Top Tips for Estate Sale Shopping: A Guide to Bargain Hunting


I’ve been attending estate sales for years. As a professional estate sale shopper and after hundreds of sales I’ve learn some great strategies to up my game in this field.

Learning how to find the best estates sales, figuring out the ideal things to bring on your adventure, and some great haggling tricks is all you need to bring home your estate sale treasures. Read on to learn more……..

How To Find An Estate Sale

These are many avenues to finding local estate sales.  Using the internet is a great way to narrow down your search.  If your hunting for treasures then mapping out several estate sales for one day in a targeted area is the way to go.

Many sales are promoted in various online web sites and in print. 

Here is a list of way to find the estates sales in your area: 

Your Local NewspaperFriday estate sales are very popular once spring arrives.  Start by checking your Thursday edition of your local newspaper for sales. 
estatesale.comI check all the online estate sales websites but I find this is my “go-to” site for sales.  
Unlike the other two websites I have listed below this site is free for estate sale companies to post their estate listings.  I find the smaller companies that use this site to advertise works well for me.  The small companies means smaller lines to get into the sale. I also like that they have a separate link on their site to search online auctions as well.
estatesales.netThis is another great website to find estate sales.  Their website interface is easy to navigate.  
estatesales.orgI like this site as well. The estate sale listings are nicely color coded so you can quickly glance at the sales dates and times. They also do a superior job on their photo views. Items are easy to see and have a nice screen proportion so you can see the items clearly.

Free Notifications:

All of these websites offer free email notification of upcoming sales in your area. Don’t forget to sign up for the free e-mail notification on these great websites.  It’s nice to be notified where there is a great estate sale right down the street. You don’t want to miss out!

In addition, always make sure you sign the mailing list sheet at the checkout for Estate sales you enjoy.  I’ve had to ask to be on the mailing list in the past so don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t see a sign-up form.  It’s completely worth asking to get on their list. Be one of the first to know about new sales. 

Getting Ready: What to Bring

I’ve been going to estate sales for about 9 years. I’ve been buying vintage items at estate sales for 3 years.   I’ve learned a lot along the way about how to prepare for the adventure and fun. Here is a list of what I bring and why I need it.  

Bubble Wrap~ I pack a few sheets of bubble wrap. I toss the bubble wrap into my bag to bring into the sale.
~ I pack a few sheets to put into the back of my car. 
( I buy a lot of breakables)  I purchase my bubble wrap on Amazon.com after searching for the best price. CLICK HERE for more information on what I purchase. I love this brand as it’s perforated and easy to use.
Small bag (Also a larger bag for trunk of my car)~ I bring a large book bag for carrying my treasures as I shop. 
( I used to bring a large black IKEA bag which was great and I could fill it up but it got in the way of other shoppers.  Also, I tried a backpack and again it got in the way in a crowded group.)  
Cash
~ CASH IS KING!  Most sales allow you to use a credit card however, you will usually be charged an added percentage of the sale for the privilege.   You can often get your best deals with cash in hand.  
( I know it sounds funny but yes, have your cash literally
in-hand at checkout and deals can usually be made)
( one last tip:  I usually have 5’s and 1’s in hand.  I have been to so many estate sales where they can’t make change.  Make some friends at the sale and offer up your small bills to help. They will remember your help.)  
Laptop and/or Phone~ I always come early to sales.  Sitting in my car for an hour can be long but worth the wait. My laptop allows me to work as I wait.  I can also do research on my phone on items I’ve purchased at previous sales.
Small Light~ I like to bring a penlight.  It’s small and easy to slip in my back pocket.  It’s great for inspecting for chips or cracks in antiques, or just finding your way around attic and basement spaces. I purchased these LED gearlight packet of 2 on Amazon. They really last a long time.
Magnifying Glass~I bring a small magnifying glass to inspect things like small stamps on porcelain. 
Comfortable Shoes~ I have seen a few ladies in high heels shopping. What more can I say about this but be prepared for stairs.  
Sold TapeThis one seems crazy but it has saved me a few times on items I want to buy. 
I cut painters tape in strips and write “ SOLD / LISA” on the tape.  This is great for items that are a little too big to add to my bag.  I usually put four 3 inch stips inside my bag to be ready. 
SnackWell… just because  : ) 

I love that some estate sale companies actually have these “sold” stickers on hand for the customers. Talk about great service! Here is what you will find at Travel’s Antiques Estate Sales in New Hampshire. They are a fantastic company that cares about their customers.

The Do’s and Don’t of Estate Sale Shopping

The Checkout:  Haggling Techniques

Haggling a price used to stress me out.  You have to remember it’s not personal. I’ve heard over and over don’t try and negotiate your price the first day of the sale but if your kind and do it right I feel it’s always worth trying. If they say no you simply reply with ” I completely understand” and you move on. Show respect for their rules. However, I can not begin to tell you the kind of deals I have gotten on price even on the first day of the sale simply by asking. Remember, the estate sale liquidation company is there to sell and move the items out in a very short span of time.

The few KEY things I’ve learned about pricing over the years are as follows: 

~ Buying in bulk helps with the price. The more you buy the sweeter the price.  Make sure you make a pile as you shop and keep it by the register with your name on the pile. 

~ Always ask.  If you ask nicely enough it’s ok to ask for a price break.  Be kind. “ Could I have this $20 item for $15?” If they are not sure or hesitate even a little bit I usually say “ I’m sure you will sell it. That’s just what it is worth to me.  You can say no”.   Also, when cashing out if you have a lot of items hold the most expensive item until the end. The last item is the one you ask nicely for a discount. This goes back to our first point of buying in bulk.

~ Buy with cash. 

~ Avoid lowballing a price. If you try and lowball or request too big of a discount you will be turned down. Remember, the company is there to clean out the sale but also make money. Be respectful of all involved.

In Conclusion

Take advantage of all of those great resources available to help you find the best estate sales near you.  A few clicks online will help you get a list compiled of the sales in your area. If you have indeed packed well before you leave, I have found that estate sale shopping is great fun when you’re prepared and ready for the hunt.  Abide by the dos and don’t, grab a friend and make it a fun afternoon of shopping. Happy treasure hunting! 

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