The Beginners Guide to Shopping at an Estate Sale

Have you ever been driving around your neighborhood and seen signs for estate sales? 

You may have wondered what they’re all about, or how they differ from garage or rummage sales. Read on for some insider tips to scoring great stuff at an estate sale!

First, a Definition

An estate sale is different from a garage sale, in that the entire contents of the house or estate are up for grabs. An estate sale will generally feature furniture (including antique furniture), housewares, appliances, tools, jewelry, and clothing. 

Look in Every Room 

Although it may seem unusual to wander through a private house looking at items in every room, don’t feel shy about entering bedrooms, bathrooms, and closets. 

Most estate sales simply have too much for sale to organize it all in one space. Keeping items where they belong (for example, clothes in the bedroom, tools and hardware in the garage, or silverware in the kitchen) which also lets shoppers find what they’re looking for more easily.

Valuables such as jewelry will typically be kept near the checkout desk, wherever that is set up.

The estate sale organizers will have signs posted to keep folks out of any off-limits rooms. If you’re in doubt, just ask if you can go into a particular space.

Go Early and Take Cash

Like yard sales, estate sales are held over a period of several days. If possible, arrive at the sale on opening day, as early as you’re permitted. That will give you first dibs on anything that catches your eye.

Some sale organizers will set items aside for you, in case you need to arrange transportation or acquire a large amount of cash. That’s not always the case, however. If you’re in the market for large pieces of furniture, bring a truck and whatever you’ll need to secure the items. 

Having cash on hand is also smart. You may be able to use a credit or debit card, but why take the chance that someone else will snag that antique while you’re running to the ATM?

Very large purchases, such as vehicles, are handled in a different way. Such a purchase may involve a bank transfer.

Leave Your Purse at Home

Because estate sales often include many smaller items that are easy to pocket, you may be asked not to enter with a large purse or backpack. Or you may notice that “security guards” are stationed in rooms with valuable jewelry or tools. Don’t be offended. It’s just the way estate sales are run.

Make Sure You Know What You’re Buying

These sales aren’t department stores; you won’t be able to return items that you purchase, so inspect them thoroughly before you hand over your money. Sniff the upholstery, check to make sure appliances run properly, and look for cracks, breaks, or other issues.

Go Late (and Take Cash)

As the sale winds down, its organizers will be more eager to liquidate the house – which means prices will often be lowered in the last few hours. While the contents may be picked over by the second or third day, you just never know what treasures you might find.

Need Someone to Answer Your Estate Sale Questions?

If you don’t have any experience doing shopping at an estate sale, you could easily feel unprepared and overwhelmed. Why not let a professional answer any pressing questions before you go? Feel free to contact us at Prestige Estate Services with any estate sale and appraisal questions, or reach out on social media.

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