You’ve scheduled the weekend to shop estate sales. So where do you begin? Start by checking out the Morning News classified sections for “Estate Sales” or “Arts and Antiques.”
If you are looking for a specific item and want to conserve time and energy, go straight to the Internet and log onto a global search engine such as www.dogpile.com or www.copernic.com. If the name of the person conducting the sale is listed in the newspaper ad, you may want to call to find out more about the sale inventory.
On the other hand, if you’re shopping at random, just get there early for the best selection. People have been known to spend the night in their cars in front of a house to be the first one through the door the next morning!
Lorrie Semler, an accredited member of the International Society of Appraisers and the American Society of Appraisers as well as a certified appraiser of personal property and an auctioneer, knows a thing or two about estate sales.
“Check the merchandise carefully; there are no refunds or exchanges,” Semler says. “Once you’ve made up your mind (on an item), don’t hesitate.”
In addition, Semler recommends:
n Walk through the house at least twice, because there are things you won’t see the first time.
n Bring a tape measure so you’ll know if that table or sofa will fit your space.
n If you see an item you want on the first day of the sale and are willing to take a chance it may not sell right away, make an offer — 20 percent less than the marked price, for example. Often on the second day, the conductor of a sale will mark down items and may be willing to call you first and accept your bid price.
n If you’re real gambler and can take disappointment in stride when “the big one gets away,” you may get lucky on the final day of a sale when most items are marked down 50 percent.
Semler says seasoned estate sale shoppers observe a certain etiquette:
n Don’t bring your kids (unless they’re over 30).
n Don’t carry an item around while you’re deciding whether or not to buy it.
n Don’t put an item down once you’ve paid for it.
Here’s another unofficial tip: It’s usually a good idea to leave your pets at home. They don’t know a genuine Louis XIV from a tree. To a pet, a nice piece of wood is only there for one purpose.
Frequent estate sale shopper and collector Gloria Gaspar also offers this caveat: “Some people who conduct estate sales bring in merchandise that is not part of the estate. Many of these items are overpriced, polished-up reproductions.
They are easy to spot, because the finish is too clean and new looking,” and often the items are strategically placed for maximum visibility.
Above all, estate sales can be an adventure. With an effective game plan and careful scrutiny, you may discover just the treasure you’ve been seeking.