14 Tips On How To Get What You Want and Save Big: Estate Sales

14 Tips On How To Get What You Want and Save Big: Estate Sales

Shopping Tips: Estate SalesTypically estates sales run 3 days: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The savings at an estate sale are usually 30 to 50% on the first two days and on the third day the company running the sale will sell items at 50% off of the tagged price (the math starts to look pretty good). If you are going the third day arrive early and ask about the exceptions to the 50% off rule. The estate sales are full of items that have been collected over a lifetime…You will find some real treasures.   There are some basic Shopping Tips: Estate Sales below that will make your outings successful.

Tip 1…Efficiency Tools

Use craigslist and EstateSales.Net to identify the sales you want to visit in advance, us MapQuest to identify your route between sales. If you’re heading to a particular estate sale because you saw something in the photographs you cannot live without, get there early and expect to pay asking price. Asking price is still usually 30 to 50 percent below retail. The longer you wait, the better the price gets but your odds of taking that vintage item home diminishes substantially. There may be a list on the door that you can sign up to determine when you will get to enter once the sale starts or you will have to wait in line until they open the door. Ask these who are there and they will explain the etiquette. The goal is to have a specific number of buyers in the house at any one time.

Tip 2…Make Friends

Make friends with the people running the show. They’re more likely to hold items for you while you run to the bank, more likely to work with you on pricing, and if they see you on a regular basis, they may even notify you of items in an upcoming estate sale that make them think of you.

Tip 3…Shop From Your List

Have a list in mind and purchase from that list. Set a budget that you will spend, and buy with cash.

Tip 4…Learn How To Negotiate

Estate sales usually last three days, Friday through Sunday, so if the item you want is to expensive go back on the second or third day and make an offer. Very few will negotiate with you early in a sale, but most everyone will take 50% off on the third day. If you are buying more than one item ask for a discount based on volume. At some estate sales they will take a bid from you on the first or second day.

Tip 5…Be Respectful, Follow The Rules

Unfortunately, theft is a concern at estate sales. If you want to bring a box or bag ask if that is OK. The one unbreakable rule is to be respectful. If they ask for the receipt on the way out, be polite and show it to them.

Tip 6…Get On The List

Sign up for e-mail lists. Any estate sale worth attending is run by a company with an email list. Getting on the list will often give you priority when that company has a reservation only sale. You’ll be notified when they have special pieces they can’t sell in an estate sale. As a valued customer you may receive an appreciation coupon for future sales.

Tip 7…Haggle, Yes Haggle

Haggle; we aren’t generally fond of haggling, but estate sales are an excellent (and appropriate) place to do so. The sellers are looking to purge as much stuff as possible, so ask for a discount, especially if you’re spending a lot of money. I buy my garden pots at estate sales and I will buy two or three at a time and will ask for a volume discount. If you come back at the end of a sale, your bargaining power is even greater. If you are asking for a lower price, do it respectfully. Don’t make offers that are ridiculous, it may be that the most you can pay is ten dollars, let them now that and see what they say. If they take your offer don’t pay with a $20 bill.

Tip 8…Be Methodical

Take your time. Be thorough. It’s easy to scan a garage sale because they’re nearly all the same. But every estate sale is different. Move slowly from room to room. Check the closets and the drawers (but only those that are part of the sale). Look in corners. Dig through boxes and bins. If you’re methodical, you can often find unexpected goodies in out of the way places. If you are looking for garden pots walk through the garden and ask about anything that is untagged.

Tip 9…Be Picky

Be picky; It’s generally best to wait until you find something exactly right instead of settling for something close. Being patient and being picky are all part of the game.

Tip 10…Some Gems Need A Little Spit & Polish

Over the course of seventy or eighty years, people can acquire a lot of Stuff. In time, some of these things become worn or dirty. These items tend to be ignored at an estate sale, or marked with low prices. (They’re also the sorts of things you can haggle on with great effectiveness.) If you’re willing to apply a little spit and polish, you can sometimes turn lumps of coal into shiny diamonds.

Tip 11…Inspect Your Purchase

“Be sure to inspect every part of the item you plan to purchase. Estate sales are usually only three days, sometimes less. Because of this short amount of time to sell every item, refunds are not accepted; you buy it, it is yours. Most companies that host sales try to note if that crystal vase has a chip, but it is not unusual to miss things; you are buying “as is”. It’s up to you to make sure you’re happy with what you’re purchasing so plug in that Kitchen-Aid mixer and don’t take anyone’s word that it works. It is usually best to avoid stereos and TV’s unless you know what you are purchasing. If you are buying clothing look for stains, check to see that the zipper works. Take your time to make sure you are happy.

Tip 12…Take A Friend

If you are planning to buy furniture then take a friend or family member who is capable of helping you move the item, or find a mover in advance. Bring a vehicle that will take the size of the item you want to carry away. Bring a tape measure with you. Estate sales are a ‘cash-and-carry’ business. This usually means there will not be someone on hand to help you move things. Many companies can recommend a mover but it’s often easier and less expensive if you price one out in advance. craigslist has loads of people who will move stuff for you.

Tip 13…Slow Down And Enjoy Yourself

Be thorough, look around. Have a list and make a route in your head so you are spending time in the garage, patio, or greenhouse if you are looking for garden items. The larger the number of items in a sale the harder it is for someone in front of you who is moving fast to see everything. Also these sales take place inside people’s homes, so enjoy your chance to satisfy your inner voyeur by taking some time to breathe it all in, for instance, you might gain rare access to fantastic estates that you would otherwise see only from the curb. Estate sales grant you the freedom to roam and indulge in the richness of people’s lives.

Tip 14…This Is Really One Of Your Best Opportunities For A Deal

Search for finds other than just antiques, or the fabulous. It is more common now that people are downsizing or moving so they’re purging very current possessions. You will also find that high-end kitchen appliances or garden tools that seemed too expensive or out of reach at 50% of retail.


Sales are usually run by five or six people who price, arrange and display merchandise. Even at the best sales most items are not antique but are everyday useable household items. The company hires people with current knowledge of what these everyday things will bring, what’s the going price on a 1998 Toro lawnmower or a Craftsman saw from 1980? Thousands of items are priced at a sale and someone has to have an idea at least, of what these things are worth. Then there are usually some employees of the company who have knowledge of antiques; glassware, old toys, jewelry etc.; the thing you can be sure of is that no one knows it all. Mistakes are made at every sale. Sometimes they are huge mistakes and sometimes they are small ones. Experts are called in to price the art work, or high quality diamonds etc. but, other than that, two or three people are pricing everything in that home and errors will be made. Sometimes the worth is not common knowledge and sometimes the function of an item is unknown. Look for those mistakes, I promise you’ll find them. Train your eye to look under the tables where things are often placed till there is more room on top of the table. Don’t follow the crowds! If they are all in the kitchen, go to the bedroom. It’s amazing how many folks will crowd into one room when half the house is empty. Look in the back of closets for the overflow that just couldn’t be hung up. Check the kitchen cabinets, even the ones that are closed as long as they aren’t taped shut.

Happy hunting…If you have your own tips leaves them below, share your knowledge.

Follow me on Twitter @kirklander61

Like me on Facebook

Tags: , ,


  1. #7 is a great suggestion. Too many people don’t know to haggle or even how to do it effectively.

    Great post!
    Terry recently posted..Six Tips for Making the Most at Your Garage SaleMy Profile

  2. “Learn How To Negotiate” – is always a good advice when it comes to estate sales! In this sphere you should always try to lower the price! Thank you for the post! Excellent tips!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


CommentLuv badge