In June 2015, a few months after my mom died, my dad decided that keeping their home of 36 years was getting to be too much and that was time to sell it and move into assisted living. So we hired a realtor and got ready to put the house on the market. And I started thinking about estate sales as a way to sell the items that dad couldn’t take with him and no one in the family wanted.
Here’s how the rest of the story was supposed to go in my mind.
- We would put the house on the market and have a contract at asking price within a week.
- In 30 days the house would close.
- Before the 30 days were up, we’d hire an estate sale company to sell the items Dad couldn’t take with him, clear out the house leaving it in move-in condition for the new owners and deposit a hefty check for the proceeds of the sale.
Don’t you just love fantasy? I hope so because all of the above was TRULY a fantasy.
I knew nothing about estate sales except that people had them when they downsized, divorced or someone died.
So…I got on the internet and started trying to find a local estate sale company. I called several and found that most of the local companies were booked 2 or 3 months in advance. So if I scheduled one of those and the house sold quickly, I ran the risk of having to sell everything myself before closing.
I had to consider the pros and cons of conducting the estate sale myself OR waiting to hire a company. Here are some things to consider if you are you in trying to make that decision for yourself.
Estate Sales (Tag Sales) are held when someone can no longer keep all of the “stuff” they have accumulated. It is usually held at a time in a person’s life when there has been a death, divorce or the time has come to downsize.
This is something that may seem like nothing more than a big garage sale. Why not do it yourself? That is certainly a possibility. But there are several ways that estate sales are different from garage sales.
- Garage sales are smaller and are filled with items you WANT to get rid of.
- Estate sales are much larger and involve a majority of one’s possessions. You are selling most of the items because it has become a necessity. Not because you want to.
- In an estate sale, some of the items you sell have personal and sentimental value.
So, is an estate sale something you should tackle on your own? Before taking on this task, it’s important to ask these questions:
Will I make more money if I don’t have to pay a commission to an estate sale company?
You might. Companies usually take 25-50% of the gross from estate sale proceeds. But there are other things to consider:
Pricing is important and will be a big factor in how much you will make.
Do you have a background in appraisal that will enable you to determine items of true monetary value and what people will pay for them? That Hummel collection of grandmas is worth a lot less than you think.
Are you experienced enough with estate sales to know what people who shop them are willing to purchase?
Many things that the average person thinks are valuable are typically not the most popular items at an estate sale. Why? Because items like china, crystal, silver and collectibles are sold at EVERY estate sale. Being so widely available decreases their value.
But items like rusty hinges, half bottles of shampoo and Tupperware from the 70’s may be just what people are looking for! Seriously. This is not hyperbole! Things that you would throw in the trash are sometimes what people want.
Do you have the time?
Most estate sales are held over the weekend – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – all day.
In planning the sale, you’ll need time (maybe a month, if you don’t have other responsibilities (like a full-time job and a family) to go through every nook and cranny of the home and decide what to keep and what will be sold.
Items will need to be priced and displayed. Do you have a number of tables, display cases and hanging racks on which to display items?
Do you know how to display items in the best way to get the best price?
Do you have enough muscle?
Do you have people who will help you carry stuff up from the basement, down from the attic and move heavy furniture and appliances?
How will you advertise?
One of the major factors in a successful estate sale is getting the right people in the door.
You can put something on Facebook and Craig’s list.
You can tell your friends and family.
But you need buyers who buy estate sale items and these may not be the same people who would respond to your marketing.
Do you have enough people to help?
In addition to help pre-sale, you need people at the sale to take money, do crowd control (not let too many people in at one time) and provide security.
Shoplifting and tag switching are common at estate sales and thieves are adept at what they do. Do you know what to look for or how to spot a thief?
Do you have a thick skin?
How will you feel after a day or so of listening to comments about you or your loved one’s taste in home décor or disputing the price of items that hold great personal value to you?
Are you able to process credit card payments?
You can make it a cash-only sale, but you will typically sell more if people can pay with a credit card.
Does your neighborhood allow estate sales?
What are the parking regulations in your community?
If someone were to get hurt on your property during the sale, will your homeowner’s policy cover that?
If your neighborhood does NOT allow estate sales, there are companies that will load up all the items and sell them off-site or at an online auction.
What will you do with items that aren’t sold?
Do you have the time, manpower, vehicle and muscle to deliver the leftovers to the dump or to a charity? Or do you know a charity that will pick these items up?
What about cleanup and preparing the house for sale, if that is your plan?
If after considering these questions, you’ve decided to hire an Estate Sale Company and NOT go the DIY route, how do you find the best one? I’ll cover that next week in 11 Things to Ask Before You Hire An Estate Sale Company.