How To Shop an Estate Sale March 6, 2012

When I’m sourcing treasures for my shop, I search high and low, at antique shows, garage sales (usually quite sparse in potential, but you never know!), Craig’s List and at estate sales.

I love a good estate sale! Although sometimes, it makes me a bit sad that some of the personal treasures, like military medals and old family photos, didn’t mean enough to the heirs, to save them.

Anyway, I digress. Back to shopping estate sales! Every town of any size will have a few companies that organize and manage the estate sales of deceased family members or just older people that need to downsize. Just do a Google search for “estate sales, (name of city)” and you’ll find them. Most of them, will have mailing list sign-ups on their web sites, to notify you of upcoming sales. You’ll then receive e-mails, with upcoming sale dates, describing, often with pictures, what you can expect to find at the sale. It’s all pretty straight forward.

One of my favorite estate sellers, here is town, is a href=””>Sylvia Fitzgerald. She works well with dealers like me and her employees are pleasant. Her pricing is fair and everything’s always half off on the last day of the sale. In fact most estate sellers dramatically cut prices on the last day of the sale.

As a reseller, I have to think about:
1) Can I buy this item at a price that I can double or triple, to sell at a profit, so I can pay my rent and expenses?
2) Do I love it? Other antique dealers I speak to say that they try to only buy what they love, because if they can’t sell it, at least they’ll want it in their own home.
3) Since I don’t want my home to look like an antiques warehouse, I want to buy what others will love. That takes a well trained eye. I think part of “the well trained eye” is instinctive. The rest, you learn. So far, I haven’t made any really bad purchases. Certainly, nothing that keeps me awake at night!

As a buyer for your own home:
1) Arrive on the first day of the estate sale…early! The “good stuff” will go fast! Don’t worry though. Many in that line, before the sale starts, will be looking for something unique, whether it’s old cameras, pocket watches, silver or linens. I also find that some estate sellers like to create a bit of a buying frenzy, but please don’t fall for it! Only buy what you’ll still love tomorrow and the next day!

This is a very pretty, old mirror, that I purchased at Sylvia’s sale yesterday.

2) All estate sale purchases are final, so look at the item you’re planning to purchase very carefully. If the lighting isn’t good, ask to see it outside. Look for hairline cracks in wood, china…you name it. Make sure you love it!

3) Most professional estate sellers will take credit cards. Private sellers often require cash, so have both on hand.




There will always be “the one that got away” or the purchase that makes you say “what was I thinking?”, but if you love the “thrill of the hunt”, you’ll love estate sale shopping!

Happy hunting!

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  1. Karena on March 7, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Barbara really good tips for Estate Sales. I adore the unique mirror you found!

    Art by Karena

  2. Stacy@RedDoorHome on March 7, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Thanks for the great advice. I used to spend much more time visiting antique stores, garage sales and estate sales. Having kids makes it so hard to find the time. Now it is mostly oneline searches for me.

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