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Estate Sales: Everything You Need to Know

Estate sales are my favorite place to source vintage and antique pieces. I enjoy them for several reasons. For one, each house usually has a specific decor style so if you find a house with a lot of items you like you can do a lot of fun shopping in one place, and skip the ones that don’t look appealing to you. There isn’t as much digging as there is in antique malls or thrift stores. This is a person’s personal collection of items that they curated for their home, so there is usually a specific style they chose. Hopefully you can find some that align with yours.

Also, I just love looking at people’s houses. The way they organized and decorated their house, the different items they have and the stories they tell. Even if I don’t find anything, I usually find them fun and interesting to shop.

Where to Find Estate Sales

There are plenty of places to find estate sales. Just Googling your city and estate sales should produce some results. My favorite place to find estates is estatesales.net. This site allows you to search in a customizable radius of your location and has pictures so you can look through what you can expect to see at the sale. You can also favorite sales you’re interested in visiting to keep organized. They also have an app, so you can pull up the sales and addresses on the go.

Once you’ve gone to a few estate sales, you may start to realize you have a favorite estate sale company (or hopefully several!) Many estate sales companies have email lists. I like to sign up for the email lists of my favorite companies. Now each week I get an email with what sales are happening with and where, as well as with pictures so I can glance to see if it is something I am interested in or not.

When to Go

There is definitely strategy that goes into shopping estate sales. If you have never been to one, you may be surprised when you see how many people go, especially on the first day. So go into it knowing there could very possibly be crowds.

When deciding when to go you of course need to consider your personal schedule and availability. Unfortunately, many estate sales begin on weekdays in the morning which can be difficult if you work full time.

When to Go Early

My thought process is, if you see something particular in the photos that you know you really want no matter what, plan to get to the sales as soon as possible. Like I mentioned before, estate sales can get very competitive, and certain items go quickly like furniture and larger decor pieces.

When to Go Late

Another strategy, is to go the last or second to last day of the sale. This is when you can get the best bargain, since most companies will start to discount items at this time. I have still found great pieces in the last few hours of a sale. Often times these pieces are just a little overpriced, so they are not purchased at first. However when marked down to 50% or even 75% they are very reasonably priced.

Different companies have a different time table for their discounts. Usually the last day is a safe bet that their will be some kind of discount going on. Sometimes this is advertised ahead of time be the company on their website or estatesales.net, if not this knowledge just comes with going to a few of them and testing it out.

General Tips

Before attending an estate sale, it is important to read the description and notes written by the company hosting it. Here are some common themes across estate sales in my experience.

Leave the Kids at Home

Many estate sales will explicitly say no children are allowed (tight crowds, breakable objects, and children are not a good combination). This isn’t always the case, but I have seen it more than not. Plus it is always the safe thing to do, you don’t want to have to pay for some ridiculous $300 sculpture that your kid just knocked over and broke.

A Small, Crossbody Purse is Best

Leave the big tote bags at home. Besides being annoying and heavy to carry around, some companies will not allow you to bring them as a theft protection measure. I prefer to wear a small crossbody that is light and only has what I need. Shopping is serious business and I don’t want to be weighed down by a purse. If it is a good sale, you’ll be carrying lots of items around, so find a bag or wallet that won’t get in your way.

Arrange for Proper Payment

Another important note is what kind of payment is accepted. It is common for estate sales to only accept cash, so that is always a safe bet. Some will accept cards or checks. Always be prepared for each sale in advance. They are not going to hold an item for you while you run to the ATM.

Arrange for Packing and Transport

Be prepared to pack and transport any items you may buy. If this is a big piece of furniture arrange for the proper vehicle and enlist help. Most of the time the estate sale employees are not going to help you. You will likely be able to purchase it and come back later, but must be picked up by the end of the sale.

Another thing is that some estate sale companies will have bags and packing supplies while others won’t. It doesn’t hurt to have somethings in your car in case you buy something fragile that you need to safely transport back home.

There You Have It!

You can now confidently go to your next estate sale. I know they can be intimidating at first, especially when there are large crowds. But once you’ve been to a couple, you’ll feel more confident. Hope you find something great!

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