An Unconventional Idea on How To Find Books at Estate Sales (BEFORE The Sale!)

estate sale 300x225 An Unconventional Idea on How To Find Books at Estate Sales (BEFORE The Sale!)I’m always looking for new ways to acquire inventory and an estate sale has always intrigued me.  Finding new inventory is the critical piece in running an online book business.  If you’re not constantly listing new books you’re sales are dropping.  My mind is always racing and coming up with new ideas to increase my sales and I recently found a possibly very lucrative source of untouched used books that you could beat everyone else to the punch with!

Have you heard of an estate sale?  It’s basically an auction for when someone passes away and the family needs to liquidate their assets.  These sales are held all the time and contain all kinds of stuff; basically anything that the family wants to sell off.  You can buy a house, car, magazines, Lose Weight Exercise bike, pet rock and baseball cards all in one sitting!  Better yet, you can always find BOOKS!  Everyone has some number of books and elderly people generally have valuable books because they are either collectible or they are older non-fiction books in a topic they’re interested in.

How would a “normal” bookseller get these books at an estate sale?  They would look in the local newspaper every week, browse Craigslist and scour the web.  They’d probably also find this book about getting cheap books at an estate sale.  They’d find a sale, see a TON of great-looking books and get all excited until they find that they end up bidding against 3 other booksellers that saw the same ad they did.  Bummer!   All that work finding the sale, driving to the sale, waiting for the books to come up and so much competition to drive up the price ends up not even being worth it.

However, what would I (and my readers) do?  Cut out the middle man!  Why let the estate sale holder judge the value of the books and try to up the price to get a bigger cut in commission?  Also, why would you let other booksellers in on your loot at an estate sale?  You wouldn’t but to do this you have to think outside the box.  Think about the process that creates an estate sale.

  1. Elderly person passes away.
  2. Assets are passed down to the family.
  3. Family doesn’t want all of this “stuff” that Aunt May had.
  4. Family goes through the legal process of inheriting the assets through an estate lawyer.
  5. Estate lawyer refers them to an estate sale holder.
  6. Estate sale holder arranges, advertises and holds the sale.
  7. Booksellers see the ads or hear about the sale some other way and BEAT YOU TO THE PUNCH!

Now, where in this process could we cut our competition off at the knees?  Take a peak at step 4; an estate lawyer.  This lawyer acts as the liaison between the family and the estate sale holder.  This lawyer is the first one notified of all the assets that will be available for sale very soon including books.  We need to talk to this guy!  How about offering him a small finder’s fee for referring you to the family?  Typically, the family’s whole goal is to liquidate this stuff as quickly as possible.  What would they say if you came to then and said, “I can take all of your grandpa’s 5,456 books that he accumulated over his life right now for $500.  I’ll also pack them up and take them away right now.”  What do you think the family’s reaction would be?  SOLD!  They’re getting some money for something that’s taking up space and is just something else to manage.

I’ve never used this tip before but I have talked to an estate lawyer and I’m currently on the referrer list in which he was happy to do.  With a little hard work and ingenuity I’m sure you could setup relationships like this all around your local area.

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  • Vince LaMonica

    Ok, this is unrelated to the topic at hand, but since this is your first podcast’d version of your post, I thought I’d comment here – how did you do the text to voice transcription? It nearly sounds human! It is pretty amazing actually. I recognized the PodPress plugin, but not the mp3 itself.


  • Anonymous

    It is human. :) . I have a guy read the post for me.

  • Vince LaMonica

    Doh! :) Must be the the low bit rate that gives it a tiny bit of a “computer voice” feel. But since there is emotion in the words, I thought it might be some advanced computer voice thing. :) Now I just feel dumb! :) )

    It’s a cool idea though – helps get your blog out to the podcasting world! Good thinking!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks. :)