How to Find the Best Deals at Estate Sales
Let's face it. Everyone has a different version of what makes something a "good deal." For example, I once came back from an estate sale trip with a giant stuffed promotional Jolly Green Giant. I got a fantastic deal compared to its resale price, but my wife disagreed with me (he's banished to the EstateSales.NET studio). On the other hand, my wife had me loading a giant sideboard into the back of a two-door car because it was "too good of a deal to pass up."
Estate Sales have something for everyone; whether you are looking at it from a monetary resale value or its price compared to how happy it makes you, everyone can find a deal that suits them.
Here are a few insider tricks to help you find your next "deal" while out shopping:
The Day Makes a Difference:
How a company prices will vary, but generally, you will find the lowest prices on the last day of the sale. It is common for companies to discount as the sale goes along; for example, full price on day one, 25% off on day two, 50% off on day three, and 75% on the last day. Only some companies will follow this discount schedule exactly. See the sale ad to see if discounts are available or ask the company. I typically go on the first day of the sale and see if there is anything that I can't live without and then go back later on a discount day to purchase items that were not on my must-have list. I pick them up at a discounted rate if they are still there.
Get Your Offers Ready:
It's not uncommon for estate sale companies to entertain offers on items. Feel free to make an offer, but remember that a company's job is to get the most money possible for their client within a time constraint, so they might not take your offer on the first day, but they may on the last. The key is to be respectful. Don't be afraid to ask a company if they are taking offers on items. They are used to that question, and the worst they can say is "no."
The Company Matters:
You'll learn how different companies handle pricing as you shop more at sales. Some will start high and end low; others will begin low; after the first day, nearly nothing is leftover. Others will be high on some things and low on other things. It all comes down to the company and its pricing strategy. Once you learn how a company prices, you can decide which day you want to go, or if you want to go at all.
Some companies will make a deal on a large number of items. For example, you may have always wanted a complete set of 1965 encyclopedias (probably not), and you walk into a sale, and there is your holy grail encyclopedia collection. You might offer to buy the whole set instead of each book. There may be a collection of tools you want, all in a toolbox. Offer to buy the entire box. Asking about package deals is how you can get some great deals.
Resellers are very good at this. Most have an inherent ability or background knowledge on particular items to know what to look for to get a great deal. No one can be an expert on everything, and sometimes high-value items are missed by the company and 100 other people that walk past it. If you are an expert on particular designers, companies, or niche areas, you will likely find a good deal on something. I once saw a collectible vacuum under a box in a garage that a high-profile mid-century designer designed. It was the last day of the sale, and probably over a thousand people walked past it. I knew what it was. Its value was much more than the $5 I gave for it.
Don't be Afraid to Dig
If you are willing to dig and get dirty, you will find many things others have overlooked. I enjoy doing this on discount days and have discovered incredible things by digging through garages, side buildings, or basements where others were unwilling to look or spend the time. By digging, you might find something of high value, something that speaks to you, or maybe both. Don't be afraid to do it.