The Art of the Estate Sale
I promised a guide on how to go about the best way to tackle estate sales and here we go. This will be a short overview and I will go deeper in this topic on a later post.
First, you need to find the estate sales. Some post on sites like www.estatesale.net and some just put a sign out front. Some neighborhoods don't allow estate sales so they have to be a bit sneaky on how they post the sale so it's not always a straight forward find. The best and easiest way to find estate sales near you is to simply type into a Google search, " estate sales near me" and then you will find a number of sites that allow you to put in the radius of miles near your zip code as to what sales are going on. The 3 sites I use most often are linked below.
Ok there are 2 ways to tackle these sales. The very serious buyers who are typically looking for inventory for their stores, get there at the CRACK of dawn on the first day. There is often a list that will be posted outside around 3am on the first day of the sale and that is the person that is allowed in first. Now these are serious buyers and they have probably done a bit of homework and are coming for something specific that they have seen in the photos. This is not how I estate sale.
Then there are people like me. People who are just looking and dabbling and seeing if they come across anything interesting for themselves or one of their clients. This guide is for those people. The occasional estate saler.
So what I do is I see where the sale is and then decide on whether it's worth going to. Obviously estate sales in more affluent neighborhoods are going to produce (typically) higher end goods. But then there are also older neighborhoods, where people have spent 50 years in their home, and those produce some serious gems. So I add those to my list too. Then I see how many days the sale is going on. If it's a one day sale, then I go in last hour. Everything in there will be anywhere from 50-75% off. If it's a 2 or 3 day sale then I go again on the last day. The last day everything will be 50% off and some of the big ticket items will be negotiable further beyond that. When I go in the last hour of the last day, that's when you get the steals. Now granted, everything is picked over so you are either left with things that are too expensive or things people just didn't want or notice. I go in for the pieces that are too expensive. A $500 antique oil painting is now likely to be picked up for $150-200. I go for the art. Most are signed and I only buy pieces that I would hang in my own home, so they also have to be beautiful.
It's safe to say that if you find an estate sale where there is signed/higher quality artwork, then the other artwork that maybe not be known right away, is also likely to be of a high quality. Many of the people working the estate sales are very well versed in antiques and art and things of this sort, but they are rarely experts in any particular field.
Estate sales are far and away the best places to score deals. If you go to a flea market, a lot of the vendors have procured their goods from estate sales. They go after the sale closes and buy up the remaining goods for a set price. So I go for the art and for the antiques and one off pieces and I always always leave an estate sale with a big ol' smile on my face. Don't forget that they will not help you load up or move anything. If you think you are buying a sofa, then bring a truck and some help! Also, unless you are purchasing for resale, be prepared to be charged sales tax. Some sales are cash only and others take cards over a certain amount. I always bring cash though as it's the best way to negotiate at the end of the sale. Remember, these people are not selling their Grandma's furniture... they are running a business/service, so they aren't sentimental. Ask them questions about anything before buying and if something looks valuable but you aren't sure, then ask!