Many garage sale enthusiasts can easily become intimidated by shopping at Estate Sales.  This fear is unfounded and, in fact, Estate Sales can be your best source at furnishing a house in high style for less, getting fabulous gifts for less, finding collectibles, antiquing, you name it!

I will give you my top tips to maximizing your Estate Sale experience so that you will feel comfortable and get the best deals and get in on the inside track for finding the best sales.

Let’s start by debunking some myths. First, an Estate Sale is not necessarily for someone that is deceased.  An Estate Sale can mean that, but it can also mean that someone is moving, downsizing, getting divorced, or liquidating their things for a variety of other reasons. Most Estate Sales are conducted by professional companies who are hired on a percentage of the take basis. The percentage can range, depending upon the value of the contents, anywhere from 25 per cent to 40 per cent of the total sales.  Therefore, the folks conducting the sale are highly motivated to sell everything, as they are generally left with the task at the end of disposing of all items which don’t sell, which is a much more expensive prospect for them than selling the items.

Another myth about Estate Sales is that the merchandise will be all antiques or collectibles. Quite the contrary. Most Estate Sales I’ve conducted or attended have had a wide range of everyday, contemporary items as well as perhaps some antique or collectible items as well.

Many Estate Sale companies will accept credit cards at their sales to encourage purchase of higher ticket items. Some may also bring their own inventories to supplement items in the house. Most Estate Sales that I have conducted or attended are indoor, and therefore not affected by weather.

Many people feel that they need to arrive early in order to get the best deals. I advocate the contrary. I like shopping at the end of the day on the last day of the sale, as they are practically giving everything away.  If you are a dealer or collector, you may want to get there early and take a number, but as a regular shopper there is no reason to do this as you will pay top dollar as an “early bird” and will have little negotiation power.  In addition, there are normally large crowds taking numbers to get in at the very beginning of an Estate Sale and why bump elbows and compete for items if you don’t have to?

The best place to find Estate Sales in your area is a site called EstateSales.Net.  Most professional companies are listed there. You can search for sales in your area and start attending.  Some of these sales will be advertised on your local papers and some won’t. Once you find companies whose merchandise you like, you can subscribe to their bulletins and receive advance notice of their sales.  You may even receive invitations to view and buy before the general public. Again, you may not receive pricing as good as later in the sale, but if you are looking for something specific, you will have a better shot at it.

Do not assume that Estate Sale professionals are experts in pricing. Many are not. In fact, much of the merchandise is quite often over priced, so you are completely free to counter offer and negotiate.  I rarely negotiate much at a garage sale, but regularly at an Estate Sale, as the sellers are trying to get top dollar, even if the merchandise is not worth the price they have tagged. Again, they are very motivated to sell and have no emotional attachment to the items, so negotiating is less stressful here than at a typical garage sale.

Estate Sale shopping can be very addicting, but also very rewarding. I furnished almost my entire house with Estate Sale finds, and no one would ever know it.  So, even in a bad economy, you can splurge on those high-end items and not feel the guilt.  Also, remember, Estate Sale shopping is very green, as you are recycling at its very best.

So, shop, recycle, have fun, make merry! Happy saling! You can find more information and tips about all things garage sale at my site or follow me on twitter@garagesaleava.