

More from Trulia:
12 Steps To Fight a Low Appraisal
Breaking Down Debt: How 4 Different Loans Affect Your Mortgage Worthiness8 Quick and Clever Clutter-Clearing Hacks

 

MONEY Kids and Money

The Surprising Thing Gen Z Wants to Do With Its Money

Teen in front of home
Getty Images

More than half of teens would give up social media for a year and do double the homework if it guaranteed they’d be able to buy a house when they're older.

During the Great Recession, home ownership took a beating as the ideal for the American dream. The median home nationally lost a quarter of its value, prompting adults of all ages to adopt other elusive goals—like retiring on time for boomers or working on their own terms for millennials.

Just 65% of Americans own their home, down from 69% pre-bust. And four out of five Americans are rethinking the reasons they’d want to buy a house in the first place. But Generation Z—also known as post-millennials, born after the 1990s Internet bubble— seems to prize home ownership like no generation since their great-grandparents.

An astounding 97% of post-millennials believe they will one day own a home; 82% say it is the most important part of the American dream, according to a survey of teens age 13 to 17 by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. More than half would give up social media for a year and do double the homework if it guaranteed they’d be able to buy a house.

This yearning stands in starkest contrast to the aspirations of millennials, older cousins who pretty much created the sharing economy and in large numbers prefer to rent. The housing bust and foreclosure epidemic scarred millennials, probably for life, as some watched parents and neighbors lose everything. In a key part of this generation—heads of households age 25 to 34—renters increased by more than 1 million in the years following the crisis, while the number who own a home fell by 1.4 million.

Post-millennials saw the carnage, too, though at a tender age that left them more confused than traumatized. Where millennials hardened and vowed never to repeat the errors of their parents, post-millennials sought the comfort of family and togetherness, says Sherry Chris, CEO of Better Homes and Gardens. “Many of these Gen Z teens were 7 to 11 years old when the recession hit,” Chris said. “At that age, children equate home with stability.”

The innate quest for stability leads them to prize a family home above things like going to college, getting married, having children, or owning a business, according to the survey. And the dream appears firmly grounded in reality. Chris observed that today’s teens have more information than any previous generation at their age and show early signs of financial awareness. Asked for an estimate of what they might spend on a house, the 97% who aspire to be owners gave an average response of $274,323—strikingly close to the median home value of $273,500.

Half say they know more about money than their parents did at their age. Two-thirds attribute their knowledge of money matters to discussions in the home, and two in five credit discussions in school. Three in five teens have already begun saving, the survey found. Post-millennials, on average, aim to own a home by age 28—three years earlier than the median age of first-time homebuyers reported by the National Association of Realtors.

These are encouraging findings. A home remains most Americans’ single largest asset, and while the housing bust will have lingering effects, home prices nationally tend to rise every year—and have been trending up again the past few years. Not all of the news is good: Only 17% of post-millennials believe stocks are the best long-term investment; half prefer a simple savings account, TD Ameritrade found in a survey that defines the generation as slightly older (up to age 24).

But the TD survey also found that post-millennials have half the post-college credit card debt of millennials. And the Better Homes survey suggests that our youngest generation is at last learning more about money at an early age, which is the goal of a broad public-private financial education movement. A generation of financially adept youth who begin to save and gather assets that will grow for four or five decades is the surest way to avoid another meltdown and solve the retirement savings crisis.

Related:
Why Gen X Feels Lousy About the Recession and Retirement
Our Retirement Savings Crisis—and the Easy Solution

MONEY Ask the Expert

The Wrong Reason to Replace Drafty Old Windows (and the Right One)

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Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: Our 90-year-old house has its original drafty windows. Should we replace them to cut our sky-high cooling and heating costs?

A: In a word, no. The energy savings from new windows don’t come close to justifying their cost. True, new high-efficiency (double paned, argon-gas filled, low-emissivity film coated) windows might offer twice the insulation value as the old single-pane units in your house, meaning they’d cut your energy loss through the windows by as much as 50%. But only about 30% of your house’s heating and air conditioning disappears out the windows, says Paul Scheckel, a home energy efficiency consultant in Vermont and author of The Homeowner’s Energy Handbook. So at best you’d really only save about 15% (calculated by taking 50% of 30%).

Thus even if you pay a whopping $2,000 a year in heating and cooling costs, your savings would only be $300. According to Remodeling magazine’s 2014 Cost vs. Value report, the average cost for replacement windows is about $11,000, meaning it’d take 37 years to recoup your investment.

This doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to replace your windows. The study also showed that homeowners get back nearly 80% of window replacement costs when they eventually sell. Plus, new units tilt in for easy cleaning, and they open and shut with ease—no need to prop them open with a stick. You get to eliminate those ugly aluminum storm windows and can even choose units that never need exterior painting.

Just be sure to choose windows that match your home. If your 90-year-old building is an architectural charmer, you’ll want to mimic the old units’ “divided light” patterns (the small panes within the windows), and use high-quality wood windows that fit the historic look of the building. Otherwise, using an economy-grade window could actually detract from your resale value instead of increasing it.

MONEY deals

5 Reasons September Is the Best Month to Go Shopping

Red lawn mower and sprinkler on lawn
PhotoSlinger—Alamy

September is an in-between month for consumers. It's not really a peak period to buy anything—which is why it's absolutely a peak month for savvy shoppers looking for deals on everything from lawn mowers to houses.

You may be still paying off your summer vacation. You may feel the need to start socking away money to cover your winter holiday shopping budget. There may be nothing that your household really needs to buy right now. Even so, there’s a good argument to be made that you can and should be shopping in September—and that you can feel smart, thrifty, and virtuous about it. Here are five reasons why.

1. Summer is over. The need for summery goods such as lawn mowers, barbecue grills, patio furniture, bicycles, bathing suits, and anything related to the beach is rapidly disappearing. So, naturally, stores want all typical summer purchases off their shelves and out of their aisles, pronto. Look for them at increasingly discounted prices until they’re gone. For instance, patio furniture should be listed at clearance prices of 50% to 75% off, according to dealnews. In addition to markdowns on summer items, Consumer Reports noted, shoppers can also expect stores to be discounting snow blowers for a similar reason—they’re just not top of mind for consumers, so some extra incentive is needed to make customers bite.

2. Kids are back in school. Retailers started pushing back-to-school sales in June, before most kids even started their summer vacation, and August is generally considered peak season for back-to-school purchases. But this year, at least, shoppers seem to have wised up to the simple fact that prices drop for those who wait. After a fairly lackluster summer season, stores were promoting early Labor Day deals to pump up apparel sales in particular. Even that wasn’t enough to drive many shoppers into stores.

“Consumers, not stores, are driving the trends these days, which means September will be the busiest back-to-school month this year, contrary to what stores and retailers may think,” the NPD Group’s Marshal Cohen noted recently. Here’s how Cohen explained why consumers have changed in their approach to back-to-school shopping:

Parents are prioritizing by purchasing supplies first, then some basic wardrobe necessities, and lastly following up with fashion, putting summer aside and purchasing clothing and apparel for colder rather than warmer weather. The reason consumers are delaying this significant aspect of their back-to-school shopping is twofold: they want to find out what’s “cool in school” before making their purchases and, looking at the broader trend, consumers don’t want to buy early anymore; consumers today want to buy in season.

Seasonality is just part of it; parents are also hip to the fact that prices are likely to drop on many back-to-school items and fashions once retailers consider peak back-to-school season to be over.

3. New gadgets are coming. Which means that older models will be marked down soon, if they haven’t been already. Consumer Reports suggests September as a great month for buying all sorts of small electronics (MP3 players, Blu-ray players, etc.), and dealnews points out that iPhones currently on the market are bound to be discounted when Apple introduces the new model, which should take place next week.

4. The winter holidays are looming. The overarching reason that stores are extra aggressive with markdowns in September is that they are eager to gear up for the Thanksgiving–Christmas shopping period. Sure, summer is an important season for retailers, but it pales in comparison to the end of the year. Some outlets routinely ring up more than half the year’s sales during the winter shopping season. So they understandably want to be fully prepared to make the most of it. To do so, it helps to start with a clean slate, with little or nothing in stores left over from the summer. Hence, major deals to clear out stores.

5. House hunting slows to a crawl. A new Trulia report explains that September marks the beginning of a sharp slowdown in people searching for homes to buy in most markets. For the most part, the arrival of Labor Day is bad news for owners who have listed their homes but have yet to close a deal with a buyer. On the other hand, fewer buyers in the market means an advantage for those who remain. Sellers who would have laughed off a lowball bid in, say, early June will be much more likely to consider such an offer come September.

MONEY Home furnishings

How to Host a Money-Making Yard Sale

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Tip: add a clear directional arrow to your sign. Rob Gage—Getty Images

Follow these strategies to rake in the big bucks when you put your old stuff out to sell.

While the art of a yard sale may seem pretty straightforward, simple alterations in timing, pricing, and display can make the difference between a successful sale and a full-on flop. For starters, consider inviting friends and neighbors to join in and making it a group effort, since multihome sales typically attract a bigger crowd. Once the team is assembled, follow these dos and don’ts from Ava Seavy of GarageSaleGold.com for selling your unwanted wares the old-fashioned way. You may just strike gold.

1. Title your event wisely. “Estate Sale” or “Moving Sale” implies that you’re liquidating a house’s contents and can earn you more than the simple “Garage Sale.”

2. Drum up attention. Place ads in local newspapers, online, or on public bulletin boards. Reserve signs for the day of the event, and only include the sale’s date, time, and directional arrows to its location. Make sure your signs are readable from a distance that will give a driver time to slow down and turn. That means bold, thick, black letters on large, brightly colored posterboard, readable from a few hundred feet down the road.

3. Offer freebies. While you shouldn’t hand out items without a catch, encourage people to spend more with buy-one-get-one deals, which let you truthfully advertise free goods. Be sure to conceal items you don’t plan to sell, to avoid dashing buyers’ hopes.

4. Don’t forget Fridays and Saturdays. Many experts maintain that Sunday is the best day for a sale, since people tend to reserve Saturdays for running errands. But, Seavey advises, “Start your sale earlier in the week than you think. Believe it or not, the best day of the week to hold a sale is Friday, as this is when most dealers and retired people will come.”

See the full list of 10 tips, plus photos, at This Old House.

Related:
9 Ways to Score Big at a Yard Sale
Inside the ‘Pay What You Want’ Marketplace

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