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How to Negotiate at an Estate Sale!

You all walk into an estate sale and think that you magically turn into wily traders, but most of you do not have a clue. We want to work with you. Yes, we want to sell items for as much as we can, but we also want to sell everything! So, it behooves us to work with you, but many of you are doing it wrong. Here’s how to do it right.

Have nice manners!

Say please and thank you. Ask nicely. Nothing gets our collectives backs up more than when someone shoves an item under our collective noses and says, “I’ll give you $5” for this $20 item. It’s an automatic no. Ask politely, as in “Would please consider $5 for this item?” Probably not, but since you said please, most likely, we will make a counter offer and we might be able to come to an agreement.

And when you get a nice deal, say thank you.

Read the room!

The sale opened ten minutes ago, and there are 40+ people on the list waiting to get in. Um, this is not the time to ask for a discount, because there’s a line, so we don’t have to negotiate at this time, UNLESS you are buying a really big ticket item, like the most expensive thing at the sale, or you put together a massive pile. Then there might be some wiggle room.

But if it’s later in the day and the sale has gotten slow, that’s a good time to start wheeling and dealing because we are looking around at what’s left and want it to go away.

Oh, but you were first in line because you wanted to make sure that this particular thing was still there. Well, be prepared to pay the asking price. That’s the game. If you wait until later in the sale, your item might be gone, but then again it might still be there and at a better price. Only you can decide how much you want this item and if you are prepared to maybe miss out on it.

It’s all about the pile!

Another thing that some of you do is pick up individual items and then proceed to negotiate on every item—“Would you take $1 for this?”, put item down and pick up another one, “How about $2 for this?”, put item down and pick up another one, and so it goes. Stop! Put together your pile! Gather all your little goodies and let us add it up, and let’s say it comes out to $120 and then you nicely offer $100, chances are really good that we will say yes.

Speaking of piles, there are always items that we have in bulk, like books. Planning on buying 100+ books? Let someone know and make a reasonable per book offer and then go make your pile.

What’s your best price?

Never ask that question, because inevitably, we will give you the best price and then you will come back with a lower offer. You asked for the best price and we gave it to you! You have closed yourself off from negotiating.

Instead, make an offer. Let’s say an item was originally $300, but it’s now the end of the last day so it’s half off at $150. If you ask us the best price, we will probably say $125, and since you asked what best price was and you got $125, you are stuck with that answer. Make an offer (politely), like $75, and then we will counter with $125, and then you can meet us in the middle at $100, and chances are good that you will get that item for $100. Make an offer!

But it’s for charity….

Sorry to be so blunt, but we don’t care about your stories. You start telling me that it’s a gift for sister-in-law and you do not want to spend too much on her (people really do tell us these things!) and we are thinking your sister-in-law probably hates you and we understand why. Estate sales are busy and we do not have time for your stories (sorry). In fact, we usually don’t believe them anyway. Just make an offer (politely).

But it really is for charity. Okay, we hear this one a lot and we are disinclined to believe it too, so come prepared. Actually, we love helping charities, real ones, and we have some regular charities that come to our sales. Bring with you a brochure with a website that we can quickly verify and a 501c3 letter and a donation form and tell us your plan, like you want to put together a nice basket for a silent auction. We will spring into action and help you assemble the best silent auction prize at a good price, especially late in a sale.

I brought my own bags.

If you are planning on coming to an estate sale and playing wily trader, bring your own bags and packing materials. We all inwardly groan when you have an enormous pile, nickel and dime us on every item, and then want to take all our bags. We will remember you and you will not get such a good deal the next time.

I brought you some cookies.

We have some regulars that we know want extra good deals, but they are very nice and polite and bring us goodies like cookies or cold bottles of water as a little thank you for always taking care of them. We know that these are not our biggest customers, but they are so thoughtful and we love them.

May I leave on offer?

Yes, you can, but follow up. If you leave an offer and we tell you to call us at 3:15, then call us at 3:15 to see if that item is still available and then be prepared to pay for it on the spot, because we will immediately send an invoice that can be paid online and expect you to pay it. Or even better, come back with cash at 3:15. We cannot hold it for you.

About Miss Sophia….

Since 2015, Sophia’s Estate Sales has provided premier estate sale and appraisal services to families throughout the Chicago area. Need an estate sale or an appraisal? Call Sophia at 773-729-0638 for a consultation.


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