Estate Sales 101 - PART 1


With all of the TV shows out there like American Pickers, Storage Wars, Cash & Cari, etc., estate sales have really hit the big time.

My husband and I (and kids...reluctantly) have been estate sale-ing for years...and in that time we've figured out a few things that I thought would be fun to pass on to you.

If you've ever been curious about estate sales, or about how they work or even what they are...then this post is for you.

An estate sale is pretty much a whole-house garage sale. A company is hired to come in after a person or family has had to leave their home for one reason or another. This is often because of a death, or because the occupant has moved to a retirement home. Sometimes an estate will be held because the family is moving and doesn't want to deal with all of their stuff, or after a divorce.

You will usually find the entire home and all out-buildings open for you to walk through during an estate sale. And, again usually, most of the items in the house will be for sale...that includes toilet paper, each little spoon, clothing...everything. Things that are not for sale will be behind closed doors and should be marked as such.

The companies that run estate sales usually price things extremely reasonably. Unlike a family having a garage sale, the estate sale workers do not have sentimental attachments to the items they are selling and therefore just want to get rid of them. Sure, there will always be things that are priced at what they are worth, but you can always find items that you think are super-good bargains.

Plus, unless the item is marked "firm," you can negotiate prices. Sometimes, on large pieces of furniture, or on expensive items, the people running the estate sale will let you bid on an item and will contact you after the sale to let you know if you won.

Now, how do you know where to find all of the estate sales happening in your area? Easy peasy... - here you will find all of the sales in your area...dates, times, photos of items in the houses, etc. Don't be alarmed if you find a sale that you want to attend, but don't see an address...this is common. The addresses aren't always given out until either the day before or morning of the sale. You can also use your smartphone to find the sales...(there is no app as of yet, but the mobile site for is really pretty cool).

Estate sales are usually 2-3 days long (Thursday-Saturday), will usually start around 9:00 am. and will end around 3 pm. Sometimes, especially if there are items in the house that will be popular, or if the house is small, numbers will be given out before the sale starts to determine who is allowed to enter first. Early birds may also start a list among themselves to decide who goes first, so if you see someone holding a clipboard with names, make sure yours gets on there, too...especially if you've found something in one of the sale's photos that you reeeeaaaallly want.

Make sure you also read the sale's description is king unless you spend over a certain amount, and sometimes they won't allow children. If you plan on buying large items, make sure you grab a friend to help you move your items...the sales workers aren't always available or interested in helping you.

So, can you really find cool stuff at these sales? If you live in an historic area, or in a big city, or near a lot of farms, you will probably find a lot of super-awesome sales. We live in the Chicago suburbs...not really the pinnacle of places to find amazing vintage treasures, and we still make out pretty well.

So...those are pretty much the basics. Tomorrow I'll be back sharing our tips and tricks for getting the most for your money.

NOTE: I say "USUALLY" a lot here because, of course, there are exceptions to every rule. What I'm sharing with you is what we have found in the majority of our estate sale the Chicagoland and northern Indiana areas.

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