Estate Sale Insider Secrets: How To Get Great Deals While Having a Blast

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Heather Keeling)

Anastassia Nelson loves going to estate sales. “You find all kinds of unique pieces that make the imagination run wild,” writes Ana, “Every sale is different because the former owners are all so different.” It’s her love of poring over vintage accessories, thumbing through old books and exploring older homes (that have sometimes been lived in for 50-70 years) that has allowed her to fill her house with a beautiful array of furnishings that reflect her personality and hold a lot of charming history.

“I absolutely adore estate sales. On weekends, I’m nearly jumping out of bed to get ready for a day of urban exploring. I am completely fascinated by learning about the homes I enter and people’s lives who shaped them. This is as much of a hobby as it is a thrifty and sustainable means of finding home décor and curiosities,” writes Ana. Below, she spills her best estate sale insider secrets to getting great deals and having a blast.

(Image credit: Heather Keeling)

How do you find out about estate sales happening?

I have three sources I typically go through. One is checking out the local paper’s classifieds section, this can be done online as well. Estate sales are largely attended by an older generation—so where would they find out about sales? A good old newspaper.

I also sort through This is an excellent resource with brief descriptions and photos (!) to do some pre-scouting for goodies. Lastly, you should sign up for the newsletters by your favorite sale companies; they will let you know when they have something special coming up. Most sales are now listed online with plenty of photos to gauge the house style.

(Image credit: Heather Keeling)

Is there a best time to go?

This really depends on what you’re after and how competitive you feel. Here is the breakdown of a typical Saturday-Sunday sale:

Saturday morning is for serious competitors and collectors. If the sales starts at 9am, be there by 8am to collect a number. Number holders are let into the home first. If there’s an item you saw online and have to have it—go early! Saturdays are wild. They are packed, there are more lines, it can be competitive, and there is no haggling. But you have the best pickings.

Sunday is the casual day, and, mark-down day! Items over $20 have new lower prices, and items under $20 are typically half off! If larger ticket items are still available, you can leave a bid sheet with your contact info. You might be surprised how cheap you can acquire a wool rug or antique cabinet.

“You want an all-terrain exploring outfit that you can walk through grass and dig around in dark basements in!”

(Image credit: Heather Keeling)

Describe your estate sale attack plan: What do you wear, what do you bring? Do you start in any particular room first?

I attend estate sales in a casual and comfortable wrap skirt and flat boots. You want an all-terrain exploring outfit that you can walk through grass and dig around in dark basements in!

I love textiles, so I always book it to the bedrooms first. Then in no particular order I stroll the rest of the property. I always walk through a house at least twice because you never know what you missed the first go around.

You also see many shoppers with open baskets and totes for collecting smaller items like books.

“Things are only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it.”

(Image credit: Heather Keeling)

What are the things you totally avoid buying from estate sales?

Not all sales have great pricing. Some sales are just way too expensive, and it’s okay to not buy. If you’re curious about pricing, pull out your smartphone and do some quick research on sites like eBay. Things are only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it.

If you could attend the estate sale of any person, alive or dearly departed, who would it be and why?

In real life, I adore the homes of artists! They are fantastically strange and have wonderful taste in clothing, furniture and knickknacks. In a dream world, eccentric people like former 1960s rock & roll groupies! I’m picturing fringe shawls and peacock chairs everywhere!

(Image credit: Heather Keeling)

Thanks Ana!

See all of her beautiful home in her house tour → A Vintage Lover’s First Home