Now that you’ve got all of our Secondhand shopping tips, it’s time to move onto where to actually shop. This week we’ve got Part One for you. Here goes:

Sales You Have to Search for:

Searching Resources: When searching for various sales, it seems that your best option to check out local paper ads,, Auction Zip, Thrifty Nickel, and most often Craigslist. A really useful app for sifting through all those ads on Craigslist is iGarageSales. It’s available for iPhones and Androids. It does cost $1.99 but it’s totally worth it! The search feature (seen below) really makes it easy to find what you’re looking for, like estate sales or furniture.

Estate Sales: Start early, especially if you’ve seen a preview of the sale and you’ve got your eye on a specific item. One of the best things about estate sales is that the last day often means 50% off! The downfall to estate sales is that they are essentially a business with people needing to make profits. Because of this, in some states, you have to pay taxes on the items you buy. That’s important to know and factor in, when you seen a price. Also, if you happen upon an estate sale because of street signs, keep a look out for the name of the company that’s running the sale because often they have an email list at the register. By all means, sign up! They will send you emails with the information for their next sales and often allow you to come check it out earlier if you’re on their email list.

Watch out for ads that say “Estate Sale” but are really just for a garage sale. How to tell the difference is that true estate sales are often ran by a company and they keep the sale open at least 2 days and sometimes up to 4.

Here’s an example of a recent ad on Craigslist that says Estate Sale but isn’t a legit one:

Round Rock Subdivision

Estate Sale
90x Lane
Round Rock, TX 78xxx

TODAY ONLY– Saturday August 6, 12 – 4pm


Household items, china, glassware, collectibles, picture frames, cookware, teapot collection, vintage aprons, gloves, vintage pillowcases, vintage sewing notions, old material, old lace, blankets, 1950’s cocktail dresses, 1970’s vintage clothes, maple china hutche, lazy boy, vintage 1940’s harp coffee table, lamps, chairs, sofa, mirror, framed artwork, old sheet music, old records, and much more.


Although, they probably have good items this sale isn’t an actual estate sale and can be really frustrating if you get there and everything is just set outside. Also, it was just one day.

Here’s an example of a true Estate Sale:


Address of Sale:
4306 Ct., Austin, TX, 78xxx

Sale Dates and Times:
8/5/2011 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM (Friday)
8/6/2011 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM (Saturday)
8/7/2011 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM (Sunday)

Sale Description:
Another excellent sale from Thistle Estate Sales in a house bursting with wonderful items & great deals. Furniture, home design stuff, toys galore, books, DVDs, a Wii system, a full (and great kitchen), a packed garage, wonderful Halloween and Christmas decorations & much else besides! Lots of modern brands: Black & Decker, Target, Garden Ridge, Real Simple etc, items never opened. A great combination of the practical and the appealing. Don’t miss out!

This ad was actually much longer and listed out each major item that was at the sale. Not to mention, they are running the sale for 3 days and mention the name of company.

(Total cliché auctioneer photo!)

Auctions: Auctions are a lot of fun, too! But, if you’re competitive (like Jess is) you have to make sure that you’re being realistic. I’ve had a few times that I’ve left auctions heartsick but you kind of have to play it by ear and be committed to the things you like. You need to start early at an auction to get a good survey of the items you want before the chaos of the auction begins and to plan your day. Often, the auctioneer will indicate on the flier when big items (like cars and houses) will sell and at the beginning of the auction will give you a roadmap of how they’ll progress through the items for sale. That can really help you plan your day! Once you’re at the auction, survey the items you want and try to get a feel for when they might come up. Usually, I’m even able to leave the auction site and grab a meal in between items I’m interested in.  Even with the best planning, you still need to be prepared to wait. Some dealers may help speed the auction along by buying little lots that aren’t selling very quickly. Keep an eye on these opportunities because sometimes you can get a great little deal for not very much money at all.

After you’ve surveyed the goods at the auction, take some time to survey the other buyers. Even if you’re not interested in items currently on the block, you can get a feel for who is interested in what kinds of items and whether they tend to let an item go at a certain price. This can really work to your advantage. First, you may be able to back off of an item sooner because you know you’re likely to get outbid and help the auction move on faster. Second, you may be able to outbid someone because you realize that they’re buying it to resale. Likely, you can outbid them and still end up paying less than you would if you bought it from them at an antique store later.

Garage/Yard Sales: As with estate sales, start early. Especially if you’re looking for furniture. Be willing to clean something up and dig.  These folks aren’t usually as well versed in display of items like estate sale professionals so you have to look past what’s visually appealing to you. Be willing to ask people if they have anything else they’d like to sell, especially if you’re looking for something specific. At the last garage sale Mary had, a man came up and asked if there were any musical instruments for sale. It just so happened that Brendan had an electric guitar he’d been wanting to sell sitting in the closet. So, it’s possible that people have other items they don’t want to haul out and are willing to let go of.

Church/Local Organization Rummage Sales: These are separate from your average garage/yard sale because 1.) people don’t have as much invested in pieces seeing as though they are donated 2.) someone is usually around to help you load the furniture 3.) there is a lot more to choose from and usually more inventory that you can weed through.

(Image from the Springfield Antique Show)

Flea markets or Antique Shows: Most of the time flea markets and antiques shows are reoccurring with standing dates and times. This year Mary featured the large antique show in Round Top, Texas. Antique dealers go to these locations regularly every year or in some cases more frequently So, get to know where the ones are in your area and check them out. Also, this is something a bit easier to Google if you’re driving through a place. Be prepared to spend a little bit more on antiques at an antique show as sellers may consider the pieces “show quality” and thus worth more money or they may be more comfortable factoring in a higher amount of overhead on a sale.

Stay tuned next week for our list and tips for brick and mortar sales and online secondhand shopping! Any other tips you think we should add?

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2 responses to “Choosing Secondhand: Where to Shop, Part 1”

  1. Rachelle says:

    Great tips! I love going to estate/ garage sales. I try to hit them up when I can- you never know what you’ll find!

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So Eclectic is a blog dedicated to great ideas for home design. Austin, Texas-based writer Mary Marcum and Savannah, Missouri-based writer Jess Rezac feature affordable decor, decorating solutions, and inspiration. At So Eclectic, we experiment with design together. So Eclectic posts new content every weekday.

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