Vintage Radios on Shelf at estate sale

Flea markets. Yard Sales. Estate sales. Roadside sales. What do they all have in common? If you take the time to look, you can find some really great stuff.

As a matter of fact, there are a lot of people who make a living out of purchasing vintage or secondhand goods and flipping them. You can do the same. But don’t think for a second that you have to flip your favorite finds. That’s one of the best things about shopping these events. You can also find some great stuff for your own home.

I can’t even begin to count how many times I found something perfect for my home at a sale!

After years of being in this business, you don’t come away without learning a few tricks of your own. I’d like to take a moment to share those with you.

Old Records find at estate sale

Whether this is your first time considering an estate sale visit or you’re an absolute pro, I promise these tips will help you in some way. Who knows, they may even help you find what you’re looking for.


1. Don’t Miss Sale Previews!

For estate sales, we hold something called a preview. This allows anyone who is interested to tour the home and scope out some of the items that are up for sale. This isn’t always done in person, either. Sometimes, estate sale companies will hold the preview online through a social network or website.

The how, where, and when isn’t important at all. What is important, is that you attend the preview. This will help you gauge whether a particular sale is worth your time or not. You can also use the opportunity to research some of the vintage items you come across. I don’t need to tell you why making an educated purchase is always the way to go!

Pro Tip: Take notes during the preview, and if you’re allowed, snap a few photos of your favorite items!


2. Try Not to Impulse Buy

I know, I know. This seems like a silly tip. After all, you will attend most of these sales blind so any of your purchases could technically be considered “impulse buys” by shopping standards.

Forget all that for the moment.

Nine times out of ten, any purchase you make at an estate sale is final. It’s not like a retail store where you can return your item. You can’t go back a month or two later after finding something wrong and demand your money back. These sales don’t work like that, unfortunately.

So, make absolutely sure that the items you have picked out are not going to give you buyer’s remorse. Inspect furniture before buying it. Test out electronics and items that have various operating modes. Compare similar items for sale elsewhere if you can – to price check.

Pro Tip: Experienced buyers and sellers know that the condition of a piece or item can have an impact on the price. Inspect items well – especially furniture – and use that to your advantage!


Keys and lock the door on the background of solar garden


3. Don’t Overlook Box Lots

One tool unique to estate sales and auctions is the box lot. This is when a number of miscellaneous items are combined into a single box or package and sold as one.

From the estate sale side of things, this helps liquidate a property faster. It’s a great way to move small items and trinkets that might be glossed over during the sale.

From the customer’s side – your side – it means you have the opportunity to get a wide variety of items for remarkably cheap. Some of the best items can be sold in box lots, and most sale-goers are none the wiser.

Always pay attention to these unique sales. It’s the best way to find vintage jewelry, décor, clocks, knickknacks, and more!

Pro Tip: Homeowners and sellers often bundle items in a box lot that they don’t recognize are valuable. Never ignore them. You can find some great things!


4. Don’t Ignore Rooms, Even If They Look Empty

If you get to an estate sale late or take your time scouring a property, you’ll find there are some rooms that appear empty. Don’t be fooled.

If you’re going to take time to attend these sales, then really take the time and explore. Even if a room has been picked over and there’s not much to see, you should still take a look. There’s always a chance you might find something extremely valuable in one of the haphazard and abandoned piles.

Several times when patrons were quarreling over an item they liked – one that looked more appealing on the surface – I found overlooked items nearby that ended up being worth a nice chunk of change. It just goes to show that people don’t always pay attention at these things. You don’t want to make that same mistake.

I’d hate to see you miss out on the find of the century!

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to check some of the less ventured rooms in a home either – if they are open to the public. This includes basements, attics, and side rooms.


 Vintage Radios on Shelf at estate sale


5. Always Bring Cash

These days, there are plenty of tech solutions for taking credit and debit cards out in the field. Rest assured, V Patton Estate Sale Options will have a way to do this. But what you need to know, is that you shouldn’t count on cards as your only source of funds.

What if our system goes down? What if you find something super cheap and you’d rather just pay cash?

There are several reasons why you might prefer cash over credit, so make sure you always have some on hand. It’s better to come to these events prepared, you never know what you’ll find!

Pro Tip: Checking out with cash is always faster than credit. If you want to get in and out quick, skip the plastic!


6. Don’t Expect a Discount

Deals, discounts, and promotions are great. I don’t know a single person who hates a good deal. Unfortunately, you shouldn’t come to these sales expecting even bigger discounts than what is being offered, at least not initially.


Because most of the time the items on sale are priced competitively anyway. There may also be a hidden reason why the family or estate owners are selling their belongings too (more on that later).

Yes, haggling is acceptable, especially when an item is scuffed or damaged. For the most part, however, you shouldn’t expect sweeping discounts until the final hours of the sale.

Pro Tip: If you come across items that don’t have much interest, it would be beneficial to wait until close to the end of the sale to buy. If it’s still around, you’ll get a nice discount. Just keep in mind, we cannot hold or reserve items. If you absolutely must have it, then never walk away.


Cozy Country Home estate sale


7. Be Mindful of the Estate and Its Owners

This is more of a courtesy tip, but it’s just as important as all the others.

Estate sales happen for many reasons. Sometimes people just want to move and liquidate all their belongings. Other times they just want to make a little extra cash. Every once in a while, however, there are tragic happenings behind the scenes.

Perhaps, a family is holding the sale for a loved one who passed recently, and the proceeds will go to funeral costs? Maybe the owner is sick and can no longer live alone or maintain the property by themselves?

You don’t necessarily need to know the entire backstory of a sale. But you should always be respectful and mindful, especially when it comes to who’s getting the money. If the funeral costs scenario is true, for example, it might be insulting and disrespectful to demand sweeping discounts for certain items.

Pro Tip: Most estate sale administrators will share the details of the sale, so long as they are not sensitive. Just ask.


8. Arrive Early, Stay Late

The final tip is a no-brainer. Always arrive early to a sale, and stay as long as you possibly can. No, we’re not advocating that you pitch a tent and camp outside the home – this isn’t Best Buy on Black Friday!

But if the estate sale is happening locally, it’s always a good idea to plan a return just before the end. This is when you can find items for the best prices, and you have a better shot at finding things that have been looked over or dismissed.

Obviously, if you see something during the preview that you really want, you’ll need to show up super early and B-line for it.

Pro Tip: If there are preview pictures or social posts showing items from a sale pay attention to the engagement and interaction from users. If there are a lot of people commenting or asking questions, then there are going to be a lot of people seeking that item during the sale.


Estate sale items on table


The most important tip of all: Have fun!

3 Thoughts on “8 Pro Tips on Making the Most of an Estate Sale”

  • Thanks for sharing some tips on shopping at an estate sale. It makes sense that you wouldn’t want to miss the sale preview. It seems like being able to look around and see items you might be interested in is a good way to make sure you don’t make any impulse buys. I want to find some new pieces for my home, so I will definitely have to start looking out for estate sales in my area.

  • It’s a good tip to always be respectful and mindful at estate sales; you might not know exactly why they are holding it after all. I want to start going to sales like this since I recently realize just what treasures they can have. I should find somewhere to find out about upcoming estate sales.

    • Go on Estate or Estate Sales.Org look me up and follow me. I post every sale a week before the sale starts! Thank you for commenting. Also FB Page .. follow and like! Val Patton

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