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how to plan an estate sale

How To Plan An Estate Sale

Tips to successfully organize an estate sale

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How To Plan An Estate Sale

Estate sales are a common way to liquidate belongings from an entire home. The fist rule to a successful estate sale is to allow yourself plenty of time to plan.

Due to the considerable size of estate sales, many people hire the services of estate sale specialists to organize and manage the sale. These companies take a percentage, anywhere between 20 – 45%. These fees will vary depending on the location, the company and what’s included.

If you choose to organize your own estate sale without using the services of an estate sale professional, it can be achieved successfully with thorough planning, organization and patience.

Organizing The Estate Sale

Sorting the merchandise – Going through each room in the home, including every cupboard, closets, drawers, basements etc. will require a lot of time. While sorting items, dividing them into categories to be sold, can make pricing and selling easier.

If there are some very expensive items, such as antiques, you might decide to set these apart and sell them separately. While sorting through the belongings of a deceased relative, any paperwork such as medical records, financial documents, and private letters and papers, along with family photographs, should be separated from the items, which are to be sold.

Check each item that is to be sold – Make sure everything to be sold is clean. Spend time ensuring all items are carefully cleaned and any minor repairs get done. If there are any items which you are not able to fix or clean, still include these in the sale. They might be just what someone is looking for.

Catalogue each item – Make an itemized list of everything to be sold. Be thorough, keep it organized and include specifications. This document can be printed and used as a reference for you and any family members, or others that will have a financial stake in the estate sale.

Display the items – Using display tables and grouping items together by function or type is advised when selling at an estate sale. Things like artwork or furniture can remain in their original locations, unless moving them to a new setting would be beneficial. Make sure you have enough display tables, even if it means borrowing, renting or buying.

When displaying the items, think about their placement, especially valuable items such as jewelry, or smaller items of value. Consider placing these items close to the checkout area or in a display case/cabinet that can be locked.

Pricing the items – Prior to putting a price on any item, do some research. Visit antique shops, other estate sales, to get an idea of what some items are worth. View catalogs and online sites. If you have any collectibles or valuable antiques, you could hire a professional appraiser to advise on pricing. If some of the items are high value, you might want to consider selling these at an auction.

Take pictures – Having photos of the items that will be for sale, is a great way to keep a reference. The pictures can also be used for advertising and if you will be selling any of the items online, you will need photos.

Set the date – Estate sales generally take place over a 3-day period, Friday – Sunday. It is best to avoid scheduling your estate sale during a holiday weekend, or the same weekend that other estate sales in your area are being held.

Prepare the property for the sale – During the 3 days, there will be a lot of people on the property and in the home. Make sure that access and signs throughout the house are clear. If there are any areas of the house that are not open to the public, have signs up or make sure these areas are locked.

If any areas of the house are hazardous, for example: low ceilings or uneven floors, make sure it is clearly marked. You might be liable for any injuries that happen on the property.

When there are crowds, you will want to be vigilant on who comes in and out. Having one entrance for both entering and exiting can discourage theft.

Advertise

Advertising is key to attracting buyers to your estate sale. You will need to advertise in various ways. Include contact information so that people can contact you with any questions.

Online – The Internet is a great place to advertise your estate sale. Make sure to include photos of items being sold.

  • List your sale on specialized estate sale websites such as EstateSales.net and EstateSales.org
  • Place a classified listing on your local Craigslist. Social media is also a good place to spread the word and you can join online garage sale sites to advertise the sale.

Newspaper – Place an ad in the local newspaper. If there is no section for estate sales, place it in the section designated for garage sales.

Posters – Place posters around your neighborhood and on the weekend of, place signage directing people to the sale.

In addition to the general public attending estate sales, often, other merchants such as antique dealers, resellers, and thrift stores are also interested. Inform them of the date and location of your estate sale.

Answering questions prior to the sale – Respond and reply to any inquires professionally and in a timely manner.

Managing The Sale

Have plenty of help – Having trustworthy, reliable friends, family members, or hired helpers to assist during the duration of the sale will help this large-scale event run smoothly. It is important to have plenty of “attendants” throughout the house and people keeping an eye out for potential thievery.

Beginning and ending times – Most estate sales begin in the morning. Start at a reasonable time and expect eager buyers to already be lined up, ready to be let in. If you set specific beginning and ending times, be willing to stay, as some buyers like to wait till later in the day to see if there are any deals.

Be professional and courteous – There are going to be a lot of people coming through the house during the days of the estate sale. Many questions will be asked and items will need to be kept organized. Always remain professional and offer assistance when needed. If it becomes to crowded in the house, have someone at the entrance regulating the amount of people entering.

Sale transactions – Depending on where the estate sale takes place, you might need to keep a record of each transaction for tax purposes. Keep a note of all items sold, the amount, and if possible to whom.

  • If you will be accepting cash, keep a sharp eye out for counterfeit money. See the link from the Secret Service on how to Know Your Money (PDF).
  • Customers usually have credit cards and it’s pretty easy nowadays to provide that service using a smartphone or tablet.

Remaining items – If there are still some items unsold once the sale is finished, consider donating to charities. Here is a list of Where to Donate Items Before Moving.

And remember, there is always the option to hire a professional estate sale company to organize the sale. If you plan to attend an estate sale to furnish your new home, read What is an Estate Sale.

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