Do’s and Don’ts of Estate Sales


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All the best scavengers always mention estate sales as a good place to find secondhand treasures. And rightfully so, estate sales rank up there with flea markets as a source for unique vintage goods. We chatted with Dave Gindlesperger, owner of Curiosity in North Carolina for some insider tips on estate sales. With over 25 years of finding, renovating and selling vintage finds, this shop owner has some great advice on how to make the most of your next estate sale.



DO check out box lots for great small goods such as jewelry, clocks, and knickknacks. “Some of the best finds are in box lots, where you can find anything from mason jars to old vintage maps,” says Dave.

DON’T assume a room has been picked over. Take your time to inspect basements, attics, and haphazard piles. You may pick up a valuable find that others missed.



DON’T expect to be able to pay with anything but cash. Come prepared.

DO haggle, especially when purchasing several items. You’ll get the best bargains during the final hour on the last day of the estate sale.

DON’T expect a discount if you’re only buying one item. Professionally managed estate sales wait to reduce prices several days into a sale. Private organizers may entertain offers, but estate sale companies typically have a fixed percentage they’ll take off of the price tag that increases with each subsequent day of the sale.

DO be mindful of who’s pocketing the funds from the estate sale. For some estate sales, it is often a family who needs the money to pay off funeral expenses or past debts. Negotiating with a family member of the deceased can be somewhat insulting.



DO take notes during a preview. You’ll see a lot of items during an estate sale and the preview is a great chance to really take stock of items you can’t live without.

DON’T make hasty purchases. All sales are final and you can’t bring back an item if you’re feeling buyer’s remorse. It’s important to thoroughly inspect items for sale and know a little about the item’s history and worth.

DO inspect furniture before purchasing it. Be sure that all the drawers function properly and that the hardware is intact. The condition of the piece will impact your purchasing price and also how much work you’ll need to put into it when you get it home. This is especially important with vintage pieces because refinishing pieces in good condition with a good coat of paint is much easier without having to do all the repairs.

  • Definately don’t think everything has been picked though, you are so right. I’ve found amazing treasures even on the last day of a sale after 100s of people had been through a room. If you are looking for an estate sale we would love if you checked out our site: We are a community of estate sale enthusiasts, the more the merrier!

  • My mom has always been a huge garage/estate sale-r but whenever I go I never seem to find the same level of fabulous finds. This is super helpful and has given me the confidence to take on the estate sales again! Also, never thought to look at who is making the money!

  • Rachel Morrell

    Such a helpful article!! I’ve been to a few estate sales and did a few of the “donts” on this list…Oops!! Mainly making hasty purchases..but I do that basically everywhere I shop. I need to remember to thoroughly inspect the items I purchase, even from main stores because there has been countless times i’ve got items home and found damages to it and of course, some stores and obviously estate sales, you can’t return them! Thanks for the tip to be aware of whom is pocketing the expenses from the estate sale and what it will be used for. I know a lot of families have sales to pay off medical debt, so it would be useful knowing that before making a lower offer!

  • dak1b

    I love going to Estate Sales! You can find many unique items to either keep or resell. In fact I make extra money from attending garage sales every weekend. Its a fun hobby with worthwhile payoffs! You never know what you mind find.