How To Run An Estate Sale

Wondering how to run an estate sale? An estate sale is different from a garage sale in a number of ways. First, the goal of an estate sale is to sell most everything in a house, while a garage sale seeks to sell only things you don’t need anymore. Secondly, an estate sale typically runs for a longer period. Finally, an estate sale takes place throughout your home—not just in the garage.<

How To Run An Estate Sale Successfully

Bringing in the pros. If you are seriously considering an estate sale, you may want to think about hiring an estate sale agent. A professional estate sale manager will charge between 20% and 35% of the proceeds of the sale. For that fee, you can expect an estate sale agent to organize, promote and run the sale from beginning to end. An estate sale manager will itemize and price your belongings, advertise the sale and handle all transactions during the sale.

Embrace your inner packrat. As you prepare to run an estate sale, resist the urge to throw things out. That old line about trash and treasure certainly pertains to estate sales as well—there’s always a buyer for just about everything. Maximize your estate sales proceeds by selling even the things you think should go to the dump.

What not to sell. At the other end of the scale, you should hold back valuable items like antiques and rare items. An estate sale is like a garage sale in one respect: buyers expect to pay pennies on the dollar. You get more profit by selling valuable items separately, in an auction or similar sale.

Pricing your stuff. An estate agent will be well versed in pricing most items, but if you’re running a DIY estate sale, take some time to check out local consignment and thrift stores for similar items. Your pricing should be at the same level as thrift stores and just a bit lower than consignment stores on furniture and larger items. Prices should be placed on tags and displayed on each item.

Getting the word out. Advertise your estate sale in local newspapers at least two weeks in advance of the sale. For weekend sales, run ads from Friday through Sunday during the sale as well. Make sure to post signs in your neighborhood and at the entrance to your neighborhood. Consider placing signs on nearby roads traveled by commuters.

Timing is everything. The typical estate sale lasts for a week or runs on two consecutive weekends. Make sure to clearly post the times of your sale in all advertising and don’t be surprised to see “early birds” parked outside your home at the crack of dawn on the day of the sale. Consider posting a steep discount on the last day of the sale to move those last few items out the door.

Aftermath. Once your estate sale is complete, you can expect a full accounting (including receipts) from a professional estate sale manager. If you’ve held your own estate sale, be sure to keep good records that you’ll need come tax time. Any items left after your estate sale can be divided up into discard and donation piles.


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One Response to “How To Run An Estate Sale”

  1. Devon Yardley says:

    A caution for people holding estate/garage/yard sales:

    Today we ran an estate sale to clear out the house of an old friend who passed. At the end of the sale two young men came in and after looking around said they were interested in buying two sets of coffee cups, mumbling something about buying them for friends in need. They bargained a little and after getting the price down to $10 they wanted to pay for the cups with a $100 bill. Something about the whole situation just didn’t feel right…and the $100 bill didn’t feel right…so we said sorry we couldn’t make change for a $100. We told them if they wanted to come back we’d hold the cups. They left and never returned.
    I am convinced that the $100 bill they tried to pay with was counterfeit.
    Now having lost $10 worth of merchandise is not a big deal, and losing $90 in the process of making change for the fake $100 bill would have sucked, but in the long run would not be so bad. But IMAGINE the problems that would ensue if we had tried to use the counterfeit bill – WE would then be responsible for trying to cash in the fake bill.
    So please, please, please – never accept large bills at estate, garage, or yard sales unless you know the buyer. For that matter no checks either.

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