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How to Spot a Good Deal At An Estate Sale

Estate Sale Tips, Tricks & More March 21, 2024

Most people know that estate sales are great places to look for treasures at a fraction of what they would cost on the open market. People who frequent estate sales liken them to treasure hunting: You don’t know what you’re going to find, where you’re going to find it, and what it may be worth. If you want to know how to spot a good deal at an estate sale, here are some tips.

Scouring estate sales on the regular will certainly be rewarding for someone who knows just what they are looking for, as well as the person who keeps an open mind about the potential for treasures.

You can start hitting estate sales immediately; it can’t hurt to try your luck! But if you want to do it regularly, make sure to do your research and educate yourself as much as possible about the types of items you might be looking for.

As far as ways of educating yourself, you have some options for how to spot a good deal. One would be to pick a couple of specific categories of items and focus your research on the different makes, models and characteristics of things in those categories. The other is sort of a jack-of-all-trades approach and would involve having a working knowledge of a broad range of items like clothing, antiques, cars, art, tools, etc. There’s no way you can learn everything about everything, so don’t stress. Just be patient and enjoy the process of finding the hidden gems – they’re out there!

You can learn a lot about things online, as well as by talking to friends and experts like those who work in antiques, in the car industry, or at local clubs.

spotting a good estate sale deal on old furniture

What Sells At Estate Sales (How

You can find nearly anything at an estate sale, including original artwork, rare and exotic vehicles, antique furniture, books, sewing machines, vinyl, gardening tools – you name it.

Knowing how to spot a good deal at an estate sale involves both frequenting them regularly and familiarizing yourself with the range of items you are interested in purchasing.

Some of the things that sell well at estate sales are:

Mid-century modern furniture:  It seems that the popularity of mid-century furniture is here to stay, partially due to its compatibility with contemporary art. Estate sales are fabulous places to find vintage and, thus, more valuable pieces of mid-century furniture to resell for a profit or keep for personal use.

Art: Both collectible art and more personal and unique pieces can be up for grabs at many estate sales. If you have what it takes to spot a diamond in the rough, then estate sales are a great opportunity for this!

Automobiles: Estate sales can be great places to find modern and classic cars. If you’re looking to find a classic car with one owner, an estate sale is the way to go.

Collectibles: From beanie babies, Barbies, Pokemon cards or Hummels – collections of all shapes and sizes can be found for a good deal at estate sales.

Books: Though today, more and more people are reading books digitally on a device like a Kindle, plenty of people still keep small or large book collections or even personal libraries. E-books are a relatively new thing, and at the estate sale of an elderly person’s belongings, you may find large collections of bound books and perhaps some first editions as well.

Tools: Snap-On organizers, power tools, shop-Vacs, hand tools, oh my! Many people keep tool collections in their garages so estate sales are places where you can easily pick up high-quality tools at a fraction of the price of retail.

Sports memorabilia: If you are an avid sports collector and/or have a keen eye for pieces (including baseball cards), estate sales are great places to find unique pieces to sell or add to your collection.

Vinyl: Many people hold onto their vinyl record collections for a long time and unique, mint or valuable records can turn up for a good deal at nearby estate sales.

Coins: If you have a keen eye for coins, there is a chance to find valuable coins in the collections at estate sales.

Stamps: Private collections and estate sales are known resources for finding rare and valuable stamps that might not be on the public market and make a perfect resource for a philatelist with a keen eye.

Most Valuable Estate Sale Finds (And Spotting a Good Deal)

If you’re looking at estate sales to buy things that you can hopefully turn a profit on, then you should make sure you do your research well ahead of time. If you are buying to make a profit on something, it’s even more important that you know how to spot a good deal at an estate sale. Finds like first-edition books and original artwork aren’t out of the question. Corningware has a cult-like following today, especially after the parent company filed for bankruptcy and people are clamoring for the pieces in circulation. Many vintage items are having a resurgence in popularity, and it always pays to sell something when it’s trendy. You can find high-quality vintage furniture that can be refinished, updated or sold as-is, depending on the condition and design.

a older couple sitting in a house with moving boxes holding money and a checklist

What Does Not Sell At Estate Sales

Certain things can be difficult to sell at estate sales. Items that aren’t popular in the current marketplace or items where there is a surplus of inventory and little demand.

Things like brown furniture, inexpensive clothing, athletic equipment, tchotchkes, and dated appliances are some things that typically don’t sell well at estate sales.

Estate Sale Tips for Good Deals

Early bird gets the worm: Give yourself the best opportunity to score the best items and arrive there early. At big sales or in areas with a lot of demand, even arriving an hour early will not guarantee that you’ll be the first person in line.

Go on the first and second days: Pick up the items you really want the first day, and go back the second day to see if any items you were on the fence about are still there; they’ll likely be marked down by 50%. If you want to know how to spot a good deal at an estate sale, it’s all about preparation and opportunity. No one has more opportunity than those first in line.

Build a rapport with the other shoppers: If you think you might be frequenting estate sales more often, you may be able to get tips from other shoppers about sales going on or where to find the things you’re specifically looking for in exchange for information they may find helpful too!

Do your research: Sites like are excellent resources for finding estate sales and taking a peek into what kind of items they may contain. Doing so will help you decide if the sale is worth your time or not. Keep in mind that not everything will be listed online, and whatever you see there, someone else can see, too, so the best way to make sure you don’t miss out on possible gems is to go in person to the sale. Sometimes, sales will be going on in multiple places at once, and making sure you’re at the right place is one way how to spot a good deal at an estate sale.

Bring boxes: It’s a good idea to have boxes handy to carry around small items as you are making your way through the sale.

Bring ample transportation: Make sure you can take the things you are buying home safely. If you are willing to buy furniture, bring a truck or van. If you’re looking at vinyl and card collections, a smaller car will probably do. If you might purchase a vehicle, bring a car trailer to the sale.

Stay in your budget: Know your price range ahead of time and do your best to stick to it. It’s easy to get emotional and be tempted to pay more than something is worth just because there is competition.

Bring cash: At most estate sales, cash is king and even if they allow credit card payments, there is usually a fee. So be sure to come armed with a stack of bills to score the best deals!

Finding A Great Estate Sale

Estate Pros has been holding estate sales for over 15 years in the Detroit metro area, and our sales are a remarkable resource for those looking to learn how to spot a good deal at an estate sale. Contact us today to find out how we can help you hold an estate sale or to find out more about our upcoming sales.

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