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How to Hold an Estate Sale

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If you are looking to clear out your loved one’s belongings after they’ve passed, then an estate sale is the perfect option. You can quickly take care of all those items that have been sitting around for years and make some serious cash in the process. It might sound like a lot of work, but it really isn’t, especially if you do a bit of research and preparation ahead of time.

What is an estate sale?

An estate sale is an event where all contents of a home are sold at a large selling event. This event usually takes place after someone passes away (or if a family or individual is downsizing to a much smaller home). The term "estate" refers to the deceased person's possessions; an estate is typically managed by an executor after someone passes away. Items you'd usually see included for sale at an estate sale include furniture, appliances, collectibles, antiques and family heirlooms.

How do estate sales work?

If you’re looking for information on how to have an estate sale on your own (or even how to have an estate sale in one week), you may be surprised and pleased to learn that estate sales are relatively simple events. Once you’ve been given the green light to hold an estate sale (as in, you have no unresolved issues with the estate), you’ll want to do the following:

  1. Set a date for the estate sale.
  2. Identify which pieces of property you’ll be selling at the estate sale and which items you’ll be donating or giving away for free. Clean, repair or fix any items you think are worth cleaning and repairing for a potentially higher price.
  3. Consider enlisting the help of friends and family or a professional organization to help you organize and hold the estate sale. Hiring a professional organization is very common with estates as they take care of the logistics, market the event, and usually understand how to price items much better than most families would.
  4. Price all of the items you intend to sell at the estate sale and place price tags on each of the items you’ll be selling.
  5. Advertise the sale on social media, a memorial website, estate sale advertising sites, through any community organizations or religious organizations you or the deceased was a part of, and ask friends and family to spread the word.
  6. On the day of the sale, set up all the items on tables or display them in a way that folks can easily walk through and pick items to purchase.
  7. Have a designated family member or friend set up a way to collect cash or payment for items.

Even if you’ve never held one before, being prepared and knowledgeable about how to hold an estate sale yourself will help you organize the event properly and avoid having an estate sale turn into chaos.

Handle tasks with our checklist

Why should you hold an estate sale?

After someone dies, many families hold estate sales to dispose of all of the deceased's belongings. But estate sales can also be held for any reason, whether you're moving homes or downsizing your current living room. If you do decide to hold an estate sale yourself, make sure that you are the legal owner of the property and have the authority to sell it -- you cannot hold an estate sale if there are unresolved issues concerning the estate. If you’re not sure, consult a lawyer for advice on how to proceed or for information on other ways you can dispose of the deceased's belongings.

When is the best time to have an estate sale?

If you live in a rural or suburban area, it is usually best to hold your estate sale on the weekend. If you live in a city with heavy traffic, an estate sale may be better on a weekday. You'll also want to pay attention to weather and holidays. If it's a holiday where folks are likely to have the day off, consider holding the estate sale on that day.

This will help get more people to show up and buy your items. The disadvantage of holding an estate sale on a weekday is that fewer people will be around to buy things. There are fewer commuters and businesspeople around at that time. However, it's also less busy in terms of competition for customers who are shopping then.

How much money should I expect to make from an estate sale?

It’s hard to say how much money you can expect to make off an estate sale. The amount will depend on the size of the home, the value of the items, and how well they sell. But if you do a good job promoting it in advance and proceeds are anything close to the average estate sale proceeds, you can sometimes expect to earn over $18,000.

What to remember before holding an estate sale

One of the first things to do before holding an estate sale is to make sure your deceased loved one's belongings are in good (or sellable) condition. This means taking the needed time to clean, repair, and inspect everything that will be part of the estate sale. Doing this can help you pick items that are worth taking the time to display and price versus items that are better off being donated or thrown away.

Before you hold an estate sale, you should also think about how you are going to promote it. There are a few great places online that you can share information about and advertise your estate sale, including: - A memorial website for the person who passed away - Craigslist - Facebook Marketplace - Facebook and other social media sites - Estate sale advertising sites (such as and - Local advertising or sale groups - OfferUp or other apps where you can sell items - Through the estate sale professional or company you hire to help with your sale

You should also reach out to local organizations, churches and social groups—they may be willing to help spread the word about your upcoming estate sale in their own forums and on their own email blasts.

If you want to make sure things go smoothly, it can be a good idea to consider hiring someone who specializes in holding estate sales. These specialists can save you time and stress when it comes to holding an estate sale. They’ll also know how much money your items are worth, likely have access to an estate sale pricing guide, and will be knowledgeable about common pitfalls to avoid. If you do decide to hire someone (or a company) to hold your estate sale for you, be aware of the amount of money they charge. Most estate sale companies or professionals will charge a commission (often a large commission, around 30-40% of the total gross sales) for their services. However, this can be worth it if it means you’re capturing the full value of the items and are able to sell much more.

How to price household items for an estate sale

Knowing the right prices to sell items at can make or break your estate sale. It's important that you take into account the value, quality, age, and uniqueness of your item when pricing it. Take into consideration what other stores charge for similar items and how much money your loved one put into buying the item if applicable. There are no hard-and-fast rules about how much to charge, but you'll want to make sure it's not too overpriced or underpriced.

What are prices like at estate sales?

Prices at estate sales will vary wildly depending on the items you’re selling, the quality and condition of those items, the price at the time of purchase, the antique value (if any), and many other factors.

Other things to consider when pricing items at an estate include the condition of the item, the age of the item, the rarity and uniqueness of the item, and the general price of the item (or an equivalent) you find through research. Researching items before pricing them will help you establish a guideline for when you may be pricing items too high or too low. It'll also help you estimate prices for similar items you're unable to find a price for online.

Additionally, it’s worth considering hiring a professional or an estate sale organization to help you run your estate sale. Working with a professional organization is common as they have invaluable knowledge and experience in running successful estate sales. Pricing is also one of the areas their knowledge can help a ton.

What sells at estate sales?

Estate sales typically focus on selling furniture, clothing, books, electronics and other household items. Collectibles like porcelain dolls or antique furniture may also be worth featuring, depending on the quality and cleanliness of the item.There's no set rule as to what should go into an estate sale - it all depends on the types of items available, the quality of the items being sold, and your (or the deceased's) personal preferences when it came to whether or not an item should be sold or given away. Here are some items that are usually popular at estate sales:

  • Books are always a hot-ticket item at an estate sale. In general, people get more excited about buying old books than new ones because the purchaser can sometimes purchase a book that’s rare, no longer in print, or a first-edition.
  • Art is a profitable item at an estate sale. Painting and drawing supplies, original paintings, and framed artwork make for great sales.
  • Jewelry can also be a big money-maker at an estate sale. A necklace, ring, or earrings that are made with real gemstones will attract buyers and sell quickly. Diamond jewelry is another popular and profitable item that typically sells well at estate sales.
  • Furniture is another item that does well at an estate sale. The more expensive and high-end items like couches, tables, dressers, and beds usually sell quickly.
  • China sets and higher-end glassware can be profitable at an estate sale.
  • Finally, tools and sporting goods should be sold at your estate sale as well. Any of these items that are in good condition and work well are bound to be popular and profitable at the sale.

How to have a successful estate sale

Here are some estate sale tips to keep in mind when holding your own estate sale.

Tip 1: Research your items before selling.

The best way to determine how much an item will be worth is through research. Find out what similar items have gone for in the past, or whether or not there are any established price guides available. Without researching items prior to pricing them, you may be at risk for underpricing items and losing out on funds you may have otherwise received.

Tip 2: Price your items accurately.

One of the most important things to remember when holding an estate sale is to price your items at the right level. Too high and they won't sell, too low and you're selling them off for next to nothing.

Tip 3: Be honest with buyers.

Another tip for a successful estate sale is to be honest with potential buyers about the history and condition of your items. People want to know what they're buying before they spend their money - so if an item is used or still in need of repairs, let them know that up front.

Tip 4: Advertise the sale ahead of time.

Finally, you should consider advertising the sale ahead of time. If you don't have a great area for signage, you can always print up some flyers and hand them out or post them on telephone poles and community message boards. Advertising the estate sale all over social media is an additional (and easy) way to notify buyers of the sale ahead of time.

Are you in charge of holding your own estate sale? Need a way to notify others? Consider setting up a memorial website. Memorial websites easily let you send out notifications to all subscribers and list important information publicly, so that anyone who visits can learn about all of the important event information, quickly.

Handle tasks with our checklist

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Last updated June 21, 2022
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