Estate sales are one of my favorite places to shop for antiques and vintage items. Mike and I get up every Saturday morning to scour the local estate sales. Here are some tips for successful estate sale shopping.
1. Check craigslist, your newspaper and your newspaper's website. Our local paper offers free ads online only, so often times I find sales listed online that never make their way into the paper. I also do google searches for estate sales in my local area which will occasionally bring up a sale or two.
2. Look for key words in the ads that will help you indicate whether or not it is a true estate sale. Many people try to lure customers to their garage sales by putting the word 'estate' in the ad. "Estate moving sale" usually just means someone is trying to sell all of their junk to avoid dragging it across multiple states. Looking for other phrases like "entire contents of home", "antiques", "sale inside the home" are good indicators that it is a true estate sale and you will be able to walk through the entire home and most items inside will be for sale.
3. Get up early! I know it's hard on a Saturday morning to drag yourself out of bed at such an uncivilized hour but the best deals are usually found within the first fifteen minutes of the doors opening. Some sellers are sticklers for their start time and others will open their doors long before. It's best to scope out the sale 30 to 45 minutes before it's supposed to open just in case. Mike and I are usually out the door by 7:30 since we have found that sales either start at 8 or 9 in our area.
4. Bring cash. If you are shopping for furniture you will want to carry a few hundred dollars, otherwise $50 or $60 will usually be more than enough for small household items.
5. When you find something you like, pick it up and walk around with it as you continue to shop. If you don't the item will most likely be gone by the time you make up your mind about it. Trust me on this, I have literally had people follow me around waiting for me to put something down that I grabbed as soon as I walked in the door! If you find a piece of furniture you like, inquire about it immediately. Dealers are often shopping for bigger pieces like furniture so you will have competition. The good thing is that if you are shopping for yourself, you can be much more competitive with your offer because you won't have to leave room in your price for a retail markup.
6. Remember to be kind and courteous in negotiations. You are not always dealing with a hired estate sale staff, sometimes the family of the deceased is running the sale directly and the act of selling a beloved family member's belongings can be a difficult and emotional process.
7. Have fun! I rarely leave an estate sale empty handed and it's always such a fun and enjoyable way to begin the weekend. Mike and I have our little ritual of making a cup of tea to take on the road and grabbing a newspaper on our way out of our neighborhood. After we're done shopping, we usually stop somewhere for breakfast and if we are feeling lucky we will hit a few of our favorite local antique and thrift stores...it's my favorite way to spend a Saturday!
Some recent finds at a few local estate sales....