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Best Practices for a Successful Estate Sale Adventure

A selection of blue and white vintage decor

Summer is just around the corner and yard and garage sales will be popping up left and right, but have you ever been to an estate sale? They are one of the best ways to pick up interesting items and furniture at prices that often can’t be beat.

You might find the perfect art for your walls, a new piece of Pyrex to add to your collection or an antique French telephone that you didn’t know you needed. For some, the thrill of the hunt is all that’s needed to spend a day at a sale. You never know what might catch your eye. If you’ve never been to an estate sale before, here are some tips for a successful adventure into the world of treasure hunting.

Go early

Estate sales generally run for one to three days. For the best selection, you’re going to want to hit the sale early morning on the first day.

You can usually expect a line of people outside, and there’s often a sign-up sheet to get into the house. If there is, just add your name and wait for it to be called. Be prepared to wait – sometimes up to an hour – to get in, but it will be worth it for all the treasures you might find.

Go late

If you’re not able to make it the first day, the next best time to shop is the last day. While you may think it’s been picked over, there’s probably still a ton of great stuff left in the house.

In fact, this is when you’re going to get the best deals. Prices are usually firm on the first day, but on the last day, you can expect the remaining items to be up to 50 percent off their initial price. It’s a great time to snag a bargain.

Bring cash

There’s a reason they say that “cash is king,” and there are a few reasons this rings especially true at estate sales.

It could be a privately run sale that won’t take credit cards or checks. Or, the estate sale company might charge credit card users an additional fee, usually 3 percent on top of tax. For the best deal, having cash on hand is your best bet.

Grab it when you see it

If something catches your eye, grab it.

I’ve seen more than a few disagreements between buyers at estate sales when someone turned their back. You can always change your mind, but once someone else has the item you want in their hand, you’ll wish you hadn’t put it down.

If it’s a large piece of furniture, have someone put your name on it for you. There are always sale workers floating around.

Be respectful

Don’t forget that there’s a lot that goes into holding an estate sale.

The sales are usually a result of needing to downsize or a death. The homeowner or their family members will likely be present at the sale. Treat their home as you would your own and don’t judge what the state of the house might be in when you arrive.

There is also a tremendous amount of work that goes on before you arrive. Those running the sale have likely spent a week or more getting ready and setting prices. Be courteous as you move through the house and don’t insult the person at checkout with unrealistic price offers.

Lastly, go into a home with an open mind and enjoy the process of treasure hunting! To read about my White House Estate Sale adventure, click here.


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