9 Tips for Shopping an Estate Sale (From a Real-Life Pro!)

Let’s say you’re intoxicated by the concept of estate sales — obvi — but feel intimidated by the prospect of schlepping out amid the people who really know what they’re doing on the scene. Totally get that. Today I bring you guest commentary from Melissa Arnold, the owner of Succor Estate Sales in Los Angeles and all-around cool, effortlessly stylish lady. She’s here to tell you how to shop the sales like a pro. Read on…

Tip No. 1 for How to Shop Estate Sales:

“Be sure to inspect every part of the item you plan to purchase. Estate sales are usually only three days, sometimes less. And because of this short amount of time to sell every item, refunds are not accepted. Most companies that host sales try to note if that crystal vase has a chip, but they miss things too. It’s up to you to make sure you’re happy with what you’re purchasing — so plug in that Kitchen-Aid mixer and don’t take anyone’s word that it works.”

Tip No. 2 for How to Shop Estate Sales:

“If you plan to buy furniture, find a mover in advance. Estate sales are a so-called ‘cash-and-carry’ business. This usually means there will not be someone on hand to help you move things. Many companies can recommend a mover but it’s often easier and less expensive if you price one out in advance. Craig’s List has loads of people who will move stuff for you. However, if you buy something breakable or of value, you may want to go with a reputable insured mover.”

Succor Estate Sales, Los Angeles

The delicious spoils at a recent Succor estate sale

Tip No. 3 for How to Shop Estate Sales:

“Carry a small purse. Unfortunately, theft is a concern at estate sales. Save yourself the trouble of having to walk back to your car to drop that shopping bag of a purse off (you know who you are!) and free your hands of your wallet by just carrying something small. Most estate sale companies will allow little bags inside.”

Tip No. 4 for How to Shop Estate Sales:

“Sign up for email lists. Any estate sale worth attending is run by a company with an email list. Getting on the list will often give you priority when that company has a reservation-only sale. You’ll be notified when they have special pieces they can’t sell in an estate sale. And often times you’ll receive an appreciation coupon for future sales.”

 Tip No. 5 for How to Shop Estate Sales:

“Make friends with the people running the show. They’re more likely to hold items for you while you run to the bank, more likely to work with you on pricing, and if they see you on a regular basis, they may even notify you of items in an upcoming estate sale that make them think of you.”

 Tip No. 6 for How to Shop Estate Sales:

“You know this one already, but the early bird gets the worm. If you’re heading to a particular estate sale because you saw something in the photographs you cannot live without, get there early and expect to pay asking price. Asking price is still usually 30 to 50 percent below retail. The longer you wait, the better the price gets but your odds of taking that vintage Missoni dress home diminish substantially.”

Tip No. 7 for How to Shop Estate Sales:

“Know your best odds for bargaining. Estate sales usually last three days, Friday through Sunday, so go on the second or third day and make an offer. Not everyone will negotiate with you early in a sale, but most everyone will take your offer back to their client if the item doesn’t sell for what they’re asking later on.”

Succor Estate Sales

More Succor estate sale goodies!

Tip No. 8 for How to Shop Estate Sales:

“Look around! These sales take place inside people’s homes, so enjoy your chance to satisfy your inner voyeur by taking some time to breathe it all in. In L.A., for instance, you might gain rare access to fantastic estates that you might otherwise see only from the outside. Estate sales grant you the freedom to roam and indulge in the richness of people’s lives.”

Tip No. 9 for How to Shop Estate Sales:

“Search for finds other than old, fabulous things, and you will often find them. Sometimes people are moving or simply redecorating, so they’re purging very current stuff. That Le Corbusier dining table you were drooling over at DWR — you might be able to find it for less than 50 percent of retail. Or you might find for a fraction of the price a vacuum cleaner that’s still available at Bed Bath & Beyond.

Now go get your estate sale on — it’s time for holiday shopping!”

Are you in the mood now? (I am, pretty much.) Sign up for Succor’s mailing list to get the scoop on upcoming sales. Godspeed!

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  • Reply Ethel August 20, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    Booking a mover will save you a lot of time if you end up with furniture. If you know the size of the moving vehicle beforehand you can make sure all the pieces you purchase will fit. I’ll use these tips for the next estate sale I plan on going to!

  • Reply Kyle Winters May 2, 2017 at 2:35 am

    It’s great that the article reminds people of the old saying “the early bird gets the worm.” After all, there is no place where that applies more than at an estate sale or garage sale. There are usually only one of said item that you might want to buy, so you have to be quick to claim it if you really want it.

  • Reply Ernest London June 22, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    I really like that you mentioned to find a mover in advance if you plan on looking for furniture at an estate sale. That way, if you happen to find a piece you really want, you can have it easily transportable. I am planning on heading to some estate sales this month, and I have been looking for ways to make it easy and efficient. I will definitely keep this in mind.

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