The Internet changed the estate sale business dramatically over the last 20 years, but I’ll argue it’s mostly for the better. Let’s look at how to find estate sales, but perhaps more importantly, how to find the right estate sales.
Where you look for estate sales in your area makes a difference. Estate sales are a great place to find bargains, but that doesn’t help you if you can’t find the sales first.
Remember newspapers? Twenty years ago, this was the only game in town. Online advertising took a big toll on classified ads, so newspapers aren’t the only place to look anymore. In some cities and towns, it’s possible you just don’t find estate sales at all in newspapers anymore. But that’s not always the case. A couple of the smaller, locally owned newspapers near me still have good classified ad sections, with good estate sale listings.
Newspaper ads are only a few lines long with no pictures, so that’s a disadvantage. But if it lists the kind of thing you look for, and it’s in the right area to find good stuff, go.
Here’s why this is important. Many estate sales get advertised in multiple venues. Occasionally a good one will only turn up in one venue. A good sale can become a great sale if not enough people know about it. That’s why it’s worth checking to see if your local papers still have a decent classified ad section. Finding a sale nobody else knows about may only happen once a year, but it may very well be your best sale that year.
Craigslist can be a mixed bag, and I find it better for yard sales or moving sales than estate sales, but that could easily be due to my locale. Checking Craigslist for sales is important, though, for the reason I outlined above. Craigslist is another venue some people overlook. And since Craigslist ads can have pictures, you’ll have a better idea what the sale offers.
Be sure to examine all the pictures. Sometimes the item you’ll be most interested in is barely in the frame. That’s probably my best estate sale tip, but I have a good dozen more tips if you’re interested.
The first and last word in how to find estate sales is estatesales.net, an online classified ad service specializing in estate sales. Most estate sale companies advertise here. The smart ones advertise elsewhere too, but if you want a one-stop shop, this is the one to pick. Estatesales.net lets you filter between estate liquidations, estate sales auctions, and even, in some cases, online auctions. The best listings here will have 100 or more pictures in addition to long text descriptions, so each sale won’t be much of a mystery. You’ll go in with a pretty good idea of what you’re going to find.
What to do with your listings
Here’s my biggest secret. When I put together a list of sales for the week, I note what venues they advertised in. If I find a promising sale that only advertised in the more obscure venues, I make a point to get to those sales fairly early. This practice has served me well over the decades. I’ve had sales net me three times as much as I expected, simply because the sale drew a smaller crowd and I was the only one there looking for those things.