- How is an estate sale different from a yard or garage sale?
- How should I prepare for the estate-sale company?
- Is an auction house or an estate-sales company better suited to liquidate household items within an estate?
- What steps are involved in the estate sale?
- How much is my stuff worth?
- Should I be there for the sale itself?
- What should I expect after the sale?
An estate sale is a yard sale on steroids. Both the quality and quantity of sale items is generally much greater than typical yard sales, and often comprises the entire contents of the home. Unlike a yard sale, the home itself is open to buyers who are managed and monitored by professional staff. Buyers peruse items staged in designated areas of the home, ask questions, sometime haggle on price, and make purchases at the checkout table with cash or credit and debit cards.
Estate-sale services include:
- Promoting and advertising the sale in local papers and online publications.
- Pricing items and staging them smartly within the home for the most attractive display, and to facilitate the flow of traffic through the home.
- Cataloguing items online for client review of pricing (and for other purposes).
- Executing the sale, which entails:
- Proper staffing
- Monitoring and managing buyers. (Your estate-sale staff should adequately control the number of buyers within the home at any one time. Staff also guard against theft and address buyers' questions and needs.)
- Encouraging shoppers to purchase.
- Making arrangements for buyers to pick up merchandise.
- Tracking inventory to compare list prices with actual sales prices.
- Providing clients with final financial results and proceeds from sale
- Consignment of select items that remain after the sale, or liquidation through alternate channels.
- Performing complete clean-outs prior to closing (disposing of trash, assigning items to charity, consigning items).
Remove any items that will not be put up for sale, or cordon them off in another room or section of the home. If the items cannot be moved, place clearly-marked NOT FOR SALE tags on them.
Is an auction house or an estate-sales company better suited to liquidate household items within an estate?
The full answer is lengthy, but can be condensed to the below:
- An auction will command more money if you have highly valuable items including collectibles like coins, antique paintings, art from well-known artists, baseball cards, old silver, vintage instruments, etc.
- If you have an entire house full of ordinary items to sell and need to clean up the estate afterward, an estate sale is in your future. Conventional items like furniture, tools, china, kitchenware, hobby equipment, and paintings that are not signed by Rembrandt or his buddies generally fetch much higher prices at estate sales, which are sales conducted on-premises over a one or two day span.
- A free initial consultation will assess your sale and help you determine the best way to liquidate items and dispose of remnants following the sale. The signing of an estate sale contract can occur at this initial meeting, or a contract can be left with you to review and sign at a later date.
- With the signing of the contract, dates are set for promotional activities, for staging and pricing items, and for the actual sale.
- Promotional photos will be taken soon after the contract signing for use in a number of online publications and the estate sale firm's own Web site if applicable, as is the case with PES.
- A week or more prior to the actual sale, the staff arrives to stage items, moving them to an optimal location within and outside the home. Staging includes pricing and cataloguing, and putting up needed signs within the house such as "Off limits," "Not an exit," "All items this table $3," "No food and drink in home," "More upstairs," "More downstairs," "Ask for assistance on this item," etc.
- On the day of the estate sale, the staff arrives early to place directional signs to your sale. The PES Staff includes one or more cashiers who accept cash and credit and debit cards. Other staffers manage and monitor each floor or area and protect your valuable items behind locked display cases.
- Five business days from the sale, you receive a check for proceeds less any PES expenses, which are clearly itemized in your contract.
In order to manage expectations, the general rule is that furniture, rugs, kitchen appliances, glassware, tools, etc. are worth about one fourth their original cost. True antiques are the exception. Some items, once popular, may not be popular now but you can trust your PES estate sale agents to appropriately price your merchandise. If they don't know the value, they will find it with relentless research both online and using appraisers where necessary.
A general rule is to remain away from the home during the sale. It may be emotionally difficult to witness family heirlooms and belongings being carried off by strangers. It is important to remember that buyers have no relationship to the deceased or your belongings, and innocent actions and questions on the part of buyers may seem callous and disrespectful.
Even when items are priced and discounted appropriately, some merchandise will inevitably remain unsold after the sale. Your estate sale agent should offer to sell and dispose of remaining items through alternate sales channels such as consignment and neighborhood charities. An estate sale firm should also offer clean-out services and provide a firm price to leave your house in broom-clean condition prior to the closing.