13 Tips and Tricks for Shopping Estate Sales
Have you ever remarked on someone’s outfit or a piece of decor, only to hear, “Thanks, I got it at an estate sale!” Estate sales are an excellent place to find… well, just about everything. As an estate sale company, we sell everything from big, sparkly diamond rings to flathead screwdrivers.
Estate sale shopping is like hunting for treasure. It’s an adventure, and anyone can do it! To get you started, we’ve put together our top tips and tricks for shopping estate sales like a pro.
1. Make a list, and check it twice.
Think about the things you want and need, and make some notes. Maybe you’re a vintage fashion fanatic and know right off the bat that you’ll want to check for clothing. Put that at the top of your list. Would your medicine cabinet look better with a different knob? Add hardware to the list. Did your ladle melt in the dishwasher? Throw a ladle on there, too! You may not find everything on your list, but having some direction, especially as a beginner, can be really helpful.
2. Plot your course.
3. Be prepared.
You are not going to want anything to get in the way of you and your estate sale finds! Before you hit the sale, have something to eat, and be sure to use the bathroom. Seasoned shoppers know not to count on one being available at the sale.
You’ll also want to have the right tools on hand. Bring a loupe if you’re planning on inspecting jewelry, coins or artwork. Have your home’s measurements and a measuring tape with you so that you can buy with confidence. If there’s even a chance that you’ll purchase something large, make sure that you have access to a vehicle with adequate cargo space. It’s also nice to have snacks and water waiting in said vehicle for a post-sale pick-me-up.
4. Dress for success.
You’re going to want to be able to dig, sift, bend and lift, if necessary, so dress comfortably. You’ll get bonus points if you wear clothing that’s a little fitted, even if you layer on top of it. You might run into a sweater or blouse that you just have to try on. When that happens, it’s nice to be able to slip the item on over your clothes to check the fit.
5. Have an open mind.
You really never know what you’re going to find. You might go to a sale in search of a new nightstand and wind up finding the perfect birthday present for a friend or a plant stand for that sunny, funky corner of your living room.
6. Set your alarm.
Want something specific? Get there early, stand in line and feel free to ask the door person where the item is in the home. That way, you aren’t wasting time frantically searching the estate.
7. Make friends.
Chat with other shoppers, especially if you’re waiting in line. Estate sales draw all kinds of interesting people so get social! Just like you never know what you might find, you never know who you might meet!
8. Leave no stone unturned.
Don’t feel uneasy wandering around. Survey the entire sale, and don’t forget basements, garages or outbuildings. If you aren’t supposed to enter an area, it will be marked off. Some of the coolest items live in the strangest places!
9. Be respectful.
Treat the property, home and contents like you would that of a friend or family member. Be courteous, and don’t snatch 1960s Kewpie dolls or Bose speakers from the hands of your fellow shoppers. As mentioned above, look at this as an opportunity to meet people and make friends!
10. Get a great deal.
Looking for a bargain? Go on the last day! This is when estate sale pros discount things. The early bird may get the worm, but the final day bird gets the great deals. Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Just because these items didn’t get snatched up right away doesn’t make them any less desirable to the right person. That person could be you!
11. Buy what you like.
If you’re drawn to something and it makes you happy, you’ll find a place for it. That big painting or vintage neon bar sign might be just the thing you need, and you don’t even know it yet!
12. Earn rewards.
13. Feel good.
Know that you’re providing a fresh lease on life to someone’s treasures. Nothing feels better than discovering something special and giving it a new home. Not only that, shopping estate sales is a sustainable practice, both for the earth and for your wallet. It’s especially nice to know that, in addition to helping empty a home, you’re putting money in a local family’s pocket!