How to Find & Shop Home Estate Sales

Some of my best furniture, decor, and home finds have come from estate sales. It’s also a hobby I’ve grown to love over the years. There are few things I enjoy more than perusing the contents of someone else’s home in hunt of designer pieces, interesting objects, or beautiful home decor. This post has been a long time coming, as I always get plenty of estate sale questions. Consider this your complete guide on how to find the best ones and shop home estate sales! Click through for everything I know…

How to Find & Shop Home Estate Sales -

If you’ve been reading for awhile, you already know I’m a fan of secondhand finds, vintage decor, thrifting, and I often shop Facebook Marketplace. Estate sales are really no different… they’re a great way to score designer home decor, vintage furniture, and antiques at affordable prices.

How to Find & Shop Home Estate Sales -

What Is An Estate Sale?

If you’ve never attended an estate sale… it’s exactly what it sounds like: a home or estate, in which mostly everything is for sale. Sometimes estate sales are held because someone has passed, other times a family is moving or downsizing, and in some instances- it’s simply to liquidate (maybe someone has multiple homes). They say estate sales are usually due to one of “the D’s”: death, divorce, debt, or downsizing. Sometimes attendees know the story, and other times it’s up to the imagination. Sometimes the home itself is for sale, occasionally pieces of the home are stripped and sold (think fixtures- lighting, plumbing fixtures, appliance, hardware, millwork, etc), and most often it’s solely the contents of the home (decor, clothing, cookware, etc) that is being sold.

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I honestly love the estate sale experience… they give you an intimate look into someone’s life- how they lived, what they liked, where they traveled, what they wore, how they decorated their home, etc. It’s an extremely personal look into someone’s private collection… and everything is for sale. A weird, but cool concept. While it may sound strange to some, I always look at estate sales like a museum tour. I often wonder if I’d be friends with the person who curated the collection. I take in the home architecture, admire the items, and wonder about the history of the home and its inhabitants. It’s an entertaining experience- and a most excellent way to source items for your own home on a budget!

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How to Find the Best Estate Sales

One of the most asked questions is how to find the really good estate sales? In thinking back to my experience reference- you’re most likely on the hunt for things that match your personal aesthetic, and craftsmanship or quality expectations. Find the homes that align with your personal preferences. Here are my best tips for finding the ones that are worthy of your time and money:

  • Follow local estate sale companies on social media– they always post details and previews. It’s also helpful to get on their mailing list for upcoming previews!
  • Search online– I prefer to use
  • Narrow your search by location and neighborhood. It’s always fun to go to higher-end estate sales in neighborhoods with aspirational homes.
  • Make sure the sale is worth your time– check the listing or preview to ensure the aesthetic aligns with your own.
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How to Shop at An Estate Sale

Estate sales are what you make of them. Generally, it works like this…

  • The Sale Is Announced
  • Hours and Location are Given
  • You Show Up To Shop During the Posted Time
  • You Follow the Estate Sale Rules
  • Grab What You’re Interested In
  • Check Out & Pay
  • Load Up & Transport
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It’s honestly a simple process or concept… no bidding required (like an auction). I did receive a lot of questions pertaining to timing, prep, and sale tags, so I’m answering those below…

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What is the best day to shop?

I always shop on the first day to get first dibs, but the last day of the sale is actually the best day for bargain shopping. Sales are usually held over weekends- beginning on Thursday or Friday, so I like to beat the weekend or work (nine to fivers) crowd.

What time should you arrive?

I always arrive early to get a decent spot in line. It really depends on if you’re showing up for something specific, or you just want to browse. You can attend anytime during the listed window. In my experience, people begin lining up 30 minutes to an hour before. Grab a coffee, be prepared to scroll your phone, and dress accordingly- as you’ll be waiting outside until the door opens.

Do you prep for a sale?

Absolutely! I look at the preview photos in advance (zooming in to study them), I plan what I’m interested in purchasing or want a closer look at, and map out the floor plan or home layout the best I can, so it’s easier to navigate.

How long do estate sales last?

2 or 3 days. The really good items usually are sold on day one. Bargains and markdowns typically take place on the last day of the sale.

Do you visit the same estate sale more than once?

You can… if something is out of my budget, I’ll go back on the last day of the sale to see if that item is still there and I can try to negotiate a better price. I’ll also return if the sale is better than expected and I find more than what I can fit in my car. You can always check out and return to pick up your larger purchased items. I’ve had to do that in the past… bring Emmett along for help loading, returning with our truck.

How do you mark an item sold?

This is dependent on company rules… but typically, it’s grab and go! Anything you want to buy, goes into your tote bag (I carry three Tuesday Made tote bags), then you’ll empty them at the checkout. For larger items- you can pull or mark the sold tag, then upon checking out, hand over the tag to purchase. You can also find a staff member to verify. Every company does it a little different, so be sure to ask in advance!

Are prices announced in the listing?

Not usually. Larger items that are being sold prior to the sale are often listed alongside their price… think vehicles, Rolex watches or high-end jewelry, well known artwork, etc. Otherwise, you show up on the day of the sale, and everything inside will be marked.

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What to Bring to An Estate Sale

Here are some things I always bring with me to estate sales…

  • A Tape Measure (for making sure things will fit)
  • Tote Bags (the easiest way to grab things in the house)
  • Moving Blankets or Furniture Pads (for transport- I keep them my car)
  • A Trusted Friend (mine estate sale bestie is Jordan… I know what she wants & likes and she knows the same for me, so we divide & conquer- plus, it’s more fun with friends!)
  • Accepted Form of Payment (credit card, cash, Venmo, etc)
  • Easy Shoes (a pair that easily slides on & off, if no shoes are allowed inside)
  • An Appropriate Outfit (something you’re comfortable waiting outside in- check the weather… and something semi-fitted that won’t knock things in tight areas inside the house)
  • An Appropriate Vehicle (SUV, rented moving truck, etc… depending on what you plan to purchase)
  • A Tolerant Attitude (ha, only slightly kidding)
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How to Negotiate at Estate Sales

Depending on the company and popularity of an estate sale, negotiations and deal making typically only happens on the last day or two of a sale. If you’re an early bird, you can try bundling items for a discount, but usually- they’re priced as marked. If you find a bad flaw, it’s always worth asking if you can get it for a lower price.

How do you determine if you’re getting a good deal, in the first place? Take note of the brand, material, quality, craftsmanship, age, and if the item is unique. You can also pull out your phone to do quick search, but I honestly find that difficult during a busy and bustling sale. Things move quick!

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Estate Sale Etiquette

Believe it or not- there is an unwritten estate sale etiquette code that should be respected. Believe me- you do not want to be THAT person.

  • Familiarize Yourself With the Estate Sale Company Rules – follow posted signs, remove shoes if asked, form a line in the appropriate place, no food or drinks, no smoking, no running, no using your own tags, etc.
  • Be Kind & Courteous to Other Estate Sale Shoppers – be reasonable, civil, and kind. A simple, “excuse me” goes a long way in tight spaces.
  • Respect the Home – treat it as you’d like your own home to be treated and avoid speaking negatively about the home or its contents, as friends or loved ones could be in attendance… which is an emotional process.
  • Understand How to Mark An Item As Sold – so you know what has already been spoken for and can quickly mark things for yourself.
  • Ask When Exiting the Line – if you see something while waiting in line, turn to the person behind you, and ask if you can quickly step out to check something.
  • Don’t Hold Places in Line – similarly, it’s frowned upon to hold places in line for multiple people. If your friends are attending, wait in line together (rather than one in line and four in the car).
  • Don’t Shop from a Pile or Hold Table – people will often create piles or hold areas near the check out. Those items have clearly been spoken for, so you shouldn’t pull items from those areas.
  • Pay Attention to Where You’re Walking – oftentimes older homes can be uneven, have steep stairs without proper railing, or slick surfaces. Be careful moving about.
  • Avoid Bringing Backpacks & Carts – unlike a flea market, backpacks, carts, and strollers are not allowed inside estate sales. Companies prefer you use totes or bags that can be looked into.
  • Leave The Kids at Home – I rarely see kids at estate sales, and when I do- they’re extremely well behaved (like they’ve been prepped or this isn’t their first time tagging along). Most sales have a no stroller policy and some even have a no small children in attendance rule. Just keep in mind, valuables & breakables are everywhere, and estate sales can be a difficult & crowded obstacle course for even adults to navigate.
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Things I Always Hunt for at Estate Sales

If you’re wondering what I’m usually shopping for, here’s a list of my personal favorite things to keep an eye out for…

  • Original artwork
  • High-end or designer furniture
  • Marble
  • Cookware
  • Serveware
  • Glassware
  • Lighting
  • Interesting books
  • Textiles- like blankets or custom drapery
  • Mirrors
  • Jewelry
  • Vintage and designer clothing
  • Designer Fixtures
  • Planters
  • Seasonal Decor
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Always look for tags, material specifications, “made in” stickers, etc. It’s also smart to double check corners, drawers, item functionality, and plug-in fixtures to ensure they work. Sales are final, so be sure something is as expected.


Your favorite thing you’ve purchased from an estate sale?

This is a tough one because I’ve found so many cool things over the years. Most recently, I love my oversized woven lamp. I can’t wait to style this fixture! It is pictured above.

How do you clean the items you purchase from estate sales?

This totally depends on the item. I always toss clothing or textiles into the laundry or drop them at the dry cleaner. Some items simply need dusted or wiped. Take note of the material and clean things accordingly (leather, linen, glass, marble, etc).

Any tips on how to ask for a lower price?

My best tip is to attend on the last day of the sale- that’s when the deals are made and prices are slashed. You can also try bundling items for a lower price. Kindness also works to your advantage… estate sales can be intense and stressful, so be sure to lead with kindness and compassion. I promise, it will come back tenfold in the form of karma (hello good finds!) and lower prices from appreciative staff members!

What’s a best kept estate sale secret or hot tip?

Follow the pros- you can quickly tell what kind of estate sale you’re headed into based on the line. I know I’m in for a treat if I see the older, experienced antiquers in line next to me. Similarly, for the sales with tons of good clothing, I follow the people with the best fashion. Seriously! They know what they’re looking for. Make friends in line! I’ve become pals with a few book collectors I met in line (they’re always near the front with me) and I’ve learned so much from them.

One more hot tip… leave a written offer or grab the phone number of an employee or staff member. If you’re not willing to pay for something on the first day of the sale, leave your price for the last day or get in touch to see if something is still available.

Have you ever witnessed an estate sale argument?

I have! Arguments usually occur because two people want the same thing and it’s a matter of “who had it first”… for larger items, who pulled the tag or notified the staff first (usually it’s a protocol mixup), and for smaller items- I’ve seen people physically pulling something back and forth (crazy, right?). This actually happened to me once… I had my eye on a French iron patio set (image below for the one that got away). I pulled the tags from all four chairs, took them to the front, and notified a staff member I intended to buy the set. I forgot to pull the tag from the table, and a couple grabbed the tag and argued they were purchasing the set because they had the table tag. It quickly became clear they weren’t willing to reason and as things got heated, I bowed out. In my mind, it’s not worth arguing or making a scene. Something better will come along. Most people are friendly and reasonable, but occasionally things get ruthless. How to Find & Shop Home Estate Sales -

Does Emmett like estate sale shopping with you?

Absolutely not! I’ll quote him, “Estate sales are my own personal kind of hell.” He really did say that to me once, ha. I take forever to browse, he has little tolerance for confrontation or rude interactions, and does not enjoy crowded areas or waiting in line. My preferred estate sale buddy is Jordan. She and I have the best time, know each other’s style really well, and make a fun day of it. We also help each other decide what’s worthy of our time or money. We’re an efficient and productive team. We usually go for lunch after a sale to celebrate our finds! Emmett is an asset for helping us carry heavy things and tetris-load the car, though… I will say that.

A must-do for every estate sale?

A final walk around the house before heading to check out. I always find at least one more awesome thing during that last walk about. It’s easy to miss really good stuff, so make a couple rounds.

How to Find & Shop Home Estate Sales -

I hope this post helps give you a confidence boost when attending your next (or first) estate sale! They’re really a wonderful and unique way to shop for home and interior items. While it may be morbid, I always tell Emmett- someday when it’s my time, I can only hope to have an epic estate sale that brings many people joy, and my treasures are styled into homes that will appreciate them. He says he’d like people to admire the craftsmanship of whatever home we last land in, as they wander our estate sale someday. Is it weird that we talk about this? Haha! Probably. Leave your questions for me below!

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  1. Good morning! Happy November! Mercy. If all of these photos are indicative of estate sales near you, we definitely shop in different circles! I think I have been to four actual estate sales, and none contained many high-end or antique pieces. Treasures can still be found, but they are more rare. In our rural area, most sales are either posted on Facebook Marketplace or just regular yard-sale signs, so searching images may not be an option. Bigger sales tend to be an hour away in Boise, so I honestly don’t just pop over. I did this the other day because I’m on a mad hunt for Thanksgiving. I was at the sale for about 7 minutes. Whomp, whomp. How far would you typically drive for a sale? I think I’ve learned personally that the last day of the sale is my preference. I know I will miss out on items, but I cannot tolerate the idea that it *might* be available for 75% off in two days! Ha. My Tuesday Made tote is perfect though! Such a great roomy size. I also have a favorite thrifting buddy for these adventures; we’ve been shopping together for more than a decade and are an excellent team. Thankfully, we’ve never experienced any arguing over an item, although I did hear what I considered an embarrassingly rude negotiation. Unpleasant. I will say that I echo your thoughts on the personal nature of these events. I love imagining the (tiny) chic woman who wore a bespoke, flared leg tuxedo! (I almost bought it just for the jacket!) I’d like to attend more sales, so I need to sign up for emails from one of the sites. I never thought to follow on social media though. Headsmack. Given the usual reason for these sales, there’s probably not a “season” right? I feel like you can hit them often…my area just isn’t populated enough. I’ll just have to keep my eyes peeled and my tote in the car! Thanks for such a comprehensive post! Cheers to a new month!💜

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      I’ll admit- I’ve become a bit of an estate sale snob… I only go to the really good ones, these days. I usually drive to Park City for sales (an hour or so). Bummer to hear about the last sale you attended- I was hoping you’d come outta there with handfuls of Thanksgiving goods. Estate sales are always more fun with a bestie who gets it! It really is a personal experience to wander the halls of someone’s home and see all the things they’ve collected. I’ve ran into some sad family members in the past and it’s always kind of heartbreaking. I do feel like we have a “season” for sales here- simply because of snow. They’ll hold off during the winter months because the higher-end home are always higher in the mountains and buried under snow (which nobody wants to wade through or wait in line in). xo

  2. Happy 1st of November! This post is jammed full of useful tips and tricks. I love estate sales, and have attended a few in my area here and there. None have been fantastic for finds, but it was good practice. Out here almost every city has their own free newspaper- most of them are called “Green Sheets” and can be found in stands at the market. Our city delivers to every home on trash day. That’s typically how I find yard sales and estate sales, but I love your tip about narrowing your search by neighborhood. Considering we have several districts of older homes, I may need to search this way. Such a smart tip! Jeff loves estate sales; he’s always looking for tools, but he’s proven to be a fantastic partner for this type of shopping. Thank you for your etiquette tips- sometimes the unspoken rules are more important to know. I hope I can find the time next year to proliferate myself on estate sales in my area, and maybe even score an awesome piece or two. Thank you for sharing this post Sarah! I hope you have a fantastic day!

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Happy November, Lauren! Did you have a good birthday? I sure hope so! Green Sheets sound super helpful. I wish we had something like that here. I love that Jeff loves estate sales and goes with you. I wish Emmett were more into it. I think he likes the searching aspect… just not the social aspect.

  3. I have to say I never caught the thrifting bug and I guess it wouldn’t be a surprise I’ve never attended an estate sale. I’m an Emmett I think, it would be a nightmare experience for me. The lines, any possible confrontation 🤯 However, I developed a nasty habit of pulling things out of peoples trash 🫣 Usually small pieces of furniture such as an end table that I could refresh with a coat of paint. One time a sofa 😬 Honestly people through away really good stuff. I had to resist two incredible finds in the trash over the past two weeks as Andrew is not a fan of this 😬 and it usually requires his assistance. And it also requires a place to store which currently is in short supply. I currently have a dining set and coffee table that needs refurbishing in our one car garage 😉 That being said you’ve provided some valuable tips for those that enjoy this type of shopping. And validated I’m not estate shopping material. Ha!
    I’m glad to hear Cash is improving, sounds like he’s getting incredible care so I’m sure he will be back to his healthy self soon 💖 Have a super day Sarah! Xo

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Ha! You and Emmett can join us for lunch post estate sale. I’m right there with you pulling cool things from dumpsters. I especially love rummaging around at Emmett’s work. You wouldn’t believe the millwork they recycle or toss. What is the saying- one person’s trash is another’s treasure? It’s true! Your list of furniture projects sounds longer than mine, lol! Thanks for your sweet words about Cash. I’ve been having a rough health month, myself, so I’m glad he’s at least starting to feel better! xo

  4. No questions. Just intense jealousy over that woven lamp! Gorgeous!

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Thank you, Dawn! I’m super excited to style that one… hopefully soon, once our entryway is finished :) Happy Friday!

  5. Wow. I love everything about this post! I’ve only been to one estate sale, having tagged along with my college roommate at the time. I didn’t even know what to look for and your post is so helpful in spelling out what gems can be hiding in plain sight! Thanks!

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Thank you so much, Isabel! I’m so glad to hear this post was helpful. Have a great weekend!

  6. Enjoyed this post! Some questions – are estate sales generally cash only or credit card too? How long do you typically get to pick up large items? How do you find the prices generally compare to thrift stores? Do you know or get the feeling there are preview sales where resellers get the first crack at the items? Thanks!

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Glad to hear that, Theresa! Typically they accept cash and credit cards, but they’ll post the form of payment with the sale listing… so you can always check in advance. Often times, they’ll ask you to pick up large items by the end of the day of purchasing. Pricing totally depends on the company, the sale itself (higher end, lower end, etc), and the day of the sale. If you go on the first day, prices are as marked. They’ll make deals on the last day. Most of the sales I attend are priced a bit higher than thrift stores, but things are worth the cost (designer items, higher end, antique, etc). Preview sales are dependent on the company as well. I’ve never attended a preview sale and don’t get the feeling that the ones I attend hold previews. Hope that helps!!