Dinnerware on table for sale

10 Tips for Shopping at Estate Sales

An estate sale, or a tag sale, has become one of the top ways to sell goods. These sales are held when someone must liquidate the belongings of a family or estate. Estate sales are larger than yard sales and are intended to raise money needed due to downsizing, moving, divorce, bankruptcy, or death. If you’re planning to shop at an estate sale, here are 10 tips to follow.

  1. Attend the first day.
    The best thing you can do is arrive the first day of the sale so you can see the largest selection of items. If you love something, but the price is a little too high, you may go back later to see if it’s been marked down if it hasn’t sold.
  2. Don't bring a large bag.
    Bring a large bag or purse, and you may be denied entry. Instead, keep your money in a small wallet in your front pocket. Estate sales take place inside a house, making it easier for people to steal. To avoid theft, organizers usually deny entry to those with large bags or purses.
  3. Don’t haggle on the first day.
    If you want something that seems to be priced too high, don’t attempt to haggle on the first day. You won’t get kicked out, but the odds of the price being lowered are slim. Haggling may also hurt the odds that the price will be lowered later. Most items will drop in price if they’re not sold at a certain point.
  4. Find out the pick-up policy for large items.
    Most sellers allow you to take home large items such as furniture on the same day of purchase, but others may make you wait until the next day. To avoid any confusion, ask about the seller’s policy before you hand over any money.
  5. Bring cash.
    While card readers seem ubiquitous, you shouldn’t rely on the organizers having one. Bring cash to avoid this issue and help you stick to a budget. If you see something you absolutely love, the estate sale organizers may not hold onto it for you while you make an ATM run.
  6. Don’t overlook items that look a little rough.
    Sometimes an item will look rough. Maybe it’s covered in dust, making the color dull. Your eyes may deceive you into believing the item isn’t worth your time, when it’s actually a diamond in the rough. With the proper elbow grease, some items can look utterly amazing.
  7. Avoid items with major flaws.
    On the flip side of the diamond-in-the-rough theory, you should also avoid items with major flaws. If something is broken or chipped, it may not be worthwhile to repair it. Don’t be afraid to inspect things very closely. You never know what problems can be hiding. Use your senses—touch it, smell it, and feel it.
  8. Expect sticker shock.
    If you’re going to a professional estate sale run by a firm, the items will be of much higher quality—and higher price—than you may have expected. While some companies price items high without reason, most will price things at competitive levels. Remember, estate sale pros want the merchandise sold so they can get their commissions.
  9. All sales are final.
    If you purchase something, and you aren’t happy with it, you need to understand that you’re stuck with the item. It doesn’t matter if it broke five minutes after you got it home. This no-return policy is why you need to inspect everything with a careful eye to avoid any issues after the sale.
  10. Check out photos before you go.
    If the estate sale is run by a professional firm, you may be able to look at its website to see some of the deals. Many companies will post details or photos of the sale online. This way you’ll find out if there’s anything worth purchasing before you make the trip.
Last Updated: January 25, 2016