estate sale

What if you could sell roomfuls of things without having to pack, load, unload…and then possibly do all of this yet again for the things that didn’t sell? Sound good?  Then grab a seat because an estate sale may be just the ticket for you!  It’s one more option for reducing your stuff when you no longer need, use or love it.  This post is the third in a series which explores selling options for decluttering your home.

What Is an Estate Sale?

First, let’s start with the definition of “estate sale“. Sometimes folks use the terms “estate sale“, “tag sale“, “garage sale” or “yard sale” interchangeably.  But there are distinct differences. For our purposes here, an estate sale refers to a third party managing the liquidation of personal belongings. It’s a formal process handled by a professional from start to finish. The word “estate” can conjure up images of high end goods, collectibles or fine antiques. But this is not always the case. In fact, just about anything you would find in a home can and has been sold at an estate sale!

In contrast, most tag, garage and yard sales are run by the owners themselves or with the help of a family member or friend.  These types of sales tend to take a more casual approach.  For example, items to sell are located in the garage, driveway or front yard to keep buyers out of the house.  Prices are indicated with stickers. Certain tables have a sign with one price for all items placed there.  (Hopefully, no one moves them for a better price!) Additionally, cash and sometimes even personal checks are accepted. In other words, non-professionally run sales occur outside the house in a more relaxed atmosphere.

On the other hand, estate sales are run by a professional that the owner hires. The sale takes place inside the home, whether in just a few select rooms or the entire footprint of the house. Interestingly, estate sales can occur on-line, too. But today, we are only examining the traditional, on-site approach. So now, let’s dive into how to initiate an estate sale in your home.

How to Get Started

Step 1

estate sale

First, locate a professional and get a complimentary consultation.  In fact, talk to more than just one to compare. The consultation allows the professional to evaluate your items, to explain their procedures and to disclose the cost of using their services. Always begin with gathering recommendations from friends or neighbors. Or, do a basic online search for professionals in your area. Check for reviews and research how long they’ve been in business. Confirm their standing with the Better Business Bureau, too. Once you perform your due diligence, you can sit back and relax while they do all the work for you!

Step 2

estate sale

Second, listen to what they believe will be salable and at what price. A professional can tell you what is hot and what is not in today’s market. Understand that what you paid for something and how old it is has little to do with what it will sell for now. This is one of the hard truths to accept! But in regards to certain items, such as coins or artwork, you may also choose to have them professionally appraised in order to confirm their current value. And keep in mind that if something can be sold, they will want to do it! They typically work on a percentage basis. So if you hear that you’re better off donating certain things for the income tax deduction, it’s likely true.

Step 3

estate sale

Third, request a written estimate with a clear explanation of how and when the net proceeds are distributed. Typically, you are paid within 3 days or less at the end of the sale.  Estate sale fees range anywhere from 20-45% of the gross profits. It depends on your market and on the exact services provided. Obviously, they are managing the sale from start to finish. But they may also handle any unsold items for you by offering to donate those items to charity on your behalf. There is always trash removal and after sale clean up, too. Therefore, ask about related services so you know what to expect.

What Happens During the Estate Sale?

estate sale

Reputable professionals adhere to industry “best practices” to help make your estate sale a success. Cash or credit cards are mandatory for all sales. An actual cash register is used to provide accuracy and security. Weekend hours are a must to ensure all potential buyers can attend the sale. Extensive price research is conducted to get top dollar for you. Colorful and enticing verbiage is in their street signage, Internet and print ads. Artful and thoughtful display of your items is essential. Lastly, adequate preparation includes cleaning and minor repair of items to ensure selling at top dollar.

Consignment or Estate Sale?

How do you know which approach will work better for you? The professional will help guide you. Although there are numerous estate sale companies, some choose to focus on high demand antiques, vintage or one-of-a-kind items. If many of your items are things such as Corningware, Colonial furniture, or Ikea bookcases, you may be advised to consider the consignment route. This is not to say that common household good don’t sell well in an estate sale. They can! What you need to do is explore a few options. Speak with a couple of different estate sale professionals. Visit some local consignment shops with pictures of your items. Then make a final decision of how to sell, based on your research and your timeline.

The Wrap

estate sale

Whichever route you choose, take time to research the selling options available to you. There can be a wide variance from one community to the next as to which options are more common and which ones will maximize your return. Always consider how much time you have to liquidate your belongings. And lastly, realize that there is a tremendous amount of expertise and energy required to sell most things. Therefore, do not begrudge the fees incurred when you turn the process over to a professional.

For more selling insights, check out these resources:

Suggestions from an experienced Realtor:

Tips from an estate sale professional:

Loop back here if you missed the start of this series on selling:

And here:

Your Turn!

estate sale

Do you have personal experience with an estate sale?

  • Was it you or a family member? Why was this selling option chosen?
  • Which items sold well? What didn’t move?
  • Any tips can you pass along? Would you recommend an estate sale?

We’d love to hear from you…and thanks for stopping by!