How to Shop Estate Sales

Love this post? Share it! :)

You guys know I’m alllll about shopping thrift stores. But there’s another kind of secondhand furniture phenomenon called ESTATE SALES. If you haven’t shopped estate sales, you’re missing out on some awesome deals. Keep reading to learn more about how to shop estate sales. 
 Estate Sale Bench - Thrift Diving
P.S. I bought that bench at a thrift store for just $25!!

How to Shop Estate Sales

1. Search EstateSales.net

If you want to find estate sales listed in your area, check EstateSales.net. I actually used EstateSale.com to find my estate sale. But one reader pointed out that the most inclusive listing site is EstateSales.net. Upcoming sales will be listed, but addresses may not be displayed until a day before the event. Be sure to check back when the address is available, or call the company that is hosting the estate sale.

2. Play hookie from work.
Am I correct that most estate sales (Day #1, at least) happen on a weekday? (And according to one reader, even some garage sales are starting to take place on a Friday!). Then, Day #2 is on a Saturday? If that’s true, then that means you’re probably hard at work at the office while some other used furniture ninja is “stealing” your phat deals! The solution?? Play hookie from work.  Yep–call in sick if you need to…..pretend you’re on an extended bathroom break….whatever you have to do to slip out in order to get to the estate sale if it’s on a week-day, and be the first (or one of the first) people there when it begins. Otherwise, all the good stuff will be gone, and there you were sitting at your desk, counting the minutes until you can “officially” leave. Too late!
Estate sale seat - Thrift Diving
3. ALWAYS counter-offer.
Because you’re getting there on Day #1 of the estate sale, things are going to be marked higher than Day #2. That’s the price you pay by going early and having free-range of the inventory. However, because things are usually marked down on Day #2, there may be wiggle room to negotiate. I guess it just depends on the estate sale company.

Offer your own price. If something is marked $100, it’s not unreasonable to ask $75. In my case, I was offering $50! And the only reason is because as we were leaving the first time around, the estate sale rep whispered, “You know, tomorrow everything is going to be 50% off….” Because I knew that everything would be cheaper tomorrow, I count-offered on a $700 pool table (retailed at $4,000), and the estate sale rep sold it to me for $400! (Although lugging that baby home, uuugghhhhhhh. I didn’t know slate could be so heavy!)

4. Cash is king.
Bring cash, and lots of it. Be sure to check the estate sale listing to find out what method of payment is acceptable. Checks may be accepted, but remember to bring your I.D. Some estate sales accept credit cards (like mine did), but you may be charged a surcharge. My estate sale was a 3% surcharge. On a $100 transaction, that’s “only” $3.00. But really, why pay anything extra if you can avoid it? Also, if you’re using cash, it might help you to stay within your spending limits, so you don’t lose your financial mind! Trust me–when you walk into an estate sale (hell, just walking up to the door), you’re giddy, and feel like a kid in a candy store! Keep your head on straight, as well as save those few dollars by using cash.
5. Bring a van or truck
It’s much easier if you have a way to get things home immediately. Of course, you could always return with the right vehicle, but that’s an extra trip and extra gas…Check with the estate sale company to see if you are allowed to come back to pick up items.
Of course….if you’re brave like me, you can totally pimp out your trunk with bungee cords. 🙂 It really works!!!
Hauling Changing Table
6. Leave your friends at home.
Let’s face it–if you take your friends, there could be competition over who gets first dibs on something! That happened between a friend and me over this bench. I won’t get into all the details, but yeah, there was some confusion over “whose” bench it really was to buy, but it’s sitting in MY basement office, so you know what happened there…. 😉

One reader pointed out that taking a friend along can slow you down, but can also be beneficial if you need some help with snagging an item. I guess it just depends–on your situation, and on the friend you bring along! Me, personally, I prefer to hunt alone rather than in a pack ;-).

Bench found at an estate sale - Thrift Diving
Bench found at an estate sale 1

7. Buy things you can resell or give to friends.

Even if you’re there to find things for yourself, always keep an eye out for things you could easily sell on eBay or vintage things you can sell on Etsy, or give to friends. These shoes were only $5.00, and although they fit (I’m a size 10), they are a size bigger and a little floppy. I can easily sell these on eBay!

9. Go back on Day #2.
So you’ve gotten there early on Day #1….great. You’ve found some deals. Now be sure to go back on Day #2 to see if there are any other things you could find at a cheaper price. You’ll be more relaxed because you will have already gotten everything you wanted on Day #1 (or were brave enough to leave it to see if it would still be available the next day, with 50% off). Another benefit to going both days is that the estate sale reps are now familiar with your face, and may be willing to knock a few more dollars off. Just be sure to ASK!

8. Have fun!
The hunt is an adrenaline rush, so enjoy every moment of it!


A couple readers below submitted their own tips, and I wanted to highlight a few of them here:

9. Take notes.
The more estate sales that you hit up, the more estate sale companies you’re going to encounter, and you need to know the “ins” and “outs” of that particular company. Be sure to grab a business card while you’re there, and take notes of that company. Was there any room to bargain? What was their pricing structure on Day #1, Day #2, etc.? Were their prices high? Low?
10. Do a thorough check.
I will admit–estate sales are intoxicating! But in all that excitement, it might be easy to overlook defective furniture, broken nails, parts that are missing, etc. Take a deep breath and do a thorough inspection of the items you’d like to buy. It might also give you some bargaining power if you can point out some defects before making an offer. That’s how I got that bench you see above–I shook it and noticed loose arms. Hence, the 50% deal on the Day #1!
11. Dig, baby dig!

Sometimes you’ll find gems at the bottom of a box. Keep digging! Doing be afraid to pull things out, if necessary.

12. Search Craigslist. Estate sale companies are not the only ones having estate sales; individual families hold estate sales, as well. Search Craigslist for the keyword “estate” or “estate sale” and see what you can find in your area.

So what kind of awesome things have you guys found at estate sales? 


Download the 5 freebies!

Thrift Diving inspires women to decorate, improve, and maintain their home themselves...using paint, power tools, and thrift stores! Use these 5 printables, checklists, and ebooks to get started!

Now go check your email for those freebies! Powered by ConvertKit

Love this post? Share it! :)

Similar Posts


  1. I just love all of this good advice! One of the first really nice estate sales I went to was one I found on estatesales.net. About an hour away from me. I saw a paining and a few other things I wanted to explore. I took along a friend & we both had small suv’s. The painting I wanted was a little more that I wanted to pay. I took off into other areas of the home. My friend both the painting! She made the guy a deal & he took it! She did get another item along with the painting, and that was her bargaining tool. We purchased so much, we had to drive back home & get the empty suv. We had so much fun that day. It is a special memory for me, because that friend passed away a few years after. Now I do enjoy going alone, because I can concentrate on what I am there for. Thanks so much & I am so glad I found your blog!

  2. Linda L Weeks says:

    Boy, you and I are cut from the same cloth. I like making good use of my time, and if I’ve simply gone with a friend, it’s great to be with that friend, but it’s not the same as all you can get done by oneself! I just enjoy being with my buddies in an entirely different way! I’d rather focus on them when we’re together, instead of being transfixed on a salt cellar in mint green. But boy you oughta see how much I can get accomplished by myself!

  3. Great information thank you for taking the time.

Leave a Reply

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