Estate sales are great because they let you find some really unique furniture at fair prices. (And, let’s face it, it’s super fun to dig through other people’s stuff.) But it can be easy to get discouraged when you look at an estate sale at first glance… Sometimes the amount of items is overwhelming, you’re disappointed by the prices, or you just have no idea what to do when you find items you like.
This week, I was able to meet with an estate sale specialist to get some advice for our readers. Rhonda Smart is a Relationship Manager with the innovative estate sale assistance company Everything But The House (EBTH), and she’s pretty much the expert on managing estate sales! Here are four tips I learned from talking with her:
1. If you’re looking for furniture to refurbish, estate sales may not be the best place to go digging.
Rhonda and I spent a lot of time just talking about how the estate sale industry has changed over the past couple of decades. “You can’t get the great deals you used to get,” Rhonda told me. That was really surprising for me to hear, because whenever I’m scrolling through Pinterest, I always see tons of cool made-over furniture pieces that were originally picked up from estate sales. The Before and After pictures always seem so drastic to me! But Rhonda told me that when she organizes an estate sale, “[The homeowners] aren’t selling fixer-upper stuff–they’re selling to the end buyer.”
2. Give yourself plenty of time when you show up at a sale.
When EBTH hosts an estate sale, there are often 300+ items to look at. That seems so overwhelming, especially when you first step through the door and see all of these objects set up in every room of the house. I asked Rhonda how an inexperienced estate sale shopper should try to shop through everything. “Really take your time, and don’t put a time limit on yourself,” she told me. When you first get there, “comb the area. There can be great deals, but you have to look through everything because the sellers put the most expensive stuff in places that will catch your eye.” She also gave me advice for shoppers who go to sales with a purpose. When you’re shopping around for certain pieces, “find the seller and ask if they have specific items.”
3. If you have a habit of impulse-buying, take a step back first.
Rhonda let me know that estate sales always attract people who are mainly looking to get a great deal, or who don’t have a specific agenda and like to impulse-purchase things that looks good at the time. I know that I definitely like to make impulse purchases whenever I see something cool and unique, so I asked Rhonda for some advice on how to get over that initial “gotta-have-it” feeling. She gave me a list of probing questions to ask myself when I see items like that: “Do I have a spot for this? Do I see this in my home? Why am I buying this–because I want it, or because I want to resell it? And if I want to resell it, does it have an audience?” Most importantly, she said that resellers need to remember that their time is worth something. She advised, “You have to put a value on your time. If you buy something to resell it, how much gas money does it cost, how much will the shipping be, how long will it take to find a buyer? Do you end up breaking even, or making a little bit of money on it?”
4. Online estate shopping might be your best option.
Not to sound like a commercial, but EBTH is so innovative because of its online estate sale options. Instead of trying to comb through items that are placed all over a property, you might want to try ordering from EBTH’s website. Rhonda explained exactly how the process works. “We catalog every single item with individual pictures, and it helps the buyer to not get overwhelmed. When I go through a sale online, I look at the number of [webpages] in each sale and divide [the pages] into groups. If a sale has twelve pages, I’ll sit down and look through the first six. Then at a later time, I’ll sit down and look through the next six.” She also has this advice for online shoppers: “We put the more valuable and expensive items on the first few pages, because we don’t want you to get overwhelmed sifting through lots of pages [for the highest-quality items].”
Hopefully these tips will help you when you make your purchase decisions this weekend! But remember, estate sales are always going to be fun, whether you’re able to find your new dream piece of furniture or not. Rhonda left me with this last note: “Estate sales will never completely go away, even though the methods of selling may change, because there will always be collectors and shoppers.” Amen to that!