25 Tips for Shopping Estate Sales


If you love vintage like we do, you have probably spotted an estate sale sign or two in your travels.  But have you ever shopped at estate sales? Estate sales are different from shopping flea markets, thrift stores, auctions or garage sales. They present some unique opportunities for interesting finds as well as the ability to get in on the ground floor so to speak.  

Here are 25 tips for shopping estate sales–helpful ideas for both new shoppers and seasoned pro’s alike.


  1. Bring your own bags and packing material.

  2. Do your homework. If the sale is online, look at the pictures, read the descriptions and know the rules, i.e. no large purses, cash only, etc.

  3. Be respectful, courteous and polite, after all, you are in someones home. Use your manners.

  4. Ask questions, are they willing to discount for multiple items, will they hold a large piece for a day, etc?

  5. Parking! Don’t block driveways, stop in the middle of the street, or block in other vehicles.

  6. Bring cash.

  7. Look over items your are considering carefully. You don’t want to buy something only to find it’s damaged later on.

  8. Come early or come late. Early birds get the first pick, but coming later often means better deals.

  9. If you find an estate sale company you like, follow them on social media or their blog, and let them know. Everyone wants to be acknowledged, and you may get early entrance or special deals by being a preferred customer.

  10. If you are shopping for large items, be prepared to bring them with you or have someone pick them up quickly. This includes things like moving pads, rope or strapping, a large vehicle, and enough strong bodies to help out.

  11. Bring your smartphone and be sure it’s charged so you can research items on the spot. 

  12. When digging through drawers, boxes, or cabinets, don’t leave a mess. Put things back as you found them. 

  13. Make a pile, or ask the cashier to have someone set items aside that you are interested in. This way you can review items in detail and make a final decision on your purchases.

  14. Shop with a friend, and know what you are looking for. This way you can each to a quick round of the sale and come back for in depth shopping.

  15. Follow the rules. Don’t jump the line, bring in large bags, or be pushy. Most sales have rules posted in advance or at the door. Please abide by them.

  16. Plan your route in advance. Look online for sales in your area and plan out your route before you go.

  17. Bring water and snacks with you in the car. 

  18. Take along a magnifying glass for reading identification marks and spotting defects.  

  19. Bring paper and pen to record what you bought as you may or may not receive a receipt.  

  20. A flashlight might be needed for those dark corners or in the garage, attic and basement.

  21. Once you have paid for something, take it to your vehicle so it won’t be mistaken as an available item.

  22. Don’t forget to ask for an itemized receipt, especially if you are a reseller. You will need it for taxes.

  23. Know what you are shopping for, but be open to new items. You never know what you will find.

  24. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes.

  25. Check the weather before you go. Be sure the sale is not cancelled due to inclement weather.

To learn more about estate sales and find ones in your area, be sure to visit EstateSales.org and check out their blog as well at The Goods.