Ten Easy Tips to be an Estate Sale pro & score the good stuff!
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Estate sales can turn up amazing bargains when you know how to shop them right. The sellers typically just want the stuff out of their way. The tricks are shopping the right neighborhoods, shopping a planned route, getting in and out fast, and knowing how to snag the good stuff.
1. Make your plan
If you are going to be serious about it, use Craiglist, and look in the newspaper. Also, some yard sale websites that aggregate all the local sales, often have estate sales included too.
Here’s the link to a handy one:
It’s pretty cool.
Plan your route. You’ll want to map out where you want to go ahead of time.
Prioritize the most promising estate sales first. You might consider church sales as well, because you’ll find more available merchandise in one location.
Remember, the best neighborhoods generally have the best stuff. We prefer to look for nice older neighborhoods to find things that have more interest, like furniture and unique older items.
Quick tip, choose good neighborhoods!
Obviously, the houses in those neighborhoods will have the best stuff when they do have estate sales.
Bakersfield has a lot of nice, established neighborhoods, but you might consider a long drive. I actually like to shop the LA area for interesting pieces.
(the estate sales in LA, Brentwood, Beverly Hills, etc. have really cool high end stuff.)
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Also, as you drive, watch for estate sale signs, and feel free to detour if you spot one pointing to an unadvertised sale nearby. The unadvertised estate sales don’t get as much traffic, and you could score big.
You can sometimes avoid wasting your time at a crummy sale just by checking it out from your car. If you see several people walking away from a sale and they don’t have anything in their hands, it’s not a good sign.
2. Timing is important
Go out early because people who go to estate sales a lot, especially professionals like us, will go out early and get the best items and best choice of the items.
A lot of people think Saturday morning is the best, but Friday can be a great day because you’ll get the best selection. But If you’re looking for a deal, you might want to shop late in the day, or on Sunday when prices will likely drop. But you risk missing the good stuff.
3. Do a quick sweep but LOOK
Some hidden treasure is just that: hidden. You have to look for its potential. We look for unique items like lamps, decor, collectibles and solid wood furniture, even if it’s not in good shape. We can’t do much with particle board furniture, but solid wood is almost always a good buy. You can add architectural pieces and decoupage, stain, or paint it. (More about this, later…)
Artwork is another item where beauty is in the eye of the beholder because art is subjective, and can be very valuable to the right person.
4. Inspect carefully
I’ve some times neglected this myself. To my regret.
With furniture, check the arms and legs on chairs. Open and close drawers and doors to see if they shut properly. Check to see if tables are sturdy enough. Don’t worry too much about the finish. It is important for the pieces to be structurally sound, you can take care of the cosmetics.
Estimate how much time and money each piece will take to repair — and make sure repairs are even possible. Bargains aren’t bargains if the piece can’t be put right.
5. Claim the stuff you might be interested in.
If you love it, pick it up and walk around with it, don’t try to act real cool and pretended you don’t want something just to get a better price, because often someone swoops in behind you and picks it up.
If you like more items than you can carry, ask the seller if you can start a little pile somewhere safe. Later this helps you to negotiate for a group price. It always works out in your favor. They will usually round down some.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for specific items.
If you don’t see something you’re looking for, just ask the seller. For example, “Do you have any old clocks?” A lot of times they will think, “Oh yeah, I do!” and they’ll tell you where it is.
7. Calculate what an item’s value is to you.
It’s valuable if you actually have a use for it and YOU like it. Period.
If you are looking for potential valuables to resell, look for a name in the drawer or on the bottom or underside for brand markings or descriptions. You can use your phone to look on eBay to see what collectors really pay for it.
8. Negotiate, but nicely.
It’s best never insult their stuff. If they have a pretty vase priced at $75, don’t say “That vase isn’t even worth $50!”, it’s better to ask, “What’s the best you can do on that?”
Also, don’t dress to impress, if you show up in fancy clothes and a fancy car, you will definitely pay full price. Wear old sneakers and a t-shirt.
9. Have good transportation
Make sure you have a way of transporting your piece of furniture from the estate sale to your home. Sellers may not want to hold on to your furniture indefinitely if you have no way of transporting it.
It is also a good idea to bring someone along to help you lift your furniture to and from the truck. Heavier or larger pieces make it impossible for one person to do all the work. (I mean, what are friends for?)
10 The most important: If you love it, buy it!
Timeless Furnishings 1918 Chester Ave. Bakersfield CA 93301 661-326-0222
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