What Is An Estate Sale?

What Is An Estate Sale?

Getting rid of all your possessions is a tricky task, especially if you want to clear them all in one go. As well as being emotionally fraught, the sheer logistics of this type of clearance is an exhausting prospect.

But despite the difficulty, this is what happens at an estate sale.

An estate sale is the act of clearing every item of personal property from a house. They can be organized individually, or with the help of a professional estate sale company.

To learn all about estate sales, including how to organize one and how to attend, take a look at this guide.

What Is An Estate Sale?

An estate sale is a sale intended to dispose of the majority of personal property and contents of a house. Buyers are invited to look around a property, view what’s for sale, and make purchases. Typically held after a death, an estate sale should clear the estate.

Estate sales are also sometimes known as tag sales because essentially everything has a price tag. Buyers simply have to go in, check the tag, and decide on their purchases.

An estate sale is different to a yard sale, as it’s an attempt to clear out an entire house. It also differs from the estate auction, as prices are typically fixed.

Why Do People Have Estate Sales?

There are considered to be three broad reasons why a person or family holds an estate sale: death, divorce, or debt. These are the occasions when people want to quickly sell off as much as possible, with minimum fuss, and to collect as much money as they can.

An estate sale is a direct method for sales when you might be short on time.

Estate sales mostly happen after a recent death. An estate sale may be a stipulation of the will, or a way to clear leftover items when the inheritance has been sorted.

As an estate sale is a quick way to convert complex assets into simple cash, they often occur after a divorce. That way, a couple can divide up money, rather than sort through items.

Debt can force an estate sale for similar reasons. It’s a quick way to get cash.

However, these aren’t the only reasons for an estate sale. Retirement or relocation frequently instigates an estate sale, as it allows for easy downsizing.

How Does An Estate Sale Work?

An estate sale works quite simply. The organizer will decide what items are for sale, set a price, and tag the items with the price. Buyers are then let into the estate, and they can walk around examining the items, and deciding on what they might want to buy. 

When a buyer has decided on an item, they can pay with whatever methods the organizer has allowed. Cash, credit card, and checks are all common forms of payment. Some organizers may allow for haggling, but others will only accept the ticket price. 

Estate sales typically last for several days, with prices getting discounted as the days go on. For a particularly popular estate sale, buyers may be expected to queue, or to take a number.

What Is Sold At An Estate Sale?

The aim of an estate sale is essentially to clear the house, so all kinds of items are available. Furniture, antiques, and power tools are often for sale.

Large furniture items can be tricky to get rid of, especially if you have a house full of them. For this reason, many estate sales will offer quality furniture items at a lower price. 

Estate sales can also be a fantastic place to find antiques, artwork, and jewelry. Those with a keen eye can find some rare and unique finds at an estate sale, sometimes for a lower price than they would be at an auction house.

Tools and other industrial objects are also common at estate sales. If the estate includes a garage or shed, these items are regularly included in the sale. 

Clothing, books, silverware, dishware, and so much more can be found at estate sales. Basically, anything you might expect to find in a house.

How To Plan For An Estate Sale

Holding an estate sale can be an emotionally fraught time, especially if as the result of death or debt. Be clear in the planning stages about the expectations, and keep discussions open. If the estate sale is to clear debts, consider exactly what your goals are.

Having decided to hold an estate sale, go through every part of the house, from attic to basement. 

Get the valuables appraised. Some items you may be happy to sell to whoever will take them, but it’s worth getting the majority of the contents appraised. Before setting your prices, remember that sentimental value and market value rarely line up. 

Organization is vitally important when planning an estate sale. Photograph what’s for sale, make a list of the prices, and insure any valuables. 

Clean and arrange the items you have chosen for sale. Aim for a professional finish, to attract buyers. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on cleaning, but do give everything a good wipe down. 

Start advertising your sale. Websites and apps have been specifically set up to advertise estate sales to interested buyers. Don’t forget to advertise in your local area.

Tag your items with your prices, and determine how you intend to take payments. The more options, the better. People are more likely to take a big-ticket item if they can pay by credit, rather than arranging the cash.

If there are queues, make sure to have a system in place. First come, first served works well, but you may prefer a numbered system.

When To Use A Professional To Plan An Estate Sale

In many cases, it’s best to consult professional estate liquidators when planning an estate sale. An estate sale can be an emotionally fraught time, particularly if it follows the death of a loved one. By using a professional service, you can maintain distance.

A professional service can help you organize the home, set prices, and even clean and prepare the items for sale. These companies will understand the market, know how to attract interested buyers, and how to best plan the day.

The downside of contacting a reputable estate sale company is that they will charge a fee,  and take a cut of the final sales. However, if you have no experience with managing an estate sale, you’re more likely to make these sales with the help of a company.

Estate managers can often appraise items as well, to ensure you get a fair price.

What To Do With Leftovers From An Estate Sale

There are regularly unsold items from estate sales, the items that failed to catch the eye of any buyer. The best thing to do is to donate these items to charity or to sell them online via sites such as eBay or Craigslist.

How To Attend An Estate Sale

If you’re looking to fill a newly bought house, interested in antiques, or just looking for some bargains, you may wish to attend an estate sale. Head online to find listings for estate sales, or ask in your local antique stores.

Make sure to get to the sale early, so you have the pick of the items. 

Smaller items can be picked up and carried around. To buy a larger item, you typically remove the tag, and carry this with you. Removing the tag is essentially confirming a buy, so don’t snag tickets of items you don’t intend to purchase.

Finally, make your sale. Sellers may be open to negotiation, or it may be a set price. If you like to haggle, make sure to ask if you can.

Final Thoughts

A way to sell unwanted household items and clear an entire estate, the estate sale is an effective way to navigate a tricky time. If you’re planning an estate sale of your own, consider consulting a professional service for the best results.