Estate sales don’t always mean that the previous owners have died. That’s frequently true, but sometimes they’re simply downsizing or moving on to another situation such as a retirement home. The people who run these sales go through the contents of the house, price everything at a discount and then host a two-day sale with the goal of emptying the contents fast.
Shopping estate sales can be a great way to score deals on just about anything. You’ve got to be willing to sort through the junk of everyday life, but the payoff can be impressive.
For sale listings, look at sites like EstateSales.net and Craigslist. For obvious reasons, you want to focus on well-to-do areas. Those advertised “everything must go” tend to offer the best deals.
I have learned that the last hour on the first day is a good time to negotiate. The sellers figure they’re closing down, so they might as well make the sale now at a better price. But the best time is the last hour of the last day. They will be even more flexible, though there may not be much left. On the last day prices usually drop 50-75%. The firm is eager to empty the house, so you have bargaining power on your side. If there’s one particular item you’re trying to get on the cheap, simply say, “Could you go a little lower on this price?”
Here is a list of some of my favorite items I have acquired at estate sales so far:
Black & Decker drill with drill bits: $1.50 (this type of drill sells for $89 at Lowe’s)
Pier 1 Import wicker chair: $15 (sells for $180 new)
Gallons and gallons of brand new Benjamin Moore interior and exterior paint: $4
Garden shears: $1
Bed frame: $5
Stainless steel containers: $2
My favorite things to find at estate sales are furniture, paint, and tools. I am often frustrated by the low quality and high prices of modern tools. I have learned that for a fraction of the cost I can pick up high-quality tools at estate sales. Older items are often better made and they certainly have more character.
Since some of the estate sales are due to death in the family, I often feel sad when I’m rummaging through someone’s possessions and wonder who will be going through my stuff when I’m gone.
I hope the family finds comfort turning a little profit and knowing their possessions are well loved by new owners.
Image Credit: potofgoldestate