Whether you are downsizing, decluttering, clearing out a house you inherited, or planning a long-distance move, you may want to consider having an estate sale wherein the contents of the home are sold to the general public. Think of it as a garage sale but on a much larger scale and with high-ticket sale items.
Professional estate sale companies frequently take up to 35-percent of the proceeds, leaving many to wonder if they can do it themselves. The good news is you can. The not so good news is that holding an estate sale is labor and time intensive, and requires a lot of planning and patience.
According to the Spruce (www.thespruce.com), planning an estate sale takes much longer than you expect it will, especially if it’s your first time. Give yourself at least a month if that’s possible, or as long as you can if it’s not. When choosing a date for the sale, make sure it works for everyone if you’re counting on for volunteer help; you can’t run the sale alone. If you plan to hire workers, you’ll need to leave enough time to accommodate their schedules as well.
Here are five great tips from the Spruce you’ll want to follow.
1. Sort Estate Sale Merchandise
Give yourself plenty of time to sort through the merchandise. Even if it’s your own, you’ll have to go through every attic, closet, storage shed, basement, cupboard, and drawer. If you’re holding the sale due to a death, be sure to keep private letters, medical records, and financial paperwork separated from the goods you’re going to sell. You’ll likely want to remove family photographs and memorabilia as well.
Make sure the family members and/or heirs have the first pick of any objects they’d like to keep, even if the terms of probate mean they’ll have to purchase those things from the estate. When you’re choosing objects you’d like to keep for yourself, remember that objects are not the same as memories. Otherwise, you may end up hoarding it all. At the same time, don’t sell any object you think you’re likely to mourn. You can always dispose of it later if you change your mind, but you’ll never get it back once somebody buys it and drives away.
2. Price Estate Sale Merchandise
Research is the key to pricing goods for an estate sale. Some of the things you think will bring a lot of money won’t—and some things you might not even plan to include may be the very first things to sell. If you have valuable antiques or collectibles to sell, consider hiring a professional appraiser to help you set a price. Depending on what they’re worth, selling those specific things at auction may be a better way to go.
For the rest of the merchandise, whether it’s newer, vintage, antique, or just used, Google price guides, or sign up for an online subscription. You can also find out what people are paying for similar things to yours by doing completed sale searches on sites like eBay, Etsy, 1st Dibs, and Ruby Lane. Remember, you’re looking to see what people have already paid, not at the list prices sellers are currently hoping to get.
3. Advertise Your Estate Sale
You have to advertise your estate sale in numerous ways to maximize the number of shoppers who attend. Place classified listings on Craigslist (include photos) and in the newspaper. Put the newspaper listing in the garage sale section if there’s no designated area for estate sales. If you’re holding the sale in a small town near a city, advertise the event in the papers from both places—and consider purchasing a larger display ad that draws the eye and gives you more room to list the details and goods.
You can also advertise your estate sale on social media sites such as Facebook. In addition to your own page, join the online garage sale sites in the estate sale’s area. If the rules allow it, post about your event there too. With all Facebook listings, include an album containing photos of your best merchandise. Finally, list your event on designated estate sale sites, such as EstateSales.net and EstateSales.org. Both permit non-pro estate sale organizers to list their sales, and both let you include lots of photos.
4. Display Merchandise at an Estate Sale
When possible, display estate sale merchandise in the room where it’s commonly used. Take folded clothes, bed sheets, and blankets out of drawers and display the stacks on top of beds and dressers. Display dinnerware, serving pieces, and table linen stacks in the dining room atop the table and sideboard. Empty the kitchen cabinets and place mixing bowls, pots and pans, utensils, and small appliances on the kitchen table and countertops.
Small valuable objects such as jewelry and coin collections are the exceptions. Keep those at the checkout tables near the exit door so they’re not as easily stolen. Ideally, rent or borrow locking cases for the event. If that’s not possible, keep one worker at the table whose sole job is to watch the goods.
5. Manage Customers during an Estate Sale
Sad to say, theft is an issue at any sale, and particularly so at estate sales where the merchandise is displayed in numerous rooms. Hire security guards or enlist volunteers to help. Station someone in each area or have them wander frequently from room to room. But, make sure they don’t offend honest customers. Instead of letting them loom, instruct them to smile, nod, and say hello to shoppers while they keep watch.
Never let shoppers in the door of an estate sale before it’s scheduled to start. Keep the doors locked, and place signage to indicate where they should line up until the sale begins. Organizing shoppers into a line also let you limit the number of people in the house at one time, especially during the first hour or so of the sale. That’s when the mad snatching typically takes place. Limiting the number of shoppers helps prevent breakage and fights during that time period. And, it helps minimize theft at all times because the thieves are easier to spot.
If You Decide to Go with a Professional Estate Sale Company
Should you decide to hire an estate sale company, here are a few things to consider before choosing who to hire.
- Read previous customer reviews
- Check out the company’s BBB (Better Business Bureau) rating
- Watch them in action. Visit an estate sale being held by a company you’re considering hiring
- Show the estate sale company everything you’re planning to sell — or throw away — so they can give you the most inclusive bid
- Compare bids from at least three companies, if possible
- Ask about any possible additional fees
- Get a contract that is crystal clear on the rates and responsibilities of each party.
Questions about estate sales and recommendations? Let Estelia help you. She’s has over 22 years of experience helping people downsize, declutter and prepare for homes for sale.
Liquidating an Estate: How to Sell a Lifetime of Stuff, Make Some Cash, and Live to Tell About It, by Martin Codina
Estate Sales Made Easy: A Practical Guide to Success from Start to Finish, by Victoria Gray
Tips for Choosing an Estate Sale Company – Estate Sales
St. Petersburg Communities
If you’re interested in any of these of communities or live in one and are thinking of selling, talk to The Mesimer Team.
Greater Pinellas Point
Historic Old Northeast
Historic Roser Park
Isla del Sol