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How to Find Exactly What You Need at an Estate Sale

Updated on June 8, 2016

Searching for Hidden Treasures at an Estate Sale

When you are shopping an estate sale, how can you tell which items are a complete waste of your money (and valuable space) and which are worth bringing home? Finding treasures at an estate sale is not just for professional dealers. The following suggestions will set you on the path to developing an eye for treasure and the places they could be hiding at estate sales.

Remember, estate sales are not just for antique dealers and collectibles addicts. While you are out searching for an antique treasure, keep an eye out for useful items you can use at home. Buying practical items at an estate sale is a terrific way to save money. Most sales have a substantial inventory of everyday items that you could use in your home for a fraction of the retail price.

What will you find at an estate sale?
What will you find at an estate sale?

Do Your Research – What items do you find interesting? What do you need for your home? Research these items. Get to know what to look for, such as markings on valuable vases. You can do this research online, or invest in books about collectibles, antiques or vintage toys. If you know the value of particular items before you head out to shop, you have a better chance of finding a treasure that will be overlooked by other buyers.

Know the Neighborhood – Learn a little about the area where the estate sale is being held. This will help you get an idea of what types of items will be presented, as well as possible quality. A sale in an affluent neighborhood could mean high value items at a reduced price (but not necessarily a low price). Don’t discount older neighborhoods that have become a little run down. It’s very possible to find some great vintage items at a terrific price.

Get off the Beaten Path – Some estate sale shoppers will stick to the main rooms, where they assume the best offerings are showcased. While this is often true, it is very possible to find lower priced items in overlooked places of the home. Check the basement, the attic, the tool shed out back and the dark dusty rooms that other shoppers are avoiding..

Pick your ideal shopping time – Shoppers often think that the best time to get to an estate sale is early. While there is an advantage to arriving early, before items have been picked over, you are more likely to get a better deal later in the day. If the sale is being held for multiple days, prices are likely to be greatly reduced in the interest of clearing the home. Pick your arrival time based on your goal. Do you want a chance at the best items? Get there early. Do you want a great deal? Wait until later.

The best way to find hidden treasures at estate sales is to get out there and start looking! Over time you’ll develop an eye for valuable items, you’ll learn which neighborhoods offer the types of items you want and you’ll sharpen your negotiating skills. You may not find a treasure on your first time out, but you are sure to find something interesting. Keep trying!

You can find valuable everyday items at an estate sale for a fraction of the retail price.
You can find valuable everyday items at an estate sale for a fraction of the retail price.

Buying Everyday Useful Items at Estate Sales

The following list will open your eyes to the possibilities of estate sale finds that you can use in your home right now. Sure, there could be beautiful China and fine silverware at the sale you are attending, if that is what you are looking for, but consider first what you need.

What could you purchase at an estate sale for a great price and be able to use and enjoy frequently.

  • Everyday flatware.
  • Casual plates, mugs and tea cups.
  • Tablecloths, cloth napkins and kitchen towels.
  • Pyrex, corning ware, kitchen canisters
  • Glassware of all types. Look for juice glasses, wine glasses, cups, pitchers and barware.
  • Serving dishes, including platters, cake plates, candy dishes, salad bowls.
  • Draperies and window treatments. These items may still be on the windows, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not for sale. Ask a staff member for a price if you see something you like. Be sure to measure your own windows before heading out to shop.
  • Office supplies. Look for everything from paper and staplers to desk sets and accessories.
  • Decorative art. You may expect to find for sought after, expensive artwork at an estate sale, but often you will also find prints, less expensive paintings and other decorative art at a reasonable price.

This list is in no way comprehensive! You will often be amazed at the variety of items to be bought at an estate sale. Keep your eyes open and look carefully through the items all over the house. You are sure to find exactly what you need.

Learn to sort through the junk and find what you want at an estate sale.
Learn to sort through the junk and find what you want at an estate sale.

Ready to become an estate sale shopper?

Becoming an expert at estate sale shopping doesn't happen overnight. It takes time to get a feel for negotiating and sniffing out the great items. Each sale will offer unique items and challenges.

Are you new to estate sales? Start by searching online for local sales. Plan o attend sales that are clearly run by professionals! This will basically guarantee that the sale will have many valuable and quality items. Keep in mind that items will not be priced as low as you would find at a garage sale.

The best way to learn how estate sales work is to simply dive in explore a few firsthand. There is no need to be intimidated. Estate sales attract a wide array of people, from antique dealers and interior designers to ordinary people who love vintage clothing or need to furnish a room in their home. Be polite and respectful as you shop and ask staffers questions when necessary. You’ll be an old pro in no time!

What do you think?

Do you think estate sales are worth your time?

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      3 years ago

      thank you for writing this great article.


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