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How to Estate Sale Like a Pro

Six tips for the flea market novice, plus the best places to treasure hunt in San Diego


Lorena Whiteside Nelson with her husband, George Nelson

1. Do your research ahead of time.

Most estate sale ads show photos of the sale items. So check them out beforehand to have a better idea of what you are looking for when you go in.


2. Go early.

The best stuff goes in the first 30 minutes to an hour, so you want to be there before it starts. A lot of sales have sign up lists or numbers, so get there early to get on the list/your number for the best chances of getting the good stuff.


3. Plot out your sales before you go.

So you aren’t crisscrossing the county all morning and missing out on good stuff. Plan out the most efficient route based on sale locations, start times, and what they have in relation to what you like/are looking for.


4. Be patient.

It may take a little longer to find just what you are looking for. Don’t get caught up in the excitement and buy something you don’t need or love (there’s no returns at estate sales!).


5. Grab it if you do love it.

If you see something that catches your eye, don’t hesitate too long. Things do go fast so don’t overthink a purchase—especially if it’s not that expensive.


6. Stay focused.

If you are looking for something specific (dining table, sofa, coffee table, etc.), keep focused and look for those items first.


The Best Places to Treasure Hunt in San Diego:

  • OB Antique Mall and Vignettes on Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach
  • Consignment shops like Rare Bird Consignment, Karen’s Consignment, Two Sisters Consignment, and Classic Consignment
  • And the web! Hit EstateSales.net, gsalr.com, and CraigsList to find estate sales.
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