I have always been curious about estate sales and, to be honest, a little intimidated. They are only on my radar when I see a sign in a yard with cars wrapped around the block or when I discover that a prized piece in a friend’s home was an estate sale score. For interior decorator Lauren Patterson, estate sale savvy is a family trait. Her mother has worked in the estate sale business for 10 years, and Lauren has filled her home and the homes of some of her clients with unique, often repurposed or reimagined finds. Today, she shares some tips she’s gleaned over the years for estate sale shopping success.
TIP #1: Plot your route.
Estatesales.net is such a great resource. This website allows you to see all the estate sales in your area, along with maps to the sales and pictures of the items that will be there. “I use this every time to help map out which ones I want to go to. That way, I know exactly what I am getting into when I go and what I will be looking out for,” Lauren explains.
TIP #2: The early bird gets the worm.
It goes without saying that the best selection is available during the first couple of hours of a sale, but there will be no room for negotiating prices early on. If you have something specific on your wish list, then get there early before someone else gets that sought-after item. At really good estate sales, there are always lines, so be prepared for a little standing if you do go early.
TIP #3: The patient birds get the bargains.
Prices are slashed after the first day (up to 50 percent!) with real bargains during the last couple of hours of the sale. If you want to take the gamble, wait and go back at the end to really get a good deal.
TIP #4: Take a lap.
Do a fast walk-through when you first arrive. Go through every room to scan for treasures and grab them quickly. Then go back to poke through boxes and bins for a more thorough search.
TIP #5: Make friends in high places.
Always make friends with the folks who work there. They are great resources and can lead you to some undiscovered deals and treasures.
TIP #6: Think outside the box.
Sometimes something may not look too good on the outside, but it might have good bones. You can always recover a chair, replace a frame, paint a piece of furniture or turn a cool, old vase into a lamp. The possibilities can be endless if you just use your imagination.
TIP #7: Cash is king.
While some estate sales will accept checks, many are cash only. So swing by the ATM on your way and be prepared!
TIP #8: Don’t fear the dust.
Don’t forget about the garage and attic! Sometimes, it’s where the best treasures can be found.
TIP #9: Sold!
Bring Post-it notes. If you find something that you cannot live without or that is too big to carry, slap your sticky note on it before someone else can buy it while you’re searching for a salesperson! Just trust us on this one! “Within two minutes, I lost a painting while looking for someone to help me,” says Lauren.
TIP #10: More is more.
Gather up your loot and ask for a price. You’ll get a better deal if you’re buying a lot than if you bring each piece separately to the checkout area.
TIP #11: Bidder up!
Always leave a bid if you are interested in something, but are not yet ready to pull the trigger. Offer your best price along with your contact info. Bids are normally taken on big ticket items that aren’t selling at full price, so you actually can get some of the best deals this way.
Thanks for sharing your estate sale knowledge with SB readers, Lauren. We’ll see you on the sale circuit!
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