Estate sales are where I do most of my treasure hunting for vintage items. I love searching through people’s old collections and it’s where I get the best deals. I’ve been shopping estate sales for several years now, so I thought I would share some tips that I’ve learned along the way.
1. Check online estate sale listings
There are a number of different sites that offer up to date estate sale listings. Just Google “estate sales” and a bunch will come up. I use estatesales.net just about every week to see what sales are coming up in my area. A few days before the sale starts they will typically post lots of pictures of what is going to be sold. I definitely recommend looking through the photos before hand to see if there is anything interesting to you. Obviously you don’t want to waste your time at a sale that is specializing in auto parts if you are looking for home décor.
2. Find more than one sale in the same area
If you want to hit up more than one estate sale it helps to find a couple in the same area. These online listing sites, like estatesales.net, will post the address of an estate sale about 24 hours before the sale. Look for ones that are near each other.
3. Most estate sales start during the week
When I first started shopping estate sales I just assumed that, like garage sales, it was going to be a weekend thing. Not the case. Most estate sales actually start during the week. It’s very common for an estate sale to start on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. In fact most of the time Saturday or Sunday is the last day of the sale. This is just good to know if you are looking to find something specific that you think someone else might also want.
4. The Last day is 50% off
Typically the last day of an estate sale is when you are going to get the best deals. You risk things being more picked over, but the savings may be worth it. The last day is often 50% off and you can sometimes get even more.
5. Arrive early
If you see something in the listing photos that you know you want, get there early. Sometimes, if you are one of the first three in line, you can put your name on a list so that you can leave, come back, and still be first to get in when the sale opens. Most of the sales I’ve been to do have a line at the beginning of the sale. This is where you want to be if you are looking for first pick of the day. I have even been to a few estate sales that on the last day have actually decided to open early to people who were there waiting.
6. Bring cash
Some estate sales accept debit cards and credit cards but for the most part you are better off bringing cash. Bring more than you think you will need. You never know what you might find and it’s a bummer if you have to leave a sale to find an ATM machine in a neighborhood that your not familiar with. It’s happened to me before!
7. Bring an empty box or shopping bag
If you plan on picking up a few items bring your own empty box or shopping bag. This is really helpful! I usually go with an empty box because I’m often picking up glassware, which holds better in a box. You can carry this around while you gather items so that your hand don’t get full. Most sales will have a holding area for items you want to set aside to buy. Use this area with caution. I’ve stuck items there before and come back to find them missing. If it’s something you really want, don’t let it go. Keep it with you in your box or bag!
If you have a purse it’s better to leave it in the car during an estate sale. Sometimes they don’t even allow purses but even if they do, it’s better to not have to worry about lugging that around while your searching through a crowded sale. I just put my cash in my pocket and leave my purse locked in the car.
8. Bring your own sold tag
Sometimes I bring my own SOLD tag for larger pieces of furniture. If I see a dresser or table I want, I’ll place my SOLD tag on it so no one else claims it while I find someone to help me take it out. You can also use a SOLD tag for any stuff that you do place in the holding area I mentioned above.
9. Have your smart phone handy
I use my phone in a couple different ways at estate sales. If I see something I like but am not sure how good a deal it is, I will do a quick internet search right while I’m there at the sale. This way I can see what the item typically goes for and whether or not I am paying a good price.
I also use my phone to take photos and record prices of the items I am going to buy. I do this as I am shopping because I’ve found that once you get up to the table to pay, they often remove the price tag from the item and keep it. This may not matter to everyone, but if your like me (type A, Analytical), you want to know exactly how much you ended up paying for each item individually.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask for an extra discount
I’ve found that, especially on the last day of an estate sale, you can often get an even better discount than advertised. You just have to ask. On the last day they are really looking to clear things out of the house, so they are usually willing to let things go for whatever you are willing to pay.
11. Sign up for the mailing list
I’ve noticed that each estate sale company has there own mailing list. It’s usually just sitting there on the table when you’re checking out. I try to sign up so that I’m fist to know any new information regarding another sale.
12. Bring your resale certificate
I didn’t realize it at first, but if you have one, you can actually use your resale certificate at an estate sale. Good to know if you have an antique booth or online shop, like me.
I hope these tips help if you are new to shopping estate sales! I’m always exploring ways to make my estate sale shopping easier and I’ve learned a lot just by attending many sales over time. If you have any tips I haven’t mentioned, please do share in the comments. Thanks for reading!