Seek and ye shall find.

By Betsy Cribb
estate sale finds
Credit: Laurey W. Glenn

Estate sales are gold mines, both for treasure hunting and people watching. Some come for the thrill of the hunt; others wander in because they're up early without much to do; but, if we're being honest, all of us show up primarily because we like snooping around other people's houses. Other people's stuff is fascinating, and like a T.J. Maxx or HomeGoods, estate sales can play host to plenty of junk, but if you're willing to dig a little or take on a DIY project, there are all kinds of gems worth scooping up. Here, the five things you should consider buying at estate sales before you pay full-price in a store.

1. Furniture

You can scoop up a dining set or cocktail sofa for next to nothing at an estate sale. Lots of solid pieces are often overlooked, though, because they appear clunky or outdated. Don't make that mistake. Put on your rose-colored, Chip-and-Jo glasses and envision what the piece could be before leaving it behind. Dark woods can be painted; ugly fabrics can be reupholstered. Focus instead on the silhouette or bones of the piece; if those check out, buy it. I'm still mourning my abandonment of two dynamite high-back chairs that I could have swiped for a measly $75 at a recent estate sale. Regrets.

2. Books

A well-styled bookshelf or coffee table is a decorating force to be reckoned with. Books are an easy way to make a space feel collected and curated, but they can become expensive quickly. Rather than spending a hefty chunk of your design budget on books, splurge on a couple of tomes with attractive covers to anchor your coffee table, and then fill in shelves with worn, colorful finds that you can buy at estate sales for pennies on the dollar. Nobody has to know you haven't read them all.

3. China

Always, always, always take a peek at the china selection up for grabs. You could get lucky and score Herend or Mottahedeh plates at a steep discount, or you may just stumble upon an unknown pattern that feels fun and different. You likely won't find a full set, but that's no matter. A handful of mismatched china plates are a creative way to reinvent your daily china, plus they're great for worry-free entertaining indoors or out… if one of them breaks, you haven't lost a priceless family heirloom.

4. Glassware

As with china, buying glassware from estate sales is a smart move. Elegant champagne flutes or funky cocktail glasses are a fun, inexpensive way to twirl up your bar cart or set the table with a whole new look. Be sure to take a peek at available vases and pottery, too.

5. Art and Photos

A good-looking gallery wall takes a lot of time and money to craft, so keep your eyes peeled for artwork at estate sales. No, you (probably) won't scoop up a Picasso, but you may find a landscape or portrait that's just the size and color palette you needed to fill in that empty spot above the bannister. Photos, too, are fun to add to the mix, and estate sales often have them in spades. Some may argue that it's odd to have a framed photo of someone else's Aunt Mildred on your wall, but to those people I say, "Have you ever been to a Cracker Barrel?"

WATCH: Tour Cracker Barrel's Antiques Warehouse and Meet the Man Who Runs It

What's the best thing you've ever found at an estate sale? Share it with us in the comments.