No matter where you live, often one of the best places to shop for home décor and furniture is your local flea market or antiques fair. But visiting one can be daunting—how do you get the best deals and find the right pieces? Today, ABC’s Good Morning America co-anchor Lara Spencer, who’s also the host of HGTV’s Flea Market Flip and the New York Times bestselling author of I Break for Yard Sales, brings us her top 12 dos and don’ts for shopping at flea markets. Be sure to pick up a copy of her second book, Flea Market Fabulous, for further reading on the pro's ideas.
Read on to learn Spencer's 12 tips for scoring deals on the best flea market finds to refresh your style at home.
Ask About Early Shopping Hours
"If you are like me and want to see all the good stuff, ask if the flea market has early shopping hours," says Spencer. "Sometimes you can pay a little extra to get in before the general public. That's how the big designers and antique dealers do it!"
Don't Be Afraid to Be Late
"If you can't get to a flea market until late morning or early afternoon, a lot of the really great finds might be sold, but it may still be worth the trip," says Spencer. "The last thing dealers want to do is load their trucks back up with their unsold stuff! They are there to sell, and are often incredibly negotiable as it gets later in the day." Arriving late may mean missing a few great finds, but it also often leads to lower prices—so the antique deals could work out in your favor.
Haggle With Care
"It's okay to haggle a little, as long as you’re nice when asking for a lower price! You'd be surprised how accommodating some dealers can be," says Spencer. Consider the ticket price of the item, and try to offer at least a strong majority of what the dealer wants. For example, if you offer 30 percent less than the asking price, you'll likely be able to settle for at least 15 percent off.
Don't Point Out Flaws
"Don’t insult flea market dealers by pointing out flaws in the piece you are interested in before offering a ridiculously low offer. I promise you, it will not go well if you do," says Spencer. Rather than arguing about knicks or scratches here and there, let them know your budget in a friendly manner while expressing your desires to give their vintage piece a new home in your space.
Ask for Unmarked Prices
"Do ask the dealer what the price is if a piece is not marked," says Spencer. "If you'd like to pay less than they are asking (and who wouldn't, frankly?), ask them if they would consider taking your lower offer. Chances are, you and the dealer will meet somewhere in the middle on a price that works for both of you."
Take a Second Trip
"Make sure you go through a flea market more than once," says Spencer. "They can be visually overwhelming, so it might take two or even three trips through all the rows until you feel like you've really seen everything." After all, the flea market is a fun outing for the day—so take the time to ensure you didn't miss the star items you want to bring home.
"Go green, as in dollar bills!" says Spencer. "Though some flea market dealers do take credit cards or checks, most will make better deals with you if they know you are paying cash." Since most dealers have to pay extra fees for credit card transactions, you'll find that cash will help lower the price while satisfying both parties.
Dress for the Occasion
"Bring sunscreen, a hat, and wear layers," says Spencer. "From the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, to the Elephant’s Trunk in New Milford, CT, it always seems to be chilly in the early hours and sweltering in the afternoon." You'll likely need a few different items of clothing that are removable to stay cozy in the morning while still beating the midday heat.
"Ask about delivery," says Spencer. "Don't walk away from a cool midcentury dresser because it can't fit in your car. Many dealers will bring it to your house for a small additional fee." Since they're already equipped with the vehicles necessary to transport larger items, your flea market dealer will likely be pleased to make the sale with a little extra cash for their time.
If the seller is unable to deliver and your vehicle isn't large enough for a piece of furniture, consider renting a low-price vehicle for a few hours from your local rental dealer.
Make Your List
"Do make a list so you don't forget what you are looking for. It's easy to get distracted at a flea market," says Spencer. If you have a certain style of décor in mind, it can be helpful to break down your list by room: New kitchenware and pots, side tables for the living room, and décor for the dining room table are all easy to remember with an organized list arranged in sections.
Stay Open to Unexpected Finds
"Don't stick solely to your list," says Spencer. "It's great to be organized, but you never know what you will find at a flea market, so be open-minded." If you spend too much time focusing on the specific items you're looking for, you might overlook an extraordinary piece right in front of your eyes.
Buy What You Love
"If you see something you love, buy it!" says Spencer. "If you don't, chances are someone else will, and this is not Pottery Barn. You may never see another thing like it again." When it comes to those unique pieces that catch your eye from the moment you walk past them, sometimes it's best to not think twice—and it's perfectly alright to treat yourself once in a while to a special find.