9 Secrets to Make Your Estate Sale Shopping Experience a SuccessMay 13, 2023
Buyers in search of treasures at estate sales can be a bargain hunter or collectors dream. Pro shoppers who have been prowling estate sales for years have all sorts of tactics that help them garner a steal and keep one step ahead of the competition. Here are their secrets to success:
- Location! Location! Location! Savvy estate sale buyers all agree on one simple fact: the neighborhood the estate sale is in makes all the difference. It may not be obvious to some, but estate sales in ritzier areas are where the chances of scoring the best deals will be. “I’m always on the lookout for antiques and I know that the best place to find them is in the historical neighborhoods in my town.” says Richard Farris. “I don’t waste time in low-rent sections neighborhoods because I will not find what I want. I go where the money is.”
- Get the Inside Scoop: Experienced tag sale shoppers just don’t show up at the door step of an advertised event unprepared. They visit preview events at the home the day before the sale (usually on Fridays), they scout out the internet for photos and descriptions of the contents Estate sales near me of the home, and they don’t hesitate to call the liquidation companies managing the sale. “I try to do as much research up front before I even show up to the sale,” says Mary McQueen. “I collect silver teapots and copper pots specifically, and I want to make sure what I want is going to be there. If I’ve got to make a few phone calls in advance, that’s exactly what I do so I don’t waste my time.”
- Get on the A-List: The local liquidation companies that are hired to sell the contents of the home typically have a sign-up sheet at the front door or on their websites where you can add your email address to get info on any upcoming sales. Don’t miss your opportunity to get on these lists because these firms provide lots of valuable upfront info on the sale that will help you research the goods in advance.
- Be an Early Bird: So a stampede of folks doesn’t race into the home all at once, buyers are asked to line up at the front door and are allowed in a few at a time. Obviously, those that get there early have first dibs on the best stuff. “The most variety is available on the first day,” says Mia Vendrata, “and the cheapest stuff is available on the last day. If you don’t go on day one, you really are missing out.”
- Bring the Green! You’ve only got one chance to be in the house once your place in line comes up, so don’t be caught without enough money in your pocket to buy that treasure you might be looking for. Having plenty of cash on hand is critical, as most sales do not accept credit cards or checks.
- Hold onto it if you Intend to Buy It. It may sound silly, but if you’ve got your eye on something you want to potentially buy, you had better grab it and keep it in your possession. If you put it down even for a second, another buyer can easily swoop in and pick it up. It is not unusual to be stalked by another bargain hunter who is enviously eyeing your treasures just waiting for you to put it down. Bring a large bag or box with you to hold all your goodies while you are browsing.
- Four Hands Are Better than Two: Seasoned buyers will often bring a partner with them to the sale, and will split up and go in separate directions so that they can scope out the greatest number of items simultaneously. Come up with a plan of action where each of you grabs as many potentially valuable objects as possible and then meets in a certain area to review the goods to make decisions.
- Haggle Respectfully: Mama always warned you to never pay retail, and that’s certainly the case at a tag sale. The homeowners are itching to dispose of everything, so that puts you in a solid bargaining position. Don’t be a greedy fool and try to insult the sellers with an insensitive offer, however. “I respectfully ask those running the sale if they can go lower on the price,” says Joe Mays, who is a veteran estate sale hunter of 20 years. “I try not to give a specific number right off the bat if I can help it, so I can get a sense of their bottom number.”
- Check Quality and Condition: The biggest mistake novice buyers at estate sales make is not carefully inspecting an item for problems. Cracks, crazing, chips, repairs, heavy wear, water damage and other such woeful issues severely reduce the value of any item. An old painting with stains, tears and wishy-washy colors will have little value no matter how talented the artist might appear to you.