So a couple of weeks ago I decided to look online to find an estate sale to go to – I’ve never been to one – when I made an amazing discovery: there was no need to wait – I could bid on numerous local estate sales right that very minute!
I’ve since been filling up our house with purchases from online estate auctions. It’s just so convenient and fun! The deals are amazing, too.
Kady helping me pick up my winnings
So here’s what I brought home yesterday – it cost $41.50 total. (I feel compelled to add that some of this stuff was purchased in a lot – basically I paid $1-$2 for a big box of unknowns.)
Online Estate Sale Basics
If you’re unfamiliar with online estate sales, they basically work like a simplified version of E-bay. Of course, I can’t speak for every company out there, but it seems that the majority of them use the same (or very similar) software to run their auctions, and it’s really easy to use.
First, go to the estate liquidator’s website and register for a bidding number. Some of them require a credit card on file but many don’t. It’s a simple form and you’ll be e-mailed a bidding number immediately.
Once you have that, return to the auction and view the list of items (they’ll have at least one picture and a brief description). You’ll be able to see the current bid, and enter your own maximum bid. After bidding, you’ll be told if you have the highest bid or if another bidder had previously entered a higher bid than yours. That’s about it!
I’ve been at this for just under a month, so I’m far from an expert, but here are a few tips that I’ll pass on:
- Carefully consider the convenience of the auction’s pick-up location and date/time before bidding. I bid on several things in one of my first auctions, but when it ended, I had only won a $1 vintage tin box. Sure, it was cute, but not really worth driving 45-minutes across town on a Monday afternoon for, and the shipping costs would have been ridiculous. I ended up paying for it and apologizing profusely for not coming to pick it up.
- Pay attention to any measurements given in an item listing. It can be really hard to tell how big something is without a frame of reference. When I was picking up yesterday, another buyer was stunned when the vintage tea set she had purchased turned out to be doll-sized.
- When it comes time to pick up, bring your own copy of your invoice, and check each item off to make sure you have everything before you leave. And if you bought several things, bring your own bags and boxes and don’t count on any help carrying things to your car. The auction employees I’ve encountered so far have been super nice, but also super busy.
- If you start participating in multiple auctions, come up with a system to keep track of the end dates and pick-up times of each one (I just printed a blank calendar page and wrote only auction-related dates on it.) You’ll usually get an e-mail when you’re outbid on something, but it can be hard to remember which were things you just bid on because they were ridiculous-cheap, and which you really really wanted. Make a habit of reviewing an auction shortly before it ends. There seem to be a lot of people who just wait until the last few minutes and then pop in and place a bid.
There really are some amazing deals to be had! Sure, if you’re set on bidding only on Waterford crystal or Tiffany lamps, you’ll spend some bucks. But if you’re a junker/thrifter who’s into fixing things up, you can definitely find some hidden treasures! It’s not at all uncommon to see pieces of furniture going for under $5, and I’ve picked up plenty of things for $1.
I found my local online estate auctions via simple google searches. I definitely encourage you to check out the ones near you – and let me know if you get anything good!