antique estate sale shopping tips and etiquette and how to find an estate sale

Estate Sales: Finding, Buying, and Etiquette

You may have noticed I’ve been into estate sales and been fortunate enough to visit enough that I want to give some tips to finding and knowing what to look for at your next estate sale visit!

antique estate sale shopping tips and etiquette and how to find an estate sale

Oriental cabinet: Estate sale / Dress: eShakti c/o / Heels: Italic / Belt: Vintage (my mom’s) / Louis Vuitton Cuffs: here and here / Wicker vessels: Williams-Sonoma (now on sale – small, large)

T
he oriental cabinet above was a lucky find I first discovered on Facebook marketplace and I scored at at an estate sale for $30 – I would have gladly paid 5x that amount! I had been shopping online for one for a while and most oriental pieces are $800-$1500 so I was glad I had trained my eye early knowing what to look for. I have trained my eye by regularly reading design books I’ve purchased so my eyes know what to look for to achieve the look I’m going for.


I want to share my estate sale tips with you and hope I hope you’ll share with me the treasures you find and discover in the future. It is an honor to be a steward of items that belonged to strangers that I’ve never met, that will now be a part of my every day home life.

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^^ I purchased this oriental side table at the same estate sale for $10! This is another item I had noticed in the design books I read so I knew it was a need for my home.


My perspective on Estate Sales

Like an auction, or visiting an antique or thrift store, we don’t know the reasons why people are clearing out homes or items are there. They can be due to many reasons, death or downsizing. To have a healthy perspective on life, and of things helps with enjoying the hunt and finds rather than feeling weird about it.

I don’t feel strange buying things if a person has passed away or not – as I was told that many Estate Sales are not ones due to death but rather downsizing and or moving into assisted care living.

I walk through homes and I admire the beauty, I observe and study their passions and items they’ve loved and collected in just a few minutes and the little that I know. I sometimes chuckle to myself seeing so much of myself in them and their passion for say, clothes, or antiques, or dishes! Ha! Often I catch myself talking to those working the estate sale saying, “What a beautiful life she had!” and we nod and admire.

I choose to go in a home with admiration opposed to scrutiny because I’m there not to judge their life or what they like, or even buy their home, but I am there to see if we might have something in common!

I also think about the future when it will be time for people to go through my things. I hope they have the same sense of awe and admiration for the things I have collected through my life, the cycle continues.

For the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains. – 1 Corinthians 10:26


How to behave during an Estate Sale, Etiquette

Most estate sales are run by an experienced company who deals with estate sales and they are in charge of pricing items and advertising them. The family doesn’t stick around as that can be emotional for them, but I have gone to sales lately where the caregiver or daughter is running the sale.  I think the biggest thing to remember is to be respectful as though the person is there, or their family members.

This isn’t to say I haven’t chuckled lightheartedly at some findings or someone else making a joke at a used soap find that was for sale, but I would say be conscious of your surroundings if you can!

  • About half of estate sales take credit cards, or will charge you the 3% fee (eye roll), and there are a few that are not professionally run and take only cash – so bring plenty of cash.
  • You are in someone’s private home, so there might be a few rules like wearing a mask, so bring one incase.
  • Don’t be loud, don’t laugh, don’t make fun of things or criticize the home out loud while you are in it. You are not buying the house, you are shopping *wink*
  • Leave the kids at home. I would not say I wouldn’t bring young children in, but you decide – I rarely see children at estate sales. Or if you do, coach them on their behavior before you head in.

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How to Find an Estate Sale

You can search Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace (type in Estate sale), visit Estatesales.net (there is also an app you can download), EstateSale.com, Garagesalestracker.com or EstateSale.net. You can enter in your zip code and the site will email you about surrounding sales depending on the zip code and distance you set.

Most estate sale listings will provide hundreds of photos ahead of time and some descriptions too so you can decide if there will be anything worth going for.


More about Estate Sales: Pricing, What to Look For

  • Sales are usually Thursday to Sunday, but more often Friday to Sunday around 7 am to 1 pm. Some sales will last over a few days and you can return the following day or week and it will be 25% off and then 50% off the last day. You may as well revisit them, what do you have to lose?
  • Sometimes I like to show up only on the big discount day so I can really get a deal.
  • If you want to pay a different amount, you can ask – or maybe if you buy a lot of things there can be a discount.
  • Prices vary based upon who is running it. They can be as if you are buying at a store and sometimes you’ll think they are crazy. But if you’re lucky, some are like yard sale pricing.
  • If you want an item, take a photo and show the check out and tell them that you want it as you keep looking, or you can remove the pricing sticker and tell the check out person so no one else takes it. Or bring your own post-its and sharpie to write SOLD and tag it (I just made that up now, but why not if you can’t carry it to the front and you are still looking, right?)
  • The early bird gets the worm! Big ticket items are gone first, so if you see something you like in the photo preview online, go early.
  • I’m just going to say it, it won’t be smart to arrive looking flashy as if you have a lot of money or else your bargaining technique won’t work in your favor *wink*

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Diana Elizabeth will be watching the Friends reunion on HBO Max with her friends this week. Will you be watching?

Diana Elizabeth is an author, photographer, and obsessive antique shopper. You can typically find her in her garden wrist deep in dirt, at a local estate sale or planning her next epic party.

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