If you love collecting or reselling antiques, one of the best ways to find unique pieces is to attend estate sales. Often, when someone passes away, they leave behind collections of older items that the family members don't always want -- and those items are sold, all at once, during the estate sale. But while antiques do abound at most estate sales, finding the best ones at the best prices is not quite as straightforward as you'd hope. Follow these tips to simplify the shopping and bring home the best finds!
1. Show up early.
You won't be the only antique hunter at the estate sale! If you wait until the sale has been open for a few hours before showing up, all of the good stuff will be gone. It's common for serious buyers to show up an hour or two before the sale's posted "start time." The seller may decide to let you in early, or they may make you wait. Either way, you can be one of the first to enter the home and look around, enabling you to jump on the best deals before others take them.
2. When in doubt, Google it.
If you come across something you think may be super valuable at a low price, always do a quick search for the item on your phone before you buy. You don't want to buy a dresser for $20 thinking it's worth $200, only to get it home and realize it's not the brand you though it was -- and is indeed only worth $20.
A good way to get an idea of the value of certain items is to search for them on online auction sites. You can see what similar items have sold for in the past, which should give you an idea of the value. If you cannot find any info on an item, but your instincts tell you it is valuable, go ahead and buy it -- as long as it's not expensive. Buying a $5 item on a whim is not a big deal. Buying a $400 one is!
3. Don't overlook the little things.
When most people think of antiques, they think about furniture. However, estate sales often offer many smaller antique items, like jewelry, silverware, and even clothing. Take a browse through these items to see what you find. Since others may not be patient to sort through drawers and boxes of tiny things, you might come across some truly unique, valuable pieces.
4. Bring a measuring tape.
This tip really only applies if you plan on buying larger items like furniture. You don't want to buy an item and get it home, only to find it won't fit in your front door. And furniture is notoriously difficult to size up by eye. Measure all of your doorways before you head to the sale, and bring those measurements with you. Always measure furniture and make sure it will fit before you purchase it.
5. Consider re-visiting at the end of the sale.
At the end of an estate sale, the sellers often mark everything down -- sometimes by as much as half! If there were some items you liked, but that you thought were overpriced, don't hesitate to swing back to the sale as it is ending. If the items happen to still be there, you may get them for a steal. Even if they are not marked down, the sellers may be willing to accept a lower offer since the sale is drawing to a close and their chances of finding another buyer are slim.
If you love antiques, you'll love estate sales. Follow the tips above, check out sites like http://www.crissy.com for even more info, and start shopping. You'll feel like a pro in no time.