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Garage sales bring legal questions

WILLMAR -- With summer comes garage sale season, and Willmar must ready itself for the signs and cars set to invade the city. Garage sales offer people the opportunity to sell goods that they either no longer want or no longer need. From there, c...

Garage sales
Garage sales signs placed outside of the advertiser’s property, like this one, are technically illegal in Willmar. As long as their insertion and removal is prompt, they are typically allowed to remain in place. ( jACOB bELGUM | TRIBUNE)

WILLMAR - With summer comes garage sale season, and Willmar must ready itself for the signs and cars set to invade the city.
Garage sales offer people the opportunity to sell goods that they either no longer want or no longer need.
From there, community members swoop in to acquire possessions that are unusual or can be found at a discount. What seems like an inherently symbiotic relationship can go bad when people turn a seasonal cleansing into an unrelenting business venture.
“Some people are having them every week … like trying to make a living,” Willmar City Planner Megan DeSchepper said. “It turns into a commercial enterprise.”
When garage salers start turning residential areas into mercantile zones, neighbors complain and the city steps in, limiting people to one sale per month.
DeSchepper said that one or two homes try to turn their garage sales into a business every summer.
Lengthy sales that attract many customers can cause traffic issues in neighborhoods. When this happens, law enforcement gets involved. If cars are parked in front of driveways, they are liable to be towed.
The sales that lure the most consumers often use advertisements to boost their awareness. In Willmar, it is illegal to place a garage sale sign anywhere outside of one’s own personal property.
This law is broken regularly, however, and the city typically allows it as long as people pick up their signs promptly after their sale’s completion.
The city does not regulate the sizes of signs, and no permit is required to conduct a garage sale. Assuming signs stay on personal property, their lack of regulation makes sense, but considering how many signs are placed elsewhere, extravagantly sized signs could be an issue. DeSchepper said they typically are not, though.
Here are a couple tips from organizedhome.com that should make one’s garage sale more effective:
• Be objective with your pricing: If you want to get rid something, estimate what your item is worth to someone else, not to you. Garage sale attendees often frequent other garage sales and understand the going rate for items. Roam other area garage sales to get an idea on pricing.
• Have plenty of change on hand: Losing customers because of lack of preparation is not good.
If you are placing items on your lawn, make sure it is mowed. Displaying care for your lawn could show customers you took care of your items for sale.

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