There are some unexpected twists to having a garage sale here

There comes a time when every expat has to downsize.

The reason might be a return to the home country or perhaps the desire for a smaller footprint in an attractive condo.

Elsewhere one could just hang out a sign and perhaps put a small classified in the local newspaper. Garage sales are popular in the Great White North. In Costa Rica there are additional dangers.

Many light-fingered individuals would be attracted to such a sale here. The worst case would be armed bandits pretending to be customers.

Only the largest sale or the Sunday flea market in Sabana Este is really open to the public. The sale has to be big enough to pay for professional security.

This understanding and even fear has caused many an expat to simply dump their household goods at a few cents on the dollar to a single, professional buyer.

Such fear is unnecessary. Even expats who are moving households to another country with a professional mover might take advantage of a painless sale as a way to reduce unwanted goods.

Some have had good luck with classified ads as long as the items for sale were large, like a stove or refrigerator. These are pretty hard to shoplift.

Costa Rica has generated professional sales advisers. These individuals will conduct the sale for a percentage of the income, usually between 10 and 20 percent. The advantage is that such advisers know the going price for that 5-year-old Atlas stove and also have a following.

Such sales are by invitation with the adviser calling previous customers and screening classified callers. They also are full of tips, such as to hide anything that is not for sale. Buyers have a way of wandering through a home and making random offers.

Another tip is to hold the sale either right after the first or the 15th of the month, the usual paydays for Costa Rican workers.

There has not been a lot of serious criminality with household sales the way there has been with autos. There have been many cases of fake vehicle buyers either just driving off or pulling a firearm on the owner.

There also are dangers for the buyers who might be going to a strange location to deal with unknown persons.

The Sunday flea market, the mercado de pulgas, might be an answer. The sale in San José is Sunday on property just east of the municipal building that is shared with the Saturday vegetable feria.

Many of the items purchased at household sales end up at the flea market the next week. The area is open and well policed. In addition, many of the items are of top quality having just been stolen form a local home by burglars.

Another option for buyers is the annual sale conducted by many charitable groups.

A little planning and help take the stress out of a household sale.

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