Through her Pembroke Pines, Fla.-based company, Sandy Tavarez advises people on spring cleaning with a financial finish: garage and estate sales. Her job has many challenges, but chief among them, she says, is helping people become realistic about the dollars their belongings will fetch. In addition to designer brands and high-end finishes, fond memories and an identity-attachment can - in our minds - inflate an item's value.

"Usually if something has a lot of memories or attachment, I just tell them to keep it," says Tavarez, owner of Absolute Estate Sales and Appraisals. "I'd rather have them happy than make us both look silly for trying to sell something overpriced."

Spring is here, and so are our aspirations of exchanging our clutter - or even the homes in which we store our clutter - for cash.

But while we may want to part with our T-shirts, our sofas, Gucci stilettos and the backyards in which we hosted barbecues, it's likely we'll place a higher price on what we already own than the price we'd be willing to pay for the very same things if we ourselves were on the other side of the transaction. This phenomenon happens, according to new research, because we tie our items to our identities, which we value tremendously.

The good news is there are ways to erase the irrationality.

"Selling something feels like a loss, and when buying something there's a gain," said Vanitha Swaminathan, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Pittsburgh. "You might find it's hard to part with your possessions and that people won't value your things as much as you think they're worth."

"Goods - when they become part of you - they're seen as extensions of yourself and part of your identity," Swaminathan said. "Things that become part of you are seen as more valuable."

So how can you set fair prices? For garage sales, Tavarez said, label good-condition appliances, sporting equipment and designer items for about one-third of the original price.

Kids clothes should sell for $2, $3 and $4, men's shirts for $3 and T-shirts for $1. For furniture, sites such as eBay - which show the going rate - are your best friend.

"Never refuse a first offer," she said. "It's usually your best."

And a trick from Swaminathan: Imagine you own 10 of whatever you're trying to sell. "You become more realistic," she said. "And your attachment goes down."

Garage sale pointers


Garage sales are great for making some money, but they also leave you vulnerable.

Expert Sandy Tavarez, owner of Absolute Estate Sales and Appraisals, reminds you to:

• Always have more than one person - three people are ideal - helping you with customers.

• Never agree to go back inside your home and bring out additional items such as jewelry or perfume. Those people are plotting something. Tell them items for sale are all displayed.

• Don't take bills higher than $20.

• Have lots of $1 bills on hand.

• Go inside and put away your earnings every time they total $150.


The rules vary across cities and towns, but here are some garage sale standards most of us must follow:

• You can sell only secondhand goods.

• You must own those goods - no consignment sales.

• Hours of the sale must be during daytime, though exact hours will vary.

• Items must be displayed within property lines.

• You might need additional permits for firearms, electronics or automobiles.

• You might be allowed a limited number of yard sales a year before being considered a retailer and required to collect sales taxes.

• Signs advertising the sale will be limited.

• Parking cannot block traffic.