My Approach to Estate Sale Shopping

I’ve had a few questions about estate sale shopping so I thought I would share a bit about the method to my madness.


Where to Find Sales

It all starts with a site called EstateSales.net.

EstateSales.net lists sales by location and you can sign up to receive email notices for any sales starting in your area on the next day. Some days there are a bunch, some days a couple, and some days none. At least that’s the case in KC.


The best thing about this site is that there are usually pictures along with the sale info, and clicking through the pictures will give you a feel for what kind of sale it is. Individual estate sale companies sometimes have their own sites with pictures, but most of them will put their sales on EstateSales.net so it’s one stop shopping.

Framed fountain print

I skip way more sales than I go to, either because the day or time doesn’t work, the location is inconvenient or the pictures just aren’t doing it for me. Getting the EstateSales.net emails lets me pick and choose so I don’t find myself driving all over town, burning time and gas for little reward.

When to Go

I’ve found the two best times to go to a sale are the first day at opening (because of the big selection) and the last day at opening (because many sales are 50% off on the last day).

polished estate sale silverplate

Sometimes if I’m at a sale on the first day and I see several things I’m interested in but the price is too high, I’ll make plans to go back on the last day to see if they’re still there. I only do that if they sale is fairly close to home and the savings would make it worth it.

hemstitch runners and napkins

What to Buy

Simply speaking, I buy what I like.

And while I do like vintage and antique things, I don’t have enough knowledge to buy them as an investment. That wouldn’t be fun for me anyway; I like buying things to add something unique or with character to my home.

vintage dairy jars with flowers and spoons

And I’ve learned to be pretty picky too. Because here’s the deal: there’s lot of cool stuff at sales. And a lot of pretty stuff. And a lot of junk (although that’s not tempting so you don’t have to worry about it.)

What you do have to worry about is bringing home everything that catches your eye or reminds you of your childhood or isn’t quite right but is at such a good price that you feel you can’t pass it up. Because soon enough – even if you just go to the occasional sale – your home will resemble an episode of hoarders.

Stainless iced tea spoons and salad serving pieces

Over time I’ve come to know the difference between that’s pretty or that’s interesting and I LOVE THAT. But it’s been (and to some extent continues to be) a process of trial and error.

I’ve brought home some things that ended up not being a good fit for our home or our life. When that happens I try to pass that item along quickly, either by giving it away or donating it or re-selling it because: see home looking like an episode of hoarders above.

Silver Candle Snuffer

In general, here the kinds of things I’m looking for now:

vintage county fair trophy

  • Interesting artwork (love sketches and oil paintings)
  • Books (all books really, but I can’t pass up a pretty coffee table book on a subject I’m interested in)

hemstitch runners and napkins

  • Linens (napkins, tea towels, table runners, anything hemstitch)
  • Anything architectural looking

Silver Polishing Shortcut

  • Clear glass
  • Baskets

vintage bergere chair reupholstered in buffalo check fabric

  • Picture frames
  • Furniture (I’m especially on the lookout for dressers and chests right now)

While I’m looking for my go-to items, I sometimes run across other unique items that I can’t leave behind.

oil painting

And I also have a mental list of the ones that got away – the things I regretted leaving behind.

That list includes a brass reading lamp and a wooden chandelier that was hanging from the porch of an older home. But that’s all part of the hunt, and the hunt is what’s fun about shopping this way.

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  1. Julie,
    Thank you for the helpful hints and tips of Estate Sale shoppping.
    I have only been to a few, but this is something I would like to persue.
    Your “finds” during “The Hunt” are gorgeous, dear one!!!

    1. Thank you, Pat. Hope you’re out on the hunt soon!

  2. My husband and I were just saying that we should go to more estate sales! Thanks for the link and tips. We are also in the Kansas City area!

    1. Maybe I’ll run into you at one, Kelly. 🙂

  3. Kim Jones says:

    Thank you for this post!

    1. You’re welcome, Kim.

  4. I use EstateSales.net also, it’s very helpful. It looks like we seek out the same kind of things at estate sales, good thing we are in different states or we’d have to arm wrestle!

    1. Absolutely, Karee. To the death. 😉

  5. Great finds, Julie! Love that Johnson County Fair trophy cup. Thanks for the tips!

  6. Very nice and well said. I love love going to estate sales. Love the vintage items.
    After many sales and many auctions I am interested in starting my own estate sale business. Any information on what to charge? Or what would be helpful to know right off the bat.

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