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Chatelaine's Antiques & Appraisals Magazine > Market Notes > Expert Tip: Estate Sale Bargaining

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 For months you've been searching for the perfect rocking chair. You finally find it at an estate sale, but the asking price is a little too steep for your wallet. Try bargaining rather than letting it get away.

Antique rocking chair
Antique rocking chair

For many people, bargaining at estate sales can be a bit embarrassing and a little scary, so we examine some bargaining skills here.

Remember that estate liquidators want to sell everything. Prices are fairly firm the first day of an estate sale, but they'll drop gradually as the sale goes on.

Here are our bargaining tips:

  • Ask for the best price:
    To let the dealer know you're interested in an item, just ask for the best price that he or she can offer. Dealers are usually firmer on the prices of better pieces, but normally you can expect them to come down 10 to 20 percent. You may not want to give a counter offer right away. Let the dealer make a few offers first.

  • Remain pleasant:
    You're more likely to get the dealer's "best" price if he or she likes you. When you approach the dealer, be direct and polite. You're not really in an adversarial relationship. The truth is, you both want the same thing the object to change hands at a reasonable price. You don't have to be a pushover, but definitely don't be rude or unpleasant. Saying flat out, "I will give you X amount for this object," isn't a good idea. It shows a lack of respect for the seller.

  • Act nonchalant:
    Try not to appear too eager to buy the object. You don't want the seller to think you can't live without it. On the other hand, you shouldn't act completely disinterested either. If the dealer doesn't believe you'll buy the object, there is no incentive on his or her part to try to close the sale.

  • Offer cash:
    You may find that a dealer will lower the price a little if you offer to pay cash. When you use a credit card, the credit card company charges the dealer. Plus, cash is immediate credit takes more time.

  • Leave your phone number:
    If you don't get the price you're looking for, don't make excuses why you won't pay. Just be honest. Tell the dealer that the price is still too high and walk away. Sometimes if you leave the seller with a reasonable offer and your phone number, he or she will call you and agree to your price.


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