How to Shop an Estate Sale
The estate sale industry is on the rise and with more and more out there for you to visit, how can you make sure you are getting the most out of every experience? The following tips will help you become a successful shopper and ensure you get the most out of every estate sale; no matter what you are shopping for!
First things first: What is an estate sale?
Just to review the basics of what an estate sale is for any first timers out there – An estate sale is a full scale home liquidation in which items are sold throughout all areas of the home. This means bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, patios, outside, the garage, and sometimes even bathrooms. EVERYTHING is for sale unless it is marked “Not For Sale” (NFS). The closets could be full along with cupboards and drawers as well. Anything that is not open to the public will be labeled and there will be signs throughout the home for you to read. Most items should be priced and there is typically a checkout station equipped with a cash register and cashier to help get you out of the home with all of your new purchases! Some sales even accept credit/debit cards.
Finding an estate sale to attend
Now that you know the basics of an estate sale, you’ll want to find one to attend. The most common option is by visiting estatesales.net. This is a major site where you can find all the local sales happening now and even months from now! It includes pictures for you to peruse, a detailed list of items to be found, hours, dates, and company rules. This site will include most estate sales in all cities and states. Don’t worry, you can narrow it down by your zip code! Estatesales.net even offers an easy to use app on your phone. A second site to check out is www.estatesales.org which works similarly to the previous site. If you already know which companies you like and which ones you don’t, try visiting their company website directly and signing up for their private email list. For sneak peeks try following them on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
You can sign up for our private email list HERE.
Plan your attack
Scope out the sale listing photos. Like an item in picture #143? Does it look like it’s in a basement or garage? If so, chances are it will stay there. Once a company has photographed, typically the items don’t move. Based on what you want the most you can strategically pre-plan your movement throughout the home.
There most likely will be a line if you are planning to attend the sale on day-one at the time the sale opens. All companies have their own way of managing the line, the most common method being a system called “street numbers”. The first person in line (whether they show up at 4am or 9am) brings a notepad, sticky notes, rally tickets, etc. to jot numbers down on which they will then pass to each shopper who shows up after them. They are number one and everyone else who lines up after gets the number that applies to the order in which they arrive. Hold onto this number and don’t lose it! Be sure to read the company rules listed on estatesales.net. Sometimes a company will come up with a different method of street numbers which could require you to be in line earlier than normal or to sign your name on a sheet located at the front door.
Get there early
The early bird catches the worm! We have all heard that one before. People are notorious for lining up as early as 4 o’clock in the morning! If there is something you really have your eye on, get there early or it could be gone. If you are more casual, feel free to stroll in whenever your heart desires.
Bring a bag
Bringing a reusable bag like the one from Trader Joe’s or Costco is a great idea. The bigger the better! Poof Estate Services supplies bags and shopping baskets to enhance your experience, but not every company does this. By bringing your own, you are helping the environment and you are making it easier to run in and grab everything you want!
Bring a light
Sometimes the homes you shop in can have poor lighting. We do our best to adjust this but sometimes you just can’t help that dark corner in the basement and occasionally places like the garage don’t have a power supply. By bringing a flashlight (or using the one built into your phone), you are ensuring you don’t miss a single thing!
Before you visit the sale, do some research on both the company and the items they are selling. Get to know how they work and what their rules are. What is their street number method? Do they accept credit cards or is it cash only? Is there a fee charged to cards? Do they supply bags, wrapping, or shopping baskets? How much are the items you are planning on buying worth? (This way you know if you are over paying when you get to the estate sale).
Make a phone call
If you have any other questions or are curious about prices, give them a call! Not all companies will reveal prices over the phone but Poof does! See how they work and get to know them.
You have walked in the door and find you want five things but you only have two hands! What do you do? First, find an employee or owner and let them know what you want to purchase. They will secure the items at a holding station or they will acknowledge what you want and place a “sold” tag on the specific items if they happen to be larger pieces like furniture. You can also place the smaller items into your reusable bag if they fit. Another option is to bring your own “sold” tags. Let someone know what you are buying, remove the price tag from the item if it is written (don’t peel off the little sticky price gun tags), and then place your sold sticker on the designated item. One more way to keep your items safe and make sure no one takes from your pile is to group them all in the corner of the room and cover it with “sold” tags! Let an employee know this is your pile and you will be adding to it and you expect them to keep it safe.
Last but not least…
Enjoy your stuff!