Tips and Tales from a Bargain Shopper Part 2 – How to Find, Attend and Navigate Estate Sales

The following post was written by my fabulous, bargain shopping momma, Bonnie Ingebritson.  This is her second guest post on my blog.  You can find her last post here called Tales and Tips from A Bargain Hunter, Part 1.  Enjoy!!!!

So are YOU one who has wanted to check out estate sales but haven’t known how?

If so this blog entry is to answer the many questions of how to find, attend and navigate estate sales.  

Summers in Maine are the perfect escape from the heat in Florida. One of the fun activities my guy and I enjoy is convertible rides through the back roads of Maine finding new and interesting places soaking up the clean fresh air.   Estate sales often take us on these adventures.   In winter we attend estate sales in SW Florida.   The contrast of the two places is amazing.  Maine has more life long collectors and people living in the same home forever.  Naples is a coastal, resort, seasonal affluent community with a transient population coming from everywhere.  The extremes make sales even more interesting and the offerings totally different.

An online estate sale was recently held at a home in Florida on the first photo below while the sale in the many years vacant home in Maine follows.  Old places like these can be a goldmine for vintage and antiques.

Some estate sales are more fun than others…

I found a Picasso etching!

Lucky for me others overlooked the little drawing in a broken down frame and an old faded matt at a recent estate sale.  A quick glance I knew it was more than a print.  It was A Picasso Etching!  Wow!  Really?  $3.00?  Sure I’ll buy it!

Once home I removed the etching from the frame and found the documents of authenticity pasted on the back.

In art language this is a “signed in the plate” Picasso etching.  That means the value is in the hundreds but not millions had it been an original oil painting.  Still, a great find and I do love seeing it in the new ready-made frame, hanging in my home.

How to Navigate Estate Sales

Who goes to estate sales?

Dealers, neighbors, collectors, ebay sellers, curiosity seekers, and those conscious of repurposing household items, a notion that is having a major moment.  Recycling existing items leads to reduce waste and allows one to collect things with their own story at bargain prices.

My own favorite estate sale story (besides the Picasso story above) is when I bought a little pink jewelry carrying case for $1.00.  When I examined it at home I found two vintage 14 K gold rings and 3, 14 K charms.  These quickly sold on eBay for $350.   Hits like this are rare. There have been two other occasions where I have scored that big with vintage jewelry sales that I paid $5-8.

Over the years I have purchased fine antiques, vintage collectables, original paintings, art supplies, fixtures, kitchen items and everything in between.  We attend approximately 8-10 sales a year.  I sell on eBay intermittently and also recycle and donate things from my own home frequently to Habit for Humanity and other favorite Thrift Shops.


The most widely used sites are and  You may find auctions or online sales listings.  Once signed up you will receive email notifications of upcoming sales.

When you find a sale you might like to attend, click on the listing to browse through the photos to see if this is a sale you might like to check out.  There are usually many more items for sale than photos indicate.

How to Navigate Estate Sales

The listing will give the dates, time, and number of days of the sale.  The address is usually not posted until 24 hours before the sale.

Each company has slightly different conditions that are important to follow.  One company lists as follows.


*We do not do pre-sales, we do not release prices prior to the sale.

*We use a sign-up sheet.  All parties must sign in.

*No large bags or tote allows.

*Credit cards or cash preferred

*All items are sold as is and not returns.

Let me add…you may sometimes see estate sale listings on Craig’s list.  The family or a small group likely runs these.

This summer we got up early to attend one such sale that looked great from the write up.  The sale was due to start at 8 am. We arrived at 8:10 and were told by one of the sellers the dealers were there at 6 am and not much was left!  Allowing pre-sales is lacking fairness to all others.  I am still heated up when writing about it and the reason I prefer sales with firm guildelines.


How to Navigate Estate Sales
Expect to Stand in Line

If you are determined to buy something listed in the sale, you must be there early.   If you arrive 20-30 minutes before the posted start of the sale there is a good chance you will be on the list of the first 25.  Dealers are always early, first in line and first to purchase.   Some people arrive early, sign up and go have breakfast.  Their names remain top of the list.  This is perfectly acceptable.

Once you get into the sale take a quick look around and then head to the rooms the items you are interested might be located.  There will be a handful of staff to help and one on checkout.  Staff is there to answer questions but not to carry your goods or do any favors.  I bring a tote bag to carry the small items, when allowed.  If you want to purchase a number of items, make a pile and ask a staff member where you can put for safe keeping until you check out.

Most sales have prices on the all items.  The first day of the sale the prices remain firm.  If the sale is also scheduled for the following day you can pay up to 50% less that day.  Expect to stand in a long line to check out at the better sales.


Demos sales are hard to find but the most fun to attend.   A demo sale means everything in the home is for sale as the house will be gutted or torn down completely.   One can buy cabinetry, pavers, fixtures, lighting, windows, doors, fencing, closet solutions, everything!   The demo sales I’ve attended are in multi million dollar homes and as expected the highest of high quality.   These homes are already exquisite before the teardown.  If any come up in your area…go if just for the experience alone..  SIGH

At Demo sales buyers make silent bids on the items they want.  There are no guidelines and no way to find out what others have bid.  These sales last for 2-3 days and all you can do is wait to see if they call you days later to say you won.

The buyer must arrange to have all items uninstalled and removed.  If you win, you will need to remove any ceiling lighting, mirrors, bathroom vanities and fixtures, closets solutions, tear up the pavers or dig up the shrubs etc. and then transport them home on your own.  But think of the money you can save!  It could be well worth the effort.

I made a silent bid of $200 for a pair of these wonderful MINKA AIRE CEILING FANS

And WON!

In Florida we use ceiling fans in every room day and night all year long.  I think white is less obtrusive and blends in with the white ceiling.  These are way up there on the list of my favorites finds….

How to Navigate Estate Sales

I call this little nook (shown below) in my condo a “no cell phone zone”.   If guests become annoying with too much time on their devices, I move them into this area for conversation!  They often call it their favorite area! Duh. Life can be so simple.

Mirrored table cost $5.00

Original watercolor painting cost $10.00

Exquisite glass lamp cost $40.00

Ultrasuede tube swivel chairs are conversational and so comfortable   These cost a bloody fortune years ago, not from an estate sale, but I was able to purchase wholesale.

The ceilings in my condo are 15 ft high at the highest point.  The drum chandelier was from Uttermost Lighting and still in the box with a price tag of $850.   My cost $175.  Click here for a similar light being sold for $1095!

How to Navigate Estate Sales

Take a look at my PET leopard.  This is a RONZAN ceramiche from Italy.  My cost $5.00

How to Navigate Estate Sales

A darling original vintage metal flower pot holder.  $5.00.

How to Navigate Estate Sales

$10.00 bought this originial acrylic painting.

How to Navigate Estate Sales

A charming bronze sculpture $5.00

How to Navigate Estate Sales

And that my friends is just a start!  I hope you are feeling the fever and get out there and give it a try!

Do you ever attend Estate Sales?  Share your stories or favorite bargains by dropping me a comment.

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