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Now that you’ve seen the kind of things we like and sales we go to, here are the steps we suggest (and take ourselves!) to get ready for an estate sale:

Plan your trip.

  • Search papers, trade journals, online, and word-of-mouth (or social media!) for sales this weekend. I start on Tuesday, but I always have to check for updates on Thursday.
  • Map it out. You shouldn’t waste your time going back and forth across the same streets. And, take a harder look at outliers—are the things they’ve advertised/pictured worth the drive time?
  • As Emily says, “while you’re moseying, other people are buying our stuff!”

Know your budget before you go.

  • Stick to it. Buyer’s remorse is really tough when there isn’t a return policy.

Bring cash.

  • You can usually only write checks if you have an established buying relationship with the estate company, and you don’t want to hold up the line or waste your time by trying to do that the morning of.
  • If you prefer checks, call the estate sale company prior to the sale and ask them what information they need in order to accept your checks.
  • You will be laughed at if you offer a credit card at most sales. Leave the plastic at home!
  • It’s easier to prompt someone to play “let’s make a deal” when you’ve got green in your hand, ready for transfer!
  • And, it makes it easier to stick to your budget.
  • But, when the money’s gone, you don’t have to stop! Have self-control and enjoy what you see.

Buy it when you see it.

  • Or, at least, pick it up and think about it.

Bring blankets, ropes, dollies, bags, bubble wrap, boxes, etc.

  • If you’re planning to buy big furniture, they want it out of there as soon as possible. I’ve watched haggling between two potential buyers come down to who brought a truck and a strapping young man. It’s unlikely that someone from the sale will help you load up.
  • If you’ve found something delicate – and it’s lasted 100 years – don’t be the one who breaks it! The pangs of guilt you’ll have will haunt you. (Trust me!)

Stop when you’re done.

  • You know that feeling you get when you’re mentally checked-out? Think about most men who shop with their girlfriends/wives – you can read that done look on their face from across the mall food court. That’s the time to call it quits. Emily and I have found that we can make it through 6 homes, and then we’re done.
  • If you push it too long, you’re left feeling “meh” for the rest of the day – and that’s not the impression we want you to leave with!

Keep your receipts.

  • Stash them in a safe place, maybe a little box or notebook designated “Estate Finds”, just in case you need to refer to them later down the road.


  • If you think you’ve hit the jackpot and found something significant, start researching!
  • If you get some confirmation, contact your local antique dealer, shop, or mall and ask them if they have any appraisers or experts in ___.
  • Be sure to follow-up with that person after you meet with them. Dropping a quick thank-you ensures they know you appreciated their time, and may get you in with future private sales or other great things.

I use my maps as a way to keep record of what estate sale company’s sales I like, habits they have, tips for the next sale, etc. My pen of choice for the weekend is a permanent marker (in hopes of writing SOLD across a large item’s price tag!) – so you’ll see my notes are bold (and sometimes messy!).

The most important thing to remember while out hunting? ENJOY!!!

Do you have any tips on getting ready for a sale?