How to Plan an Estate Sale

18 January 2015 by

As Aging, CD and Hoarding Specialist Maria Spetalnik, founder of Conquer the Clutter, said on this blog yesterday, after a loved one dies, yard sales are seldom worth the trouble.

“You will be putting in a lot of time in advance to get things ready to sell and to price them,” she said. “Then there is the time sitting, hoping that people will come and buy. Then you have to deal with people haggling over the price of everything, no matter how low you priced things in the first place.”

Instead, she recommends hiring a company to host an estate sale. “They do take a percentage of the sales, but you save a ton of time and anguish,” she said.

Before you hire an estate company, according to Spetalnik, there are some things you need to know:

  • Estate sale companies do want to see a minimum likely value in the possessions left behind before they will take on the job.
  • If they do take the sale they will come in and do all the pricing, advertising, etc., and they have regular buyers who will come that you would not have been able to drive to a yard sale.
  • The estate sale company wants to make as much money as possible, as well, so they will price as high as they think they can but they will take a smaller commission on an item if needed to make sure they get something rather than nothing. Items that are left are often taken to donation for the owners as part of the contract.

“Understand that choosing a lower commission percentage does not necessarily mean you will make more money,” said Chris Seman, president, of Caring Transitions. “A skilled professional, with a list of buyers, may make you more money even while charging a higher percentage.”

For help selecting a company, Seman recommends the follow Dos and Don’ts:

  • Ask for references from any company you employ. You may even want to attend another sale they are holding and see how smoothly it runs. Always use a professional company who is in the business of running Estate Sales.
  • Ask if the company carries liability insurance for business operations and the merchandise they sell, as well as personal injury liability coverage and importantly, workers compensation for employees.
  • Hire the specialist you feel you can trust and discuss payment methods before the contract is signed. Some specialists charge an administrative fee or “minimum” to prepare the sale and others include those same fees in their commissions.
  • Don’t allow inexperienced or unprofessional people to run your sale. This rarely, if ever, produces optimal results and may cost more in the long run as they will have to purchase materials and displays, buy extra advertising, purchase signing and take the time to research prices. The result is usually something like a failed garage sale, leaving you with a lot of unsold items and very little to show for the items that did sell.

Finally, Spetalnik said she advises her clients not to attend the sale because it can be upsetting to see how their items are priced.

“The estate sale company wants as little left over as possible, so the last day of the sale often has very low prices.”

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