Working with an Estate Sale Company
is an Estate Sale?
An estate sale differs from a yard sale or a garage sale
in that an estate sale is typically held to sell every item in a home. Most
estate sales are held as a result of a serious illness, death, divorce, or move
to assisted living.
Estate sales can be held as “tag” sales or auctions. In
a tag sale, every item in the home is priced prior to the sale, and buyers pay
the marked price. In an auction, an auctioneer accepts bids on items, and the
items sell for the highest bid. In most states, auctioneers must be
There is often a misconception that estate sales are
only for the very wealthy. This is not the case! Some estates do contain
extremely valuable art, antiques, and collectibles, but most do not. If you have
a home that you need to empty, then you can have an estate
Many families choose to hire a company to conduct their
estate sale for them, as the task of identifying, organizing, appraising,
pricing, and selling items can be time-consuming and emotionally difficult. The
majority of estate sale companies work for a percentage of the sale
for an Estate Sale:
Even if you choose to hire a company to conduct your
estate sale, there is work that you must do to prepare. Be sure to do the
- Locate important
documents that may be in the home, including insurance papers, deeds, wills,
stocks/bonds, accounting papers, etc.
- Confirm who the
legal executor of the estate is and ensure that the executor consents to the
removal and sale of items.
- Discuss the contents
with family and friends and decide which items you wish to keep and wish items
you wish to sell.
- Sort through
personal effects, such as letters and photographs and decide what you wish to
keep and what you wish to dispose of.
- Remove food items
from the home (so as not to attract rodents and
- Remove all items
from the home that family and friends wish to keep. If this is not possible,
place all of these items in one area of the home, such as a bedroom or closet,
so that they can easily be hidden during the estate
- Plan ahead! Many
estate sales require weeks or months to organize and
- If you plan to sell
the home, be sure to coordinate the estate sale with your real estate agent. In
some cases, the real estate agent will prefer to show the home with the contents
and other times, they prefer to show the home empty. Also ask your real estate
agent whether items such as refrigerators, drapes, and outdoor items (such as
hot tubs, greenhouses) should stay with the house or be
the right estate sale company:
It is important to start communicating with estate sale
companies as soon as possible. Many companies only hold one or two sales per
month, so they may plan their sales several months in advance.
Because you are entrusting a company with your property,
it is important to dutifully research companies before making a decision about
who to hire. It is important to do the following
- Contact several
estate sale companies to compare their level of services, their expertise, and
their typical fees.
- Contact as many as
you feel necessary, but always have at least two do an on-site consultation with
you. A diligent company will insist on doing a walk through with you before
agreeing to conduct your sale. Expect them to open drawers and cabinets to
inspect the home’s contents.
- Once a company has
done an inspection, it is reasonable to ask them a) how quickly they can
complete the sale, b) what they estimate you will earn from the sale, and c)
what fee they will charge to conduct the sale for you.
- Ask companies about
their after-sale procedures. Do they leave unsold items or arrange to have them
donated? Do they remove trash or leave it on the premises? Will they continue to
attempt to sell valuable items after the sale?
- Ask companies if
they keep receipts for sales, and what type of accounting information they will
provide you at the close of the sale.
- Ask for references
and contact them!
- Once you have chosen
a company, be sure to get a written contract that outlines the timeline, fees,
and any specific agreements you make.
to watch out for...
- The initial
consultation/walk-through with an estate sale company should always be
complimentary. Make sure that companies do not charge you for this
- Theft is sometimes
an issue with estate sales, especially those that have small items, such as
jewelry, coins, stamps, etc. Ensure that the estate sale company secures these
items during the sale.
- Ask if the owners
and/or workers who will be conducting your sale are antique/vintage dealers
themselves. Oftentimes, this can be a conflict of interest because they may want
to buy items from your estate for their own businesses. In some cases, they may
underprice those items that they want.
- Some companies will
combine two or more estate sales in one home. Be sure that an estate sale
company does not bring items into your home from another estate without your
consent. If something should happen to those items while they are in your home,
you may be responsible.
Selling a loved one’s property is never an easy
task—but, with the right help, it can be done in an efficient, compassionate,
and profitable manner.
Estate Sales Articles ~