I have always been intimidated to go to estate sales. I’ve seen friends score amazing finds, but have felt scared to walk through a strangers home and sort through their things. Plus the whole fact that it’s usually a sale because of a death- that felt sad. But I decided to give it a go so I thought I’d share what I learned- here’s estate sales for beginners
Estate sales for beginners
I’ve heard that the way antique stores find their inventory is usually through estate sales. Even though I wanted in on the second hand scores, the whole estate sale world remained a mystery to me until this weekend!
I had so many VERY beginner questions and felt like the best way of learning was to just go. I thought I’d share the basic things I wondered about in the hopes that it’d help someone else try out estate sales too!
why go to estate sales?
So what’s the big deal? Why even try shopping an estate sale? Here’s the reasons I wanted to go-
– It’s a great way to find second hand items. And sometimes you can score a great deal!
– I love the thrill of the hunt. Who knows what you’ll find?
– Estate sales are another environmentally friendly way to decorate with one of a kind items
– It’s fun to walk through different houses
– I like to try new things! It keeps life exciting.
How to find estate sales
This first step was a game changer for me. I’d heard to Google “estate sales” or look for signs when I’m out driving, but who has time for this?! I’ve also received the tip to get on an email list for estate sales, but it seems like you have to go to one to get on a list.
This tip is for beginners- and everyone who uses their phone for everything. Get the app “Estate Sales.net.” It’s free and easy to use. You can get it for Apple or Google play. Download it and allow it to use your location. It works for the whole United States.
this is what you see when you open the EstateSales.net app. A map- the pin is my location.
Along the top of the app you can see sales going today, or tomorrow, or in the next 7 days. I like to use the “7 days” option so I can get the most options. Next, I click on one of the red icons- that means there’s a sale. I usually start with the closest one and work my way further from my house.
Click “more” for details. What I look at first are the pictures. I flip through them to see if I like any of the items. If I do, I favorite the image with the items I like. Then, on the map view, the icon that was red is now green since I liked something. Obviously, you only want to shop where you like the items.
these shelves full of brass items caught my eye!
If I decide to go to the sale, the address is noted as well as the days and times of the sale.
what happens when you go
The thing I was most intimated about estate sales was actually going. Walking up to a house that I’d never been to before. What do I do? Do I have to check in with someone?
With the sale I went to, it was nice because there was a sign out front. Plus there were lots of cars so it was obvious it was the right house. I went two hours into the second day so there wasn’t a line. Another thing I wasn’t sure of was if I should knock on the door, luckily, there was a sign to walk in.
I’m sure most sales make it easy to know it’s the correct location. I also hope these pictures put you at ease. Get the address off the app, and go during the sale hours. Everything else will work out!
how to pay
Next, I was worried about arriving prepared. First off, how do I pay? The good news is that the app covers that too! Under the “terms” tab, it says what’s accepted for payment. For the sale I went to, cash was all that was accepted. So I brought a variety of bills so I’d be prepared. Here’s the terms for another sale-
I’m sure that, like most in-person sales or flea markets, cash is king. So if that’s possible, that’s what I’d bring.
what else to bring to an estate sale
Besides a wallet, I made sure to bring a mini tape measurer. I was looking for a certain size of art, so I knew that’d be helpful. I also threw a few reusable bags in my purse in case I found multiple items. I’ve also heard the tip to bring packing supplies in case you buy fragile items that might break in transit.
have a goal
Before I went to the sale, I had one item I was keeping an eye out for- the pink and flower umbrella stand I saw in a picture on the app. I thought it was chic and would be perfect for standing by my front door. Sadly, it was gone.
I had a list of other things on my phone I’ve been keeping my eye out for my house. One of those was art and it was fun to find one that I really liked!
how to check out
the blue and white dishes were already sold. They were SO lovely though! I was a smitten kitten over those palm trees.
It might be obvious by now, but I was worried about a lot of things- lol! One of those was how to check out. When I had the item I found, I brought it to one of the two people who were obviously in charge (they’d said hello and were wearing a fanny pack). I paid my cash and it was easy peasy.
Every estate sale will be different, but that’s kind of the fun of it too! It was neat to see the house. It had a beautiful pool and was on the water. I love walking through houses so it was a great perk to me!
I had a few people message me that they missed estate sales and haven’t gone since March. Which I totally get! Everyone needs to do what they feel is best.
Since I went late in the day on the second day, I was the only person in the sale with the two people running the sale and the owner (mine was more of a moving sale). Everyone was wearing masks.
Besides quickly paying, I was able to keep way more than 6′ from anyone else. I felt safe. However, I can see how a crowded house would be unsafe. I’d go at an odd hour to make sure there aren’t many people shopping.
If you’d like more tips on how and when to negotiate as well as when to arrive and what to expect with a line, my friend Kate Pearce Vintage has some amazing estate sale guidelines. She sells vintage and really knows the ropes.
A reader sent me a message that the last day of the sale, everything is usually 50% off- so ask for that!
I found another blog that covers when the estate sale is 50% off and has a great tip for bringing your own sale tag.
Hopefully between all these resources, you’ll have some helpful tips. I’m excited to dive deeper into this world and learn more!
what I got
I ended up getting a botanical print for my powder room for $5! I was happy with the price. The art was SUPER dirty so I cleaned it up and spray painted the frame gold.
It went over the old medicine cabinet and looks nice and sophisticated in there!
I used to have rainbow art hanging here, but it felt way too childish for the rest of the room. I love this here. It feels like it belongs and is interesting. Plus it’s the first item I got from an estate sale! So it tells that story too.
A cool detail is that the print is signed and numbered! It’s by J L Prevost. I had fun Googling him and learning more!
“Jean Louis Prévost was a French still-life painter best known for his depictions of flower arrangements in both oil and watercolor. Though Prévost was not interested in creating his art solely for scientific purposes, his works were so precise and demonstrative of various plant species they have often been reproduced as color plates for botanical books, both during his lifetime and after. Born circa 1760 in Nointel, France. Today, the artist’s work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Prévost died circa 1810 in France.”
You can buy his prints on Etsy in case you want to own one too!
It was so fun for me to try this out. Have you been to an estate sale? I can’t wait to keep trying these out! It seems like a whole other way for me to shop for cool stuff and that makes me so excited! Where these estate sales for beginners tips helpful?
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