Never Pay Retail Again: 10 Tips to become a Savvy Estate Sale Shopper

If you think about it, a local garage sale is usually just the stuff around the house someone no longer wants and not the entire contents of a house, as found at an estate sale.

Looking for something rare, collectible and maybe one of kind? Visit a local estate sale. According to, there were an estimated 50,000 estate sales nationwide last year listed on its site alone.

Estate sales often have rare and unusual items for sale, as well as everyday household items. Antiques, collectibles, art, furniture, cars and just about anything you can think of can be sold at a local estate sale. Many of these items have been passed down for generations. If you think about it, a local garage sale is usually just the stuff around the house someone no longer wants and not the entire contents of a house, as found at an estate sale.

So, do you want to become an expert estate sale shopper? Here are my Top 10 tips on shopping at estate sales:

1. Scout it Out: Go online and search for estate sales in your area. There are many national subscription websites, such as, that list upcoming estate and downsizing sales. Simply pick the area you live in and you will see what sale will be held every weekend. You can also see pictures of what will be available at the sale. Also listed will be the time open and closed for each day, method of purchase available as well as any other special instructions needed for that particular sale. The sale address does not typically release to the public until the day before the sale. You will also have the opportunity to subscribe to be notified of upcoming sales.

What’s in the closet? It could be new designer clothes or vintage suits and dresses… you just never know.

2. Call Ahead: If there is something you are particularly interested in, you can contact the company holding the sale. You might want to know the price, if presales are available, sizes, etc. However, a lot of companies may not respond, so don’t’ count on a call back; be prepared to go to the sale.

3. Get there Early: Count on being at the sale site in line before the sale opens. Potential buyers have been known to show up hours before the sales opens, just to get in line and have one of the first opportunities to purchase their item of choice. Some companies issue numbers to people in line for the sale. They may announce that the first 10 people are allowed in at one time and the numbers 1-10 will be called first.

4. Many Small Bills, Please: Bring plenty of cash with you, as many estate sales accept cash only. Also, make sure you have the money broken down from $100 dollar bills to $20, etc. Many companies will not break your $100 item for small purchases.

You never know what an estate may hold. A beer stein collector lived in this house.

5. Make an Offer: When you enter the sale location you will see most items have been priced with a label or card tag with the asking price of the particular item for sale. Most companies do build in some negotiation room for you to make offers off the purchase price. The best bargains are obtained at the last day of the sale, where many companies discount up to 50-percent off the tag price. If you have a cell phone with Internet access, you can look up the value of just about any item on WorthPoint’s Worthopedia. Don’t be afraid you will insult anyone, make an offer on the item you wish to purchase.

6. Make Yourself Known: Ask the sales company will they write your offer and name and number down and contact you should the price be reduced.

7. Get Packing: Bring your own bags or boxes for packing. Estate sales companies do provide a certain number of packaging items but often run out before the sale.

Big items—like this piano—can be had for a great price, but you’ll be expected to move it yourself when you buy it.

8. Haul it Out: Estate sales companies expect all items purchased to be removed before the sale is over. So, be ready to know where to get a truck or the availability of a moving company to move what you have purchased.

9. Get on the List: Most estate sales companies have an e-mail list of clients who wish to be notified of any upcoming sales. Make sure you give them your e-mail address for notices of their upcoming sales.

10. Tell ’em What You Want: If you have particular items you collect and would like to purchase on a regular basis, ask the estate sales companies to keep your name and telephone number and contact you should they have any of these items at an upcoming sale.

Home gyms can be had for pennies on the dollar.

Shopping at an estate sale can save shoppers hundreds or even thousands of dollars on furniture or just about anything else you’re looking to buy.

I often hear my new customers say, “I will never pay retail again.”

Donna Davis has been in the estate sales, senior move sales and downsizing sales business for more than two decades. Visit her website, Donna Davis Estate Sales, or e-mail her at

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