On front lawns across America, more and more people are answering the same question: "How much do you want for this?"
In a time of corporate downsizing and global financial woes, personal downsizing and pocketbook management have been met by some with cardboard signs reading "yard sale."
Garage sale postings on Craigslist, one of the Internet's top sites for classified ads, rose 200 percent in the past two years. Traffic to YardSaleSearch.com, a portal for potential sellers and bargain hunters, is up 16 percent from last year.
"I think more people are looking for bargains and more people are looking to downsize," said Joyce Woods, a frequent yard sale shopper who stopped at a sale Friday afternoon on Bodem Street just off Scenic Drive.
Shirley Thatcher was running the Bodem yard sale for her mother, Toni Lyon, who is moving to Ralston Towers. The switch from her two-bedroom house to a one-bedroom apartment meant Lyon needed to let go of at least half of her belongings.
Thatcher and her sister Tina Spyksma started the sale last weekend and will run it today.
They estimate they have raised about $700 selling everything from a washer-dryer set to plates, holiday ornaments and household tools.
"It's going very well," Thatcher said. "We're not out here to make a mint. We're just trying to raise money so my mom can buy a nice balcony set."
She said traffic has been brisk both weekends and what she doesn't sell by the end of today will be donated to the Hope Chest to benefit Community Hospice.
Many are moving, downsizing
Yard sale organizers and promoters across the country suspect the increase in yard sales is in large part because of the economy.
"More recently I've noticed a lot of sales mentioning downsizing or moving from a house to an apartment. I don't remember as many sales in the past mentioning that nearly everything in the house was for sale, so that might imply desperation or foreclosure in some cases," Joel Risberg, webmaster for YardSaleSearch.com, wrote in an e-mail.
This weekend, more than 75 garage sale notices are listed in The Bee.
Yard sale aficionados, such as Modesto resident Dale Siler, have noticed the increase.
"I think there are three times as many," she said. "People are just looking for any way to make more money."
Looking for bargains
Modesto resident Elise Scott had an array of artwork, home décor and clothing on her front yard and porch at High and Redwood streets Friday afternoon. She started the sale Thursday and planned to end it today.
Scott had just moved into the house and was hoping to raise money to help pay the deposit. She said people who have come by are looking for a bargain.
"My prices are fairly low because of the effects of the economy," she said. "Three years ago I could have sold something for $10, $15. Now it's a few dollars."
Yard sale pros such as Becky Mendoza said the key to a successful yard sale is to be flexible and display items well. The Modesto resident has a communal family yard sale on her front lawn near Morris and Bodem streets almost every weekend.
On Friday afternoon, several relatives had chipped in to the eclectic mix of electronics, clothes, figurines and unopened cans of paint.
"People are looking for deals," she said. "You're not going to make that much money, but one man's trash is another man's treasure."
She said on an average weekend she can bring in about $200 and on a good weekend she has made as much as $500.
She said sellers should make sure their items are easy to see from the street, because many people slow down and simply look from their cars before deciding to stop.
And buyers should know what they are looking for and what they want to pay.
"Only buy it if you want it," she said. "Otherwise it will end up back out on your front yard."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2284.