Jun 9, 2024 - Things to Do

This social media starlet can help you hack D.C. estate sales

Maddy Brannon poses in a colorful dress with puffy sleeves, in front of a blue background.

Maddy Brannon can help you hack estate sales. Photo courtesy: Clarissa Villondo

A silver pickle jar. A "womb chair." An artist's home stuffed with treasures. Maddy Brannon, a 33-year-old social media influencer, is digging through DMV estate sales — and amassing a huge following along the way.

Why it matters: The estate sale universe can be daunting — where to go, how to weed out gems from junk—but Brannon, a stand-up comedian by trade, makes it fun and accessible. Plus, you can snag great stuff from her recommended spots.

The big picture: Estate sale TikTok is a hot trend du jour, with Gen Z influencers from New York to Los Angeles descending on a niche sales world that once felt stodgy and suburban.

  • While LA estate sale culture is all about fighting for celebrity scraps, Brannon says the DMV is more low-key and "particularly good." She's visited homes of former dignitaries with international collections, and members of Congress proffering campaign memorabilia.
  • "It's kind of a faux pas to disclose who the person is, but the sale may say 'former diplomat,' and I sometimes meet the owners," she says.

FYI: Estate sales aren't just for selling dead people's stuff — a common misconception. "I posted about an artist's family and people were like, 'Oh no, what happened?!'" says Brannon. "The family didn't die, they're just moving."

Zoom in: Brannon's a top comedic talent in D.C. and works at the Adams Morgan club Hotbed, where she regularly performs. Estate sales are a newer obsession.

  • After she and her husband bought a Brightwood Park home, "I was just trying to figure out how people can afford to furnish houses," Brannon tells Axios. She saw an estate sale on TikTok, visited, posted a few photos — and bam, a second career and thousands of Instagram and TikTok followers.
Maddy Brannon holds a glass bowl with a glass fish inside
Fave fish bowl. Photo: Maddy Brannon

Favorite find: Though she'll gush over an ornate piano or a mid-century sofa, Brannon is lured by smaller treasures. Her favorite purchase: A decorative goldfish bowl she discovered in the Georgetown home of a former Smithsonian employee.

Pro tip: "There's no 'good' or 'bad' in estate sales. It's often a different spectrum of things," says Brannon. "Sometimes it's very high-end pricing, but there's still affordable records or glassware." She, like many, uses Estatesales.net to find them.

  • Brannon also recommends looking at the vibe — is it mid-century, baroque — and how many days a sale goes on ("Generally the longer, the bigger the inventory").
  • Plus, there are often discounts on the final day.

Her favorite part: "Walking around and getting to know whoever lived there. Especially if it's from a very specific time period. Every estate sale is like a pop-up museum to a person."

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