Navigating Estate Sales

Estate Sale Star Wars

Locks Estate SaleEvery weekend, people flock to estate sales throughout Brevard. Estate sales can be amazing treasure troves of unique finds, like small personalized museums, or they can be sterile buildings with a few useless items in otherwise empty rooms. What are some tricks for navigating estate sales, and finding the best deals? I’ll tell you!

First, you want to sign up for emails through You can personalize your updates, and it’s an extremely useful means of locating the estate sales that are perfect for you.

Most estate sales run Friday to Sunday, though some are Thursday through Sunday, some just Saturday and Sunday, and some Thursday through Saturday, so make sure to check the listed dates on the sales you’re interested in. Usually, but not always, items are priced as marked the first day, 25% off the second day, and half off the final day. If you want a really excellent deal, show up about an hour before close on the last day of the sale. There won’t be much left, but what is left will be extremely negotiable – often as much as 80 or 90% off the marked price (but you have to ask).

Estate Sale HandsGet to know the different estate sale companies; they’re all run very differently. Some tend to have excellent prices, some not so much. Some are more negotiable, some not so much. Some clean up the houses really well before the sales, and some just leave everything out – like, half-used boxes of baking soda and open tubes of toothpaste. So learn to be discriminating.

When you see sales listed on, look through the photos – they don’t always show everything in the house, but they often show enough that you can tell if a particular sale will have the sorts of things you’re looking for. What I often do is go through all the sales near me on a given day, look through the photos of the sales that interest me, and print out just the first page of the promising upcoming sales. That page has the address, dates, and times of the sale, as well as the agency running it. I enter the different addresses in this handy tool, which maps out the best route (this I learned after a few estate sale days where we literally zig-zagged across the county). I make a written list of things I actually am looking for, which helps cut down on random purchases.

Estate Sale RadiosNormally the sales are run by people who have a table set up near the home’s entrance (on the inside) to take payments, and if there is a garage, there’s often a second table set up there. Near the payment table is a holding table or three, so if you find something you want to purchase, but don’t want to lug it through the house, put it on the holding table (and let the estate sale people know you’re doing it, so they’ll watch it for you).

You can always try to negotiate, even on the first day, but be prepared for a flat no. My theory is, if I want something but just don’t want to pay the asked price, it doesn’t hurt to see if they’ll negotiate. Often negotiable things are either really large (so most people won’t want to move it) or things like clothing, which seem to sell poorly at estate sales. Again, though, Sunday before close pretty much everything is negotiable, so give it a shot.

Dolls Estate SaleAlso, and I suppose this is a given, but be respectful of the place and the items. Whether it’s a sale full of treasures, or just a few not-particularly-useful items, it’s a piece of someone’s life that you’re looking through. Sometimes estate sales occur because the homeowners died, and sometimes they are downsizing, but either way, the items in the sale represent their hobbies, their interests, and their aesthetic. One of my favorite things about the sales is the glimpse into other people’s worlds – were they in the military? … an avid boater or surfer? … an artist, or a collector of figurines? I’ve been in estate sales full of sculpture created by the home’s owner, full of art collected by someone who was, herself, an artist, and full of tools and hand-created furniture.

Ask the people running the sales about the stories. Sometimes you leave a sale with no items, but a great story. One house in Melbourne Beach had a huge (but empty) RV garage. It turned out the owner was a woman in her 90s, and her husband had died, and she’d always wanted to travel the country in the RV but he hadn’t. So when he died, she contacted the estate sale company and a real estate agent, told them to sell everything (and the house), and she took off in her huge Class A RV to see the U.S. What could have possibly come from that sale that was better than that story? (Though my son did pick up a pretty cool old sword, so …).

Happy Estate Sale-ing!