Estate Sale Shopping 101

Oh, how I love a good thrift store or estate sale!!

I’ve only been shopping estate sales for a few years. For some reason, I was a bit intimidated about them. I’ve since learned a few tricks, so I thought I would share some estate sale shopping 101 ideas.

thrifted finds
thrifted and estate sale finds

First of all….

let me be perfectly clear that I am not an expert on the subject! I just frequent them often and love it so much, I wanted to share some things I’ve learned.

I have been hosting garage sales at least once a year at my own home for probably 35 years. Until the past few years, it never occurred to me to actually shop at someone else’s garage sale, much less a thrift store.

Years ago we enclosed our garage at our old house and turned it into a game room. I decided I wanted to cover the ceiling in album covers. The only place I knew to find them was garage sales and thrift stores. The love of thrifting began when I started frequenting them.

estate sale finds
one of my favorite coats was found at an estate sale for $20

what changed my mind about estate sales…


Even though I loved thrift store shopping, I was a bit intimidated about estate sales. I didn’t really know how they worked and was afraid to venture inside one. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself and be the only one that didn’t know how it worked or what the protocol was.

A couple of years ago, I was with a friend and we passed an estate sale sign and she suggested we go. Since she frequently went to estate sales and “knew the ropes”, I thought it was as good a time as any to give it a try.

thrift store finds
all of these mirrors we used for my daughter’s wedding were thrifted or estate sale finds

Well, after that, I was hooked. It’s so true what they say about “one mans trash is another mans treasure”! I am constantly amazed at what people donate to thrift stores and what you can find at an estate sale.

Goodwill
one of my favorite thrift store finds was this vintage christmas tree for $10

So, let me give you the low down on estate sale shopping 101!

First of all, estate sales usually run for 2 or 3 days. Typically a Friday-Sunday, but sometimes will begin on a Thursday and end on Saturday. On occasion they will only be 2 of those consecutive days.

Things are usually marked with the prices and the first day of the sale is full price. The second day of the sale is 25%-50% off and the final day will be 50%-75%, depending on the particular sale. On the final day, they are ready to get rid of everything so it doesn’t have to be packed up and hauled off. So typically they are willing to deal and especially if you are buying multiple items.

vintage chairs
bought these for our Airbnb, the boho cottage, for $10 for the pair

So keep in mind that if you want the best selection, go the first day, but be willing to pay what the price is marked. If you are looking for a deal, then wait until the last day, it just may not have a great selection at that point.

Although most sales are hosted by an estate sale company, that is not always the case. Sometimes, it may just be a family or individual handling their own sale. In that case, they may be willing to “deal” a little more with the prices a little earlier in the sale. Don’t be afraid to ask for a better price on a bigger ticket item either way.

If a company is hosting, they are usually set up to take credit or debit cards. If it is an individual, that may not be the case. So, it’s always a good idea, to have cash on hand.

french provincial nightstand
this french provincial table was thrifted for $15. all it needed was a fresh coat of paint

How do I find estate sales??

I often have people ask how I know where to find estate sales. I use an app on my phone called, Estatesale.net. You can select the day you want to find a sale, and it will list them in mileage order, starting at the closest one.

For example, you can select “Today”, “Tommorow”, or a certain date coming up and it will list everything in your area starting with the one closest to you. It will also show a few pictures of some things that will be offered for sale. This makes it easy for you to decide if you are interested in that particular sale.

Be sure and have measurements handy, if you are looking for a piece of furniture or a specific item. Most likely, they will not hold an item while you go home and measure. Also, bring a tape measure with you so you can measure an item at the sale.

kitchen hutch
we turned this $20 beauty into a coffee bar at my daughter’s house

Be prepared to take any large items with you. Occasionally, they will let you pay for an item and pick up later (as long as it’s during the sale), but better safe than sorry. You don’t want to pass up that perfect piece of furniture, because you don’t have a way to get it home.

More tips….

Another tip is to always check the garage and back yard if they are part of the sale, and typically they are. Sometimes great finds get overlooked if they are in the garage or outside.

I always keep wet wipes in my car for cleaning my hands when I’m done; Sometimes “digging” around in the garage is where the good stuff is and can get a bit dirty.

A lot of you tell me you never find the “good stuff”. I promise, you will, you just have to go often. This is especially true with thrift stores.

estate sale treasures
my car was loaded down after this estate sale

I hope this estate sale shopping 101 article gives you some helpful tips!!
Now get out there and find something amazing! Let me know if you do, because I love hearing from you!

blessings and happy thrifting
michele

* I have a fun home tour with a couple of other talented ladies coming up in a couple of weeks. We will be highlighting thrifted, estate sale and Facebook marketplace finds, so keep an eye out for that and subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss anything!

And be sure and pin the photo below so you can save it for later!!

If you enjoyed this post, you might like to check out my “thrifted” Pinterest board here.

and you might like this post about my garden ornament made from thrifted finds. https://www.vintagehomedesigns.com/garden-ornament-diy/

7 thoughts on “Estate Sale Shopping 101

  1. Hi Michele,
    This is Becky Marchman from Fort Worth.
    I sure have missed seeing you and your beautiful booth at the Chi Omega Christmas Market in Dallas.
    I am so enjoying your posts and blogs!
    Thank you for being so willing to share your FUN ideas!
    I also wanted to reach out to you and see if you might have any white pieces of furniture for sale.
    My youngest daughter is moving into a house with four other friends at Texas A&M this fall and needs several items.
    She is hoping to find white furniture and accent with lots of bright neon accessories while staying with a farmhouse chic -type theme. (I hope that makes sense.)
    I just thought of you and wanted to reach out and see if you might have anything for sale or know of a great place to go to find things like a white bed or cute headboard, nightstands, a dresser, cute lamp and maybe a chair or loveseat.
    Thank you so much!
    My Cell # is: (817) 454-6420
    Home # : (817) 370-9787
    Feel free to call, text or email.
    I wish you ALL LIFE’S BEST !
    EnJoy your beautiful home! ( I sure am enjoying your posts and pictures!)

    1. Hi Becky!! Thanks so much for your kind words and continuing to follow me. It truly means so much!

      What size bed does she have? I have a full size white metal headboard and a really cute white french provincial nightstand. I have another nightstand that matches the other, but I haven’t painted it yet. I could paint it to match, if they would work.

      I can send pics in a bit.

      thanks again,
      michele

      1. Hi Michele,
        Thank you so much for replying to me.
        She doesn’t have a bed for the college house yet, so a full size would be fine.
        How much would you charge for these?
        Yes- would love to see the pictures if you don’t mind.
        She also needs a desk or a table that would work as a desk, and chair and a comfy chair if you might have any of those pieces for sale, or know of someone who might.
        Thanks so much!
        Becky

  2. Oh my goodness, I grew up on estate sales and garage sales. But my mother had a strict rule — only on the first day!. She printed off copies of a map of our part of the city. Then the night before our adventures, she’d go through three newspapers and in a spiral notebook, record all the sales that were starting that day “that sounded interesting”. These sales were then marked on the map and she would plan our route for maximum efficiency, numbering the sales along the route. My sister and I would take turns, one as her Co-pilot and the other as Navigator. We were hard care with thermos and sandwiches to sustain us. Those were such fun days.

    I often wonder what Mom would think of the app. Love it’s efficiency (she was a mathematician, afterall) or scorn it for somehow diminishing the “adventure” with no treasure map as we used to think of it.

    1. Oh wow, Diane! I love that story!!

      My “adventures” are not nearly as planned out and fancy! Ha!

      I love that you packed lunches and a thermos. What fond memories!

      blessings,
      michele

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