4 Expert Tips for Finding the Best Items at Any Estate Sale

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Going to an estate sale can be overwhelming — especially if it is your first one. Between being in an unfamiliar location surrounded by countless objects and trying to get to the coolest items before others, it can be a lot to handle. Fortunately, there are plenty of tips out there that can help you hone in on scoring big.

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To figure out how we can find the best items at any estate sale, we spoke with Matt Ellison, director of marketing at EstateSales.NET, which provides detailed descriptions on local estate sales in your area.

1. Dig!

"You don't always have to be at the front of the line to find the most valuable items," Ellison explains. "Sometimes these items are tucked away in drawers, cabinets, underneath other things, or stashed away in the back of a closet. Don't be afraid to go on the hunt and dig around."

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Pro tip: Ellison recommends always checking the garage at an estate sale. "I once found a midcentury Philips tube radio made in Sweden sitting on a garage shelf that many people had overlooked," he says. "It was valuable and a fantastic piece for a mid-mod interior design look."

2. Use Google Lens or Photos to identify items.

If you'd like to know more about an item you've found at a sale, use Google's available tools to search for similar pieces. This can help you find more information about the object's value and the type of shape it's in. Here are two ways Ellison says you can accomplish this:

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  1. If you're at a sale and find something you're curious about, you can use the Google Lens app to take a picture and scan the image to find more information.
  2. If you're researching an estate sale online before arriving in person and find an object you want to know more about, use the Google Photos app on your phone or your web browser to perform a search. Download a picture of the item and put it into Google's photo search. Google will then scan the item and show you similar ones.

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"You can also do a quick [general] Google search on the item you're looking at and see what comes up," adds Ellison. Simply type in a few key descriptors and the brand name, if you can see it on the object.

3. Get to the sale early (be first).

"If you are interested in a specific item, you'll want to be at the front of the line so you don't risk missing out," Ellison advises. "Keep in mind that estate sales are open to the public and other people might be there for the same item. The race to find it first may be well underway when you arrive." If you need a reminder of when the estate sale is set to start, make sure you set an alarm.

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4. Look at sale photos and research items before you arrive.

You don't have to wait until you get to a sale to figure out what items you'd like to buy. "Use the pictures on EstateSales.NET to your advantage and research ahead of time, so you know what to look for and where to look when you arrive at the sale and begin your treasure hunt," Ellison says. "Scour the photos for unique items and look for brand names, distinguishing features, and notes in the sale description."

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To find more information on an item before you see it in person, do a quick Google search (see #2 above). "You can also check sold listings on eBay to help evaluate the item's price," Ellison adds. "Remember that high-priced listings aren't always an indication of the item's worth."

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