Estate sales can be both a gold mine and a bargain hunter’s paradise — but you have to know what to look for. That being said, here are ten things you should buy at estate sales.
While there’s a good chance you won’t stumble upon artwork by a famous painter, you can still snag some pretty good-looking art at estate sales. Perhaps you can use it to cover that empty space just above the fireplace mantle. And, if you don’t like the painting inside the frame, you can always remove it and replace it with something more to your taste.
TIP: Sometimes the frame is more of a treasure than the painting itself. This is especially true when it comes to the ornate or antique-looking frames. They can be worth thousands of dollars!
Who doesn’t like a good China set? Whether it’s used to adorn your China cabinet or to add a touch of elegance to your next dinner party, China can be a nice addition to any home. Unfortunately, it can also be an expensive addition. That’s where estate sales come in. Some people have been lucky enough to snag fine China at deep discounts. And, if you don’t find a full set, that’s perfectly alright. You can always get creative with mismatched plates.
TIP: Check for chips, scratches and other imperfections before purchasing.
What’s a dinner party without elegant glassware to complement that China set you just snagged? As you make your way around the seller’s kitchen and/or dining room, take a peek at the available champagne flutes and cocktail glasses. You’re sure to find something to jazz up your next get-together — and, all for a fraction of what you’d normally pay.
TIP: Check out any available vases, too. You can fill them with flowers and use them as centerpieces for your dining room table.
Looking for more books to read or to spruce up your bookshelf or coffee table? You can get them for pennies on the dollar at estate sales. But, that’s not all. “Books are one of the biggest antique goldmines,” John Linden, lead designer at MirrorCoop, said in a Reader’s Digest article. The classics, for example, could be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. And, while you’re digging through that pile of old books, be sure to keep an eye out for first-edition books — especially those that have been autographed. They are very valuable.
An estate sale is an especially good place for first-time homebuyers or people on a budget to shop for furniture. You can find lots of solid-wood pieces that will go well with the decor in your home. And, if by chance you find something in a style that you love but in a color you’re not so crazy about, you can still purchase it anyway and paint it when you get it home.
-Avoid soft woods like pine because they’ll likely wobble or warp in a few years. Also, avoid frames made of metal, plastic or particleboard. These types of frames can also warp. They might crack, too.
-If you’re buying a couch, test it out first by sitting down on one side of the couch, near the arm. If it creaks, the frame is no good. Another way you can test it out is by lifting one front corner or leg of the couch at least six inches off the floor. The other front leg should rise, too. If it doesn’t, the frame is weak. For a solidly constructed couch, you’ll want joints that are connected by wooden dowels, double wooden dowels, mortise-and-tenon, tongue-in-groove construction, wooden corner blocks, or metal screws and brackets. Avoid buying a sofa with joints that are solely stapled, nailed or glued together. Lastly, test the springs by feeling for them through the upholstery. Lift the cushions and press down on the seat. The springs should be firm, close together, and evenly spaced. If the couch squeaks or makes some other strange noise when you sit down firmly on a corner or outer edge, the springs are likely incorrectly placed, or they’re hitting the frame.
–Sniff upholstered seating and bed treatments before you buy them. They may be soiled with all sorts of nasty things.
-Whatever you’re buying, make sure you choose something with a durable fabric, such as leather, wool, velvet, or mohair.
When it comes to snagging jewelry at an estate sale, it’s best to go with costume pieces. Those will be the ones with the biggest discounts, Kiplinger says. If you’re interested in fine jewelry, just know that it will be priced closer to market value. Also, there won’t be time for a professional appraisal, Judy Dutton, deputy editor of Realtor.com, told Kiplinger. That means that unless you’re an expert, you’ll have to take the seller’s word that the piece you’re eyeing is indeed real gold or diamonds.
4. Cleaning Supplies
Bet you never expected to see this listed as a hot buy. But, according to an article published by MSN, “many estate sales are wholesale liquidations of everything that’s in a home.” And, oddly enough, that includes the cleaning supplies. You can rack up on brooms, mops, buckets, squeegees, disinfectant, and more — sometimes at 95 percent below retail! Now, perhaps you’re thinking that you can get cleaning supplies for cheap at thrift stores, so why look for them at estate sales? Well, it’s true that people often donate these items to thrift stores. But, they usually don’t make it onto the shelves. I mean, when’s the last time you saw some Pine-Sol or Endust for sale at a thrift store? So, what do they do with those donated items then? They use them to clean the store, duh. LOL!
If you’re planning on attending an estate sale, ask if there are items for sale in the basement workshop or garage. If there are, you’ll likely find an abundance of vintage tools by Stanley, Craftsman, and Millers Falls — all for a fraction of what you’d pay for new tools. But, don’t let their age fool you. Those tools may be old, but they’re likely still in good working condition. In fact, “a lot of times you’ll find a better grade of tools [made from solid steel instead of a mixture of lesser quality metals] . . . for pennies compared to what they’d sell for today brand-new,” Martin Codina, founder of Fine Estate Sales, a San Francisco area-based estate sales firm, and the founding chair of the National Estate Sales Association, told Kiplinger.
2. Designer Clothing
If you love high-end fashion but don’t have high-end fashion money, you can score some good deals on designer clothing at estate sales. You can get these items for as much as 30 percent off retail price. If you’re looking for mid-tier brands like Coach, you may be able to get them for up to 50 percent off the original price.
BEWARE: Just like you need to be knowledgeable about jewelry when purchasing it at an estate sale, you also need to be knowledgeable about designer brands so you don’t get stuck with a knock-off.
1. Small Appliances
The saying “they just don’t make ’em anymore like they used to” is so true when it comes to appliances, among other things. What used to last for years now only lasts a few months at most. So, the next time your toaster goes on the fritz, shop for a new — or not so new — one at an estate sale. Chances are you’ll come across some vintage toaster, as well as other small appliances, that are of much higher quality than the stuff sold on shelves today.
What treasures have you stumbled upon at estate sales? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!