How to Shop Estate Sales

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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? 


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  1. Serena @ Thrift Diving says:

    An estate sale is usually organized by an estate sale company, for a person, family, or business that wants/needs to liquidate most of its possessions. They’ll open up the home or property or business (sometimes online) and sell the stuff at good prices. Usually day #1 of an estate sale is the most expensive. Day #2 is usually marked down 25% or more. And by day 3, things are marked down even further! Garage sale is just like a yard sale: just someone selling a few things themselves on the weekend šŸ™‚
    Go check out estatesales.net. They lost estate sales near you! Warning: you’ll get hooked!!

    1. Another good site is hoardnot.net. It provides an App that makes it really easy to navigate local estate sales around you. Check it out!.

  2. Okay I don’t mean to sound like a wierdo, but I am not exactly sure what the difference in Estate sale and Garage sale is… I’m assuming you get bang for your buck at Estate sales?

    My g-ma is the Queen of garage sales but I’d like to equip her with this new knowledge. Sooooo, help a sister out guys!

  3. You founds some great stuff! I am new to estate sales myself. I stalk estate sales dot net and have emails sent to me of sales nearby. There’s also an app called garage sale rover that will map out garage and estates sales near wherever you are. Most sales in my area start on Friday or Saturday. I’m lucky enough to be able to check thing out on first day if something great caught my eye in the pics.

  4. Well you KNOW I love estate sales and I get the weekly emails from estate sales.net. I have been known to make a lunch run if I see any Candlewick listed and it’s close to my work. My office is located close to older affluent homes so I usually can hit one a month. Thanks for sharing at my party this week!

  5. Hey, Elise (Hubba)! VERY cute blog! I love all those baby things. Like I had commented on your blog, thank GOD I don’t have girls, because I could rack up some serious debt buying them girlie things. It’s all boys in my house, so it’s all about mismatched, holes in the knees, and stains in the shirts. YEAH! šŸ™‚ LOL (I’m your newest followers, as well!)

  6. Laurie, sorry you’re so far away! I would definitely hit up an estate sale with you! Oh well……I guess you can see all the crap I find via this blog, huh? LOL

  7. I wanna go estate saling with you!! I love the hunt and the finds. 95% or more of my home is from Estate Saling.
    I love that I have found your blog so I can see what pretties you snag for cheap!!

  8. Serena…I get that you’re an estate sale virgin. And that’s why I wrote what I did–your experience at your first estate sale was so totally opposite of how they usually happen. Which is why I said all I did. =)

    As to estatesale.com vs estatesales.net–maybe it was just the timing, but none showed up at ALL in MN on the .com site. Why would you even want to go to a site that is so totally incomplete?

    Estate sales are a blast!

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