Everyone loves a bargain. For estate sale shoppers, it’s almost an adrenaline sport.
Estate sales essentially turn lived-in homes into antique stores, everything in it priced to move. You can find:
Many of these items will be at deep discounts compared to buying the items new or even at an antique store.
Estate sale shoppers spend years honing their techniques. If you’re diving in from scratch, True Legacy Homes is here to cut down the learning curve with 21 Estate Sale Tips For Buyers:
1. Plan ahead.
2. Pre-shop the sale online.
3. Look for opportunities to pre-purchase.
4. Be an early bird.
5. Travel light.
6. Follow security protocols.
7. Bring cash.
8. Identify your requirements, prioritize your needs.
9. Be ready to rummage.
10. Be courteous.
11. Check dimensions.
12. Don’t buy anything broken if you can’t repair it.
13. Don’t forget to check the garage and the backyard.
14. Avoid intruding onto off-limits areas.
16. Don’t skip the last day.
17. Don’t be overwhelmed by the crowd.
18. Carefully examine the upholstery on any furniture.
19. Bring helpers to load heavy items.
20. Stay hydrated.
21. Practice empathy.
1. Plan Ahead
Mark your calendar in advance with the dates and addresses of all the estate sales you don’t want to miss.
If your area is served by the websites estatesales.net, estatesales.org, or estatesale.com, you can check these websites weekly and plan your schedule accordingly. Estatesales.net even has a mobile app you can use to set notifications of nearby estate sales.
Other places to check include Craigslist, your local paper, Facebook groups, and email lists.
2. Pre-Shop the Sale Online
Estate sale notices often include pictures of the merchandise. You can often screen in advance for quality goods that you might purchase.
If you’re unsure about a picture and wary of a wild goose chase, ask the seller for more images. They will often oblige.
Check the pictures for notations of dimensions. Sometimes things look bigger or smaller in pictures. Confirming the proper fit for furniture beforehand can save everyone a lot of time.
3. Look for Opportunities to Pre-Purchase
Sometimes buyers are invited for a presale before the actual publicized sale starts. Occasionally, the pre-sale takes place days before the sale date. This is unlikely if the house is still occupied, but if you catch a pre-sale, you might beat the rush.
4. Be an Early Bird
Try to arrive thirty minutes before the specified start time. Sale managers often admit shoppers in groups, especially if there is a long line. Your aim is to get in with the first group to have the first crack at the best selection of merchandise.
5. Travel Light
Sale organizers cannot possibly scrutinize the entire home every minute of the sale, and big bags create suspicion. If you bring a tote bag, large purse, or backpack, you may be denied admission. Estate sale managers do not take kindly to shoplifting and will exercise their prerogative to limit the risk of theft.
6. Follow Security Protocols
Don’t get offended if security guards watch you while you shop or ask to see your receipt. Estate sales are difficult to monitor, and they are just doing their jobs to prevent valuable merchandise from being stolen.
7. Bring Cash
Always inquire about payment terms before making a big purchase. Individual organizers usually only accept cash. Some estate sale companies accept credit cards, but most of them also function on a cash-and-carry basis.
Most sales will set aside bulky items like furniture and allow you to return for them on the same day or the following day. Double-check the pick-up policy before making the final payments.
8. Identify Your Requirements, Prioritize Your Needs
Don’t just buy something to buy it. Have a few items in mind that you can’t pass up. It will help you to focus your search.
There may be an overwhelming stock of merchandise to browse. Set a budget and adhere to it strictly to avoid overpaying for junk you won’t use.
9. Be Ready to Rummage
Sometimes estate sales are as organized as a Swiss watchmaker. Others are chaos. The perfect item could be hiding nowhere near where you would expect to find it. Be prepared to dig under layers of dust, through crowded tables, or in remote corners of the sale for finds that other shoppers may have overlooked.
10. Be Courteous
Politeness is crucial in a crowded sale. If someone is looking at or handling a piece of merchandise, keep your distance until they pass on it. Don’t hover, and certainly don’t get physical or grab an item out of somebody’s hands. Not only could you start a fight, but you will also probably be asked to leave.
11. Check Dimensions
Don’t commit to a beautiful piece of antique furniture before you have measured it.
If you have a specific space to fill, keep the dimensions of that space handy in the notepad app on your phone, or on a piece of paper in your wallet. Carry a small measuring tape to confirm that your find will fit.
12. Don’t Buy Anything Broken if You Can’t Repair It
All sales are usually final—no returns or refunds. Check all items for flaws prior to leaving. If you don’t know how to fix a broken item, or if the repairs cost more than buying it new, you have wasted your time and your money.
13. Don’t Forget to Check the Garage and the Backyard
Estate sales are known for their amazing tools since they last for generations. Tools tend to live in garages and backyards. Don’t skip it!
Even if you don’t want tools, you never know what an estate sale planner, disorganized or hard up for space, might have stashed in the garage that other shoppers will miss.
14. Avoid Off-Limits Areas
An estate sale is usually staged throughout the entire house. The owner has often passed away or relocated to assisted living. Once everything in the house is sold, the house is next.
Occasionally, however, a private area is cordoned off. These areas may contain keepsakes that relatives have set aside but have not had time to pick up. You gain nothing by trespassing these barriers.
Even if you successfully buy something that isn’t for sale, you have hurt the seller or the reputation of the estate sale manager, making the whole process harder for everyone. Respect boundaries!
Estate sales are not garage sales. Most items have been professionally appraised and priced to sell. If you offer $1 on a $20 item, you might insult the seller and certainly won’t get your price.
Nevertheless, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Try for a 10% or 20% discount. You might get lucky. Estate sales often have graduated discounts, with merchandise priced cheaper on the later dates.
16. Don’t Skip the Last Day
The last day of the sale is “everything-must-go” time. Anything that doesn’t sell will be donated or trashed, so prices get slashed—sometimes as much as 50%!
Don’t play chicken with the host on your favorite merchandise. If you fall in love with an item but gamble that it will be cheaper on the last day, another shopper will probably snag it out from under you while you wait.
Still, plan to browse the merchandise one more time on Sunday (or whatever the last day ends up being). You may discover a deal you can’t possibly pass up.
17. Don’t be Overwhelmed by the Crowd
Estate sale crowds vary in size. They could be libraries, or they could be madhouses. Either way, take your time, take deep breaths, and keep browsing. Your chance of finding a deal is as good as any of the other strangers rubbing elbows with you.
18. Carefully Examine the Upholstery on Any Furniture
Buying upholstered furniture at an estate sale is a crapshoot due to the risk of mold, bedbugs, or other contaminants. Make sure to sniff the fabric. If the deceased owner or pet suffered from incontinence, the furniture may be soiled with harmful germs.
19. Bring Helpers to Load Heavy Items
Some estate sale managers offer porter services for large items but don’t count on this. If you expect to buy furniture, tempt a strapping friend with food and/or drink to help you load your purchases.
20. Stay Hydrated
Estate sale shopping is an endurance sport, especially in the summer. Bring a water bottle and possibly a snack to combat low blood sugar and heat exhaustion
21. Practice Empathy
The seller may be liquidating the estate of a loved one who has just passed away or relocated to senior care. Many of the items in the sale may have deep emotional significance. Be sensitive of this fact as you browse, and offer gratitude for the life that assembled this marvelous treasure trove of mementos.
Contact True Legacy Homes for more estate sale shopping tips.