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Finding Value: Guide to Buying Tools at an Estate Sale

Real estate sales are great places to find a variety of different types of tools: from gardening to power tools to ancient hand tools. It is not uncommon to find tools that have barely been used and are in excellent condition and are still in the box; or used tools that are usually not so bad that they can be repaired under conditions like new cheap.

In a real estate sale, you will generally find that the tools will be placed in the garage or basement and will be easy to withdraw if you can access them first. If you are unfamiliar with tools (especially those that require electricity or gas), it may be difficult to distinguish between the good and the bad and find out if the tools are worth the price on their tags. Definitely bring a friend who has a good knowledge of the tools and can help you make an appropriate choice.

Guide to Buying Tools at an Estate Sale
Guide to Buying Tools at an Estate Sale

Ancient hunters are often looking for older tools with an interesting history. Very old woodworking tools, for example, are hot collectible and have a high resale value. Even if the blades look rusty or the wood is a bit dusty, many of these coveted tools still have a lot of value for tool enthusiasts who are more than happy to give him some elbow grease to put it back in use and add it to their collections.

Here are some quick tips for buying tools in a real estate sale:

    1. Whenever possible, take out your iPhone and research the tools before buying them. If you use eBay for your research, you may find hundreds or thousands of results. If you know exactly what you intend to use the tool for, then power amplification should also be a concern. Will the 18 volt electric drill do the job or will you need something a little heavier like the 20 volt one? The more you know what you need, the less research you will have to do.


    1. This may sound silly, but when buying an electric tool plug it in to make sure it really works! You don’t want to go home just to find that you hit the “on” button and it’s silent. With fuel powered tools like gas powered items, this could be a more complicated effort. If you have to put the tool aside and use up a can of gas, do it anyway. Also check the oil, because an instrument that has been holding oil or fuel for years may be problematic.


    1. If you want to save money, then it is better to make a quick price comparison. The same tool used in a real estate sale could be valued in your home goods store for the exact same amount, but brand new. Even if the tool is priced under $ 10 or less, it will still be better to buy the brand new tool. Websites like Craigslist, Amazon and eBay are all great sites for finding refurbished tools and many sellers offer free shipping.


    1. Before using the tools purchased from real estate sales, make sure you know how to handle them properly. This is both a safety concern and a concern to avoid possible malfunctions. If you bought the instrument and it is still in its original box and has the instruction manual, then you are in luck. Don’t be silly and go ahead and read the damned thing so that you know how to use it properly. If the instruction manual is not available, do not hesitate to look it up online or call the manufacturer to request one.


  1. Make sure to check the conditions to make sure that the tool you are buying isn’t falling apart. Make sure that the handles are positioned firmly and do not swing, look for any missing or broken parts or that there are no cracks. If an electrical cord is frayed, you could easily take it to a workshop to have it replaced for a few dollars. We want to verify that any wooden parts are not divided or dry to the point that they cannot be repaired. Heavy dirt or grease won’t be easy to clean, so make sure the tool in question deserves major cleaning.

by Lisa Arias

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