Burdg Photography
EMILY JENKINS FOLLOWILL

Grab your measuring tape and set your alarm clocks.

How many times have you complimented a one-of-a-kind piece in someone’s home and in return they gushed about unearthing it at “some old estate sale.” Let me guess, it was a “total steal” as well? Estate sales are the place to find those pieces that totally make a room and bring instant patina, character, and style to any spot. If you’ve been intimidated by the art of the estate sale hunt, don’t be. We’ve rounded up a few tips and tricks regarding how to shop an estate sale so that you can head in totally prepared. Read on for 10 tips to conquering your local estate sales:

First, find a sale.

We know, this sounds very, well, “duh.” But, start by finding local sales on sites like estatesales.net, estatesales.org, craigslist.org, and your local newspaper or news website.

Do advance research.

When does it open? Are there any special rules? Will some items be auctioned? Will they take card, cash, and/or check? Many are professionally managed with their own rules and systems. Depending on who is managing the sale, you may even be able to preview items online.

Rise and shine!

Get there early with the experts. The first few hours are when some of the best items go, so if you want to see the broadest selection, you need to get out the door (and probably in line at the location) early.

Know you’re probably not going to get to bargain on day one.

If you gotta have it, you may just have to pay a pretty penny or else take the serious risk it will be gone by the next day, when they (sometimes) start slashing or negotiating prices.

Take a compact bag or wallet.

Many sales won’t let you in with large bags or backpacks. Play it safe and take a compact bag (or fanny pack even, we won't judge!) with wallet essentials, a measuring tape, and a list of your measurements. Consider taking a flashlight for serious rummaging through dark closets, handsanitizer for after, and keep a moving blanket or sheet in the car for packing precious cargo.

Bring your measurements!

Even go so far as to bring pictures of your space too, if that will help you make a down-to-the-wire decision about whether a certain piece will make it or break it.

Ask questions, and don’t be afraid to fact-check.

Don’t be afraid to find out the backstory on an item. Oftentimes the staff at well-organized estate sales will be able to give you a surprising amount of insight. If you’re unsure about whether the price is a good deal or not, keep your phone handy for a quick Google search.

WATCH: How to Shop for Antique Furniture

Look everywhere.

Don’t forget spaces like the garage, basement, attic, etc. If a space is off-limits, the organizer will mark it as such.

Know the pickup policy.

Sometimes you have to take the item with you right away, sometimes you can come back later with a larger vehicle. Also, have a plan for the heaving lifting. Occasionally event workers will be able to help, but the responsibility for moving your purchases falls on you.

Mind your manners!

We know we don’t have to remind you—but in the heat of a sale, Mama’s “assertive” side has been known to come out. Some sales are run as a tight ship and placing your own “sold” sign on a piece could get you kicked out. Know the rules, ask the organizers for help, and be courteous to workers and shoppers—you’re likely to see them the next go-round.