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Hold a garage sale? Be prepared to pay double for the permit

Garage sales are a popular way for people to earn some quick cash while getting rid of stuff they no longer want. But some towns are hiking their fees for holding yard sales, cutting into residents' profits.

Bloomfield, N.J., more than doubled its garage sale permit fee this year to $25 from $10. So what happens if residents don't pay? They could be fined up to $100 and imprisoned for up to 10 days, according to the town's ordinance. But Glenn Domenick, Bloomfield's director of community development, told the Star-Ledger, "We try not to prosecute people for something like that."

Raising garage sale fees can bring in a little more revenue for local governments, but in most cases the increase would be pretty insignificant. In Bloomfield the $10 garage sale fee raised $2,340 last year. Even if the town saw the same number of garage sales this year, it would only generate an extra $3,510 in revenue.

Some Bloomfield residents are annoyed by the fee increase, while others have taken it in stride. While other communities have fees similar to and even higher than Bloomfield's, attempts to raise more revenue this way don't always go over so well. When Texas City, Texas, proposed a $10 garage sale fee, plus another $25 to put up signs, residents raised a stink. As a result, the town decided not to require the fee, but will restrict the number of signs that can be posted.

Of course there are some people who don't even bother to get a permit before holding a garage sale, no matter what the rules are where they live. In many cases unauthorized garage sales fly under the radar of official government business, but not always. A few years back we learned the hard way that it pays to get a garage sale permit when a local cop rolled up to our driveway with all of the signs we'd posted around town. It honestly hadn't occurred to us that we needed a permit. Apparently he was making the rounds of several illegal garage sales that day based upon all the signs I saw in the backseat of his car. After we moved to our current home and I called the town office to ask about yard sale permits, the woman on the phone laughed and said no one had asked her that before. I was all too happy to hold my garage sale permit-free.

Nevertheless, it will pay off for you to inquire about any fees your city might charge before holding your own garage sale. No sense in holding one if you're going to be dinged $100 or more.

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