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Shopping Estate Sales
Shopping estate sales can be fun and profitable. You can find bargains, and you also can find just the piece of furniture or accessory you need to complete a room or an ensemble. The key to success with estate shopping is to know how to go about it.
First, understand how an estate sale operates. Although an estate sale can be held when someone is breaking up a house for a reason such as retirement, most are held, as the name suggests, to settle an estate after someone has died. When the heirs have taken what they want, they often engage a firm to sell the rest. Many estate sales are held in the deceased’s home, with the furniture and other items displayed in the rooms.
Estate sales draw serious collectors – and resellers – of antiques and collectibles, but they also attract people who are looking for furniture or other household items for less than they would spend for them new, and people who are just looking for something unusual or funky to decorate their house, their table or themselves.
Estate sales are set up so that people can take their time browsing. In fact, the more popular sales limit the number of people in the house at any given time by handing out numbers to people as they arrive. Some people have been known to spend the night in their car so that they get one of the coveted early numbers.
Usually the prices are marked on the items and, unlike in some other venues, the prices are firm – at least at the start. You often can get a price reduction during the final hours of the sale, although you also will be shopping through the least-desirable items. Be prepared to pay cash; some sales won’t take a check or credit card. Also, be prepared to haul your items home, although sometimes you can arrange delivery of furniture and other large items for an additional fee.
If you think you want to try bargain- or treasure-hunting at an estate sale, the first step is to find one. There is a national website, www.estatesales.net , that lists estate sales by state. There are other sites as well, and estate sales often are advertised in the classified section of the newspaper.
Usually you can see photos or at least a listing of the most popular or valuable items, so you can check if you are looking for antique beer signs, early American furniture or a specific silver pattern, for example, And of course you can simply wander around and see if anything catches your fancy.
Like most auctions or antiques sales, estate sales are definitely buyer beware. If you are interested in an item, check it out thoroughly before you buy it. Sit in the chair, turn on the vacuum cleaner, count the silver. If you are a collector, make sure you know how to separate the real from the fake and that you have a good sense of what you should have to spend on a particular item.
Most of all, though, enjoy. Even if you don’t find what you came for, you might find something even better.