Thursday, November 21st, 2019

Estate Sales: It’s Not Quite Grave Robbing

Published on March 24, 2009 by   ·   10 Comments Pin It

For all you boys and girls out there on a budget (isn’t that pretty much everyone these days?), estate sales are going to be your new weekend obsession.   Thanks to Guest Blogger Ali Berman, you now have the perfect 101 guide below.

Every weekend on Fridays, Saturdays and sometimes Sundays, homes of the recently deceased open up to the public for a blow out sale. Sound kind of morbid? Well, you’ll get over that when you see some of the beautiful estates that are up for grabs.

*Note: Estate sales are not tag sales. Tag sales sell the stuff you’ve had in your garage for 10 years and can’t stomach looking at anymore. Estate sales sell the items from a deceased person’s home (or sometimes a person who is moving) – items they most likely loved and collected over a lifetime.

How it works: Family members take what they want from the former owners home and then they hire a service to come in and price, tag and sell the rest. So you’ll see furniture, art, rugs, dishes, jewelry, knick-knacks, clothes, purses and countless other items. Depending on the house and the former owners taste, you’ll find everything from beautiful antiques to IKEA. How do you know what you’re going to find? Well, a lot of it is just going and checking it out for yourself, but often times the classified ad will give you a taste of what to expect. If there are lots of great antiques, the ad will mention that. Likewise for contemporary pieces. Lots of times dealers come in early and buy up all the stuff they want to sell in their shops. They get it at the low price and then jack it up for all us unsuspecting shoppers.

How to find them: In the classified section of your local paper, you’ll see adverts for estate sales. I happen to live in Westchester, NY so I check out the Journal News online. If you live in an affluent area, the estate sales are REALLY good because, well, rich people die too.

Etiquette: Haggling is expected at these types of events. If they don’t accept an offer you can always leave a bid and the people working the estate sale will let you know if you are the highest bidder. Although if you really want something I recommend making an offer right then and there and hashing out the final price.

Payment and picking up: Bring at least enough cash for a down payment – one or two hundred bucks should do the trick. These people deal in cash. If you find something you like, that’s when you head to the bank to get the rest. They may not hold an item if you have no money to put down which means you may lose the item while you’re scrambling to get cash. Also, know that if you buy a large item, you’ll have to get movers to come and get it. Most times the people working the sale will be able to recommend a good moving company. But you might want to do your own research on prices beforehand.

Eco friendly goodness: Estate sales are as green as green gets. You’re buying used items and moving them from one home to another. So you become a recycling queen/king. Estate sales embody the two things I love best when shopping: being eco friendly and getting a great deal. I can’t ask for more than that.

A sneaky tip: You can’t always judge the contents of a house by it’s size, but checking out the size of the house on google maps can be an indicator of what you’re in for. However, just as many times I’ve gone to a smaller house with kick a$$ items. You can also go to to see approximately how much the house is worth. Does this make me sound like a total snob? Probably, but you’ll thank me…

Have any great estate sale buys you’d like to share? Leave a comment below:

Ali Berman is a writer/teacher/activist. She works as a humane educator for HEART ( teaching kids about issues affecting people, animals and the environment.

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Readers Comments (10)

  1. themessenger says:

    This is great, I always wanted to go to an estate sale, thanks for the info!!

  2. I’m so excited about this! I was just saying the other day that I wish I knew where to find estate sales in NYC. Great info and awesome tips! thanks!!

  3. Chrissie Eden Vazquez says:

    Ali–you + me and my mom = scary. Let’s shop together. xoxox

  4. Ali says:


    As long as my mom can come too:) We’d be unstoppable…


  5. Navina says:

    great tip chloe jo, thanks for the heads up!

  6. Litethivy says:

    brill site this brill to see you have what I am actually looking for here and this this post is exactly what I am interested in. I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor :)

  7. meghan says:

    We have tons of fake estate sales or living estate sales. Sort of a bummer when someone is really have a yard sale and it’s listed as an estate sale.

  8. ASB says:

    If you’re looking for estate sales in your city just google that ( estate sales + “city”). You’ll see the local companies and their sales. Even better is some will actually show previews to see what that estate sale has available.

    You might be pleasantly surprised by what the most unassuming homes contain. They can even have more content value and worth than the others sometimes, so don’t write those off (the dealers don’t). These old humble estate sales can contain high-end treasures too!

  9. […] Estate Sales: It’s Not Quite Grave Robbing […]

  10. […] out on the side of the road for discards. You save tons of cash and get a beautiful eclectic home. Check out this blog I wrote for the Girlie Girl Army on the beauty of estate […]

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