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Estate Sales: Shouldn't This Be Easier?! (Part Two)

Welcome back to ‘Estate Sales: Shouldn’t This Be Easier?!’ (Part Two) as we tackle the next steps in structuring a strategy to clear out an estate. If you read the first edition, you know that we explored the reasons why finding the buyers for the products of an estate is such a challenge. Today, we want to share what proactive questions to ask yourself, as well as outline some basic avenues used to re-home furniture, antiques and collectibles.


Before deciding what type of professional to hire or what newspaper to advertise in, start by asking yourself 3 basic questions:


1. What is the main purpose of this estate sale? (To make as much money as possible? To clean things out as quickly as you can? To ensure items end up with loved ones or collectors who appreciate them?)


2. Do I feel comfortable deciding the value of the items in this estate, pricing them and dealing directly with the buyers? (For a fun ‘Value IQ’ test, click here to play ‘What’s It Worth?!’: http://www.unexpectedtreasures.net/whatsitworth.html )


3. How much time do I have to spend preparing the estate items for sale, managing pick-up and delivery and making a back-up plan for any sales that fall through?


Your comfort level with these three questions should help you determine if you need a full-service estate sale team, a network of several resources to utilize or if you have suddenly realized a new career as an estate-extraordinaire-entrepreneur (though we don’t see that one too often!). Most people find that even with the best of intentions and most agreeable family members, professional help is very useful at some point, whether it be with the furniture collection, pricing of items or even complete strategy execution.



 The most common first step in an estate process is a family gathering, often a time where loved ones come together and share memories as they choose the items that have meaning to them. The grandchildren may each take a few ornaments that they helped grandma hang on the tree, your sons may cherish those old fishing poles and friends may feel honored to choose one of your great aunt’s hand knit blankets. While this can be a time of comfort and reflection, this is likely not the way you will clear out most of the estate. Typically items selected by loved ones are small and sentimental in value, and you will be left with some hefty furniture pieces and large assorted collections of clothes, house wares and collectibles.


Next, you may need to choose a few different formats to start paring down the items. Good old-fashioned, front yard garage sales are often used for items that are of low value and in large amounts. A garage sale can be defined as more of a ‘quick and dirty’ step to clearing out clutter and making some extra money. Be sure to keep out any items of historical significance, potential collectible worth or sentimental value. Garage sale shoppers are bargain hunters, and you don’t want your desperation to interfere with any rash-selling decisions.


Next, it is often beneficial to get a consultation to see if an estate sale on-site is a good use of time and resources. While not all homes are good candidates, it can be an effective way to sell a large number of items. Be sure that pieces are sorted, organized and displayed well. Pricing, monitoring and check-out is key…so be sure that you have firm values in mind. Plus, the best way to sell is to draw a crowd – so advertising timelines and varying marketing avenues should be planned out ahead of time.


There are some cases where auctions, private buyers and consignment stores are the path of least resistance and most return. This all depends on item type, condition, amount and more. The revenue share will be different too – some consignment stores may take up to 50% commission, estate liquidators and auction houses may take 25-35% or you may hire an auctioneer for a day or pay an estate professional per hour for services rendered.


 This may seem like a great deal to think about – but the point IS to get thinking. The worst thing you can do is become overwhelmed by analysis paralysis, and we see that all the time. Adult children often take a look around the house, make a phone call or two…and then fail to take action for months (or even years!) at a time because it seems too overwhelming. Create a realistic timeline first, and then set-up the steps and resources needed to make things happen on that schedule.


Feel free to contact us at any time, with any additional questions. We would also be happy to introduce you to one of our own trusted experts, Judy Johnson of Unexpected Treasures, so reach out and we’ll make it happen!


All the best,


Helen & Julie


(650) 269-0662


Resources Used:


Unexpected Treasures



The Estate Lady



‘The Pearls Are Mine!’ – The WSJ http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970203920204577195292564700600


Sixty & Single Blog



Helen Ingwersen