Estate sales are often associated with the sale of a home’s contents when the homeowner has passed away. This is actually not the case, as most estate sales occur when the homeowner has moved into something smaller and no longer needs the majority of their household contents.
There are many benefits to holding an estate sale. The following may help answer some questions you have about estate sales.
What do these companies do for me?
Estate sale companies evaluate and set up your items to sell, price them accordingly, monitor the sales and the flow of traffic, and provide security and extra personnel to deter theft during the sale. They will arrange for appropriate permits and advertise your sale in advance, to ensure a high flow of traffic.
What goes and what stays?
Estate sale companies will likely ask you to leave everything you want sold in the estate sale exactly where it is, allowing you to focus on packing and removing just the items you want and need — no sorting, organizing or arranging items you no longer want. For instance, simply leave that 45- piece set of china in the cabinet and the estate sale company will clean it and ensure it’s attractively displayed.
Lastly, estate sale companies also recommend that you not discard any items—allow them to be the judge of what should be thrown away, taking the guesswork out of the equation for you.
How are my belongings priced?
Estate sale companies are experienced in pricing items based on current market value. Although to you, your great grandmother’s old and tarnished teapot may appear worthless, an expert will be able to recognize its real market value. These companies’ personnel are often trained in antiques and appraisals — their expertise in pricing your belongings at appropriate market value will help you maximize the results of your sale or auction.
Why not just have a garage or yard sale?
If you hold a garage or yard sale, you’ll be responsible for organizing, cleaning, pricing everything for sale, as well as disposing of items remaining after the sale. An estate sale company will handle all those details for you, disposing of what didn’t sell (providing you either a tax-deductible receipt from charity, or the proceeds from the buy-out), and ensuring your home is “broom- clean” after the sale.
What if I want a specific amount for some items?
You can request the estate sale company set a “reserve” on any item. If it does not sell for the minimum amount you set, you can keep it instead of selling it for less.
What if I don’t have enough stuff for an estate sale?
If an estate sale company determines that you have valuable items to sell, but there is insufficient quantity to warrant an individual estate sale, then they may choose to bring in items from another estate to increase the pool of potential buyers, or to take your things to another site. Another option is, they might wish to take particular items to their gallery for consignment, or ask you to allow them to market your valuables via the Internet. If the remaining items are not antiques or collectibles, it is sometimes more beneficial to allow an auction company to take them to their auction house for a sale, or to offer the item to a dealer for a modest “buy-out” amount.
What do estate sale companies charge?
Estate sale companies generally charge 30% to 35% commission on the sale’s gross proceeds. Additional fees may be charged for transferring some items off-site for sale. When evaluating the fee, remember that these companies are experts in pricing and selling belongings at market value, and buyers at estate sales arrive with different expectations than shoppers at garage sales, usually anticipated to be bargain bazaars.
Even with the commission charged, an estate sale will almost always net more than a garage sale you hold on your own (and you won’t have to do as much work!).
What are estate auctions?
Estate auctions, which can be held on-site or off-site, work a little differently, although generally the cost is the same. On-site auctions are similar to estate sales, except items are not priced in advance. Instead, items are placed strategically and auctioned in an order pre-determined by the auctioneer. When liquidating a large estate, it is more practical and efficient to have an estate sale or an on-site estate auction. Off-site sales can be advantageous when the sale is not extensive and items can be easily transported to the auction house. The auctioneer will come to your home to evaluate your belongings, and then arrange for your items to be boxed and transported to their site. You will most likely need to gather together the items for auction. Your auction will be scheduled and the date advertised, just like an estate sale.
Learn more about how to avoid estate auction scams in our post on “How to NOT get scammed by your estate auctioneer”
What is right for me – sale or auction?
Time is the biggest deciding factor — if you are planning on staying in your home right up to closing, there will probably not be enough time for an estate sale, which can take from a week to a month to prepare for and hold. If you can move out of your home (including packing and taking the belongings you want, and leaving the rest) a few weeks before the new owners take possession, an estate sale is viable. Your timeframe will ultimately determine whether an estate sale or auction makes sense for you.
Will I really get market value for my stuff when I sell it?
There is a big difference between “market value” and “resale value.” Often we expect the price we paid for an item to determine its re-sale value, while in fact, most items depreciate in value, with the exception of some antiques and collectibles. Your 20-year-old refrigerator may not bring $20, if it sells at all. Your old sleeper sofa might yield an end-of- year tax deduction if donated to charity. The old pot you’ve been using in your garden for years, could sell for $50. This illustrates why using professional and reputable estate sale companies or auctioneers to value and sell your belongings, rather than doing it on your own, will generally maximize the proceeds resulting from the sale.
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