Estate Sales 101

Each time I mention an estate sale I get more than a few questions about them so I figured it would be a good idea to make a post about them and hopefully inspire a few people to go to one!

What’s an estate sale? An estate sale is like a really big garage sale, basically. Estate sales usually occur when someone dies or moves to somewhere where they will be unable to keep their things (like a nursing home) and their closest of kin are unable or unwilling to keep their possessions and need to sell them quickly.

What can I expect from an estate sale? In most cases estate sales are located in the former owners home and you’ll be able to enter the house and shop, just like it was a store.

Some sales are conducted by companies and some are organized by the family. Either way, if it’s an estate sale and not an auction all of the items will be priced. Sometimes it might be categorized (ex. there might be signs around the house : clothes $2/piece, purses $.50, shoes $2/pr) and other times each item might be individually priced.

There is a common misconception that estate sales are only for the wealthy, this is most definitely not the case. You can find lots of steals (like 50 cent vintage dresses or a $20 couch) at these sales. You shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover but try to keep in mind if you’re in a wealthier neighborhood chances are you’re going to be paying more and finding bigger ticket items. We live in a smaller town and tend to find estate sales where the homes full of small items at great prices. Don’t be afraid to stop in to a sale even if you think the outside of the home looks a little too rich for your tastes – you never know what’s inside!

What can I buy at an estate sale? Let me reword that for you…what can’t I buy at an estate sale? Like I mentioned in the previous question an estate sale normally encompasses everything in the house. You can find just about anything at a sale. Think about your own home, take out the food – everything else? it’s probably for sale! (Actually I’ve been to an estate sale where there was food for sale too!)

Where do I find out about estate sales? My top four ways to find out about estate sales are:
• The newspaper.
estatesales.net. This website is a very valuable resource of mine. On the front page there is a map where you choose your state and then the city closest to you. From there it will show you all the estate sales going on in the upcoming weekend. It’s best to check often because a lot of the time there isn’t much warning. Their mailing list is a life saver! You give them your email address and zip code and they’ll shoot you an email when a sale is coming up in your area.
• iPhone apps! My two favorite apps for finding estate sales are Garage Sale Rover (free!) and iGarageSale ($1.99). Garage Sale Rover is particularly useful as it indicates estate sales with blue markers as opposed to the red ones garage sales are marked with.

• Craigslist! Try searching “estate sale” in the for sale section of the search.

 

A few tips!

• Unless you’re going to buy something that you saw listed in the ad, try going on the last day of the sale. At estate sales the point is to get rid of all these things so on the last day there will usually be a big sale. 50% off is common but I’ve seen up to 90% off!!

• Be courteous. When the sale is put on by the family members a lot of the time they’ll be the one who is at the check out or watching over the rooms to make sure people aren’t stealing, remember that they most likely just lost someone. There have even been instances where we’ve walked into rooms where things were for sale and found someone grieving. It’s best to smile politely and walk out of the room  in that case. 

• Take your time exploring the house. Go in every room that you’re allowed to (if you’re not allowed to enter a room it will be marked “private” and be closed off), check closets and make sure not to forget the basement and sometimes even the attic.  Even if you don’t find anything to buy it really is an amazing opportunity to visit a home. There was one beautiful mid century time capsule of a home we went to an estate sale at that I literally teared up because it was so gorgeous (seriously, it was my dream home!) It’s an amazing experience to be honest. 

• Always bring cash! I’ve never been to an estate sale where they accept credit cards but some do take checks. 

• Unless it says “not for sale” don’t be afraid to ask about purchasing something! Love the curtains? the stove? that rug? Ask how much they’d be willing to sell it for!

I hope this helps! If anyone else has any more questions about estate sales feel free to ask! 
Have fun! 😉
xoxo

Author: Kaylah

Just a green haired gal from Cleveland, Ohio.

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  • I just came across your blog today- great advice! I'm going to look into estatesales.net. I go to a lot of garage sales and some auctions, and lately my husband and I have been to more estate sales. We usually find them in ads on craigslist or in the paper. You have really hit on the fun of going to these sales- the unique items for sale, the good prices, the nice people, and seeing the cool houses! If you want to see some of the things I have found at sales, I have photos at theblogcore.com, under Deja New! I blog about our weekend estate sale adventures and finds. I love your blog!

  • I would LOVE to go to estate sales but I'm really unsure how to go about it where I live (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia). Will have to research it though! Also have you ever heard of an estate sale taking place and then the house holding it being robbed? We may do one for my Grandads house but that's just a fear of my Moms