Maybe you are moving to a smaller home, a bigger one, or even out of state. You might be re-locating a parent or grandparent to an independent living or assisted living facility or perhaps you have inherited a full home. Whatever the case may be, it is important to understand the estate sale process and how they work. By arming yourself with the right knowledge and calling upon the experts, you can ensure the job gets done right. The information in this blog will put you in the right place to take the next steps.

What Exactly is an Estate Sale?

An estate sale is a full home liquidation that occurs within the home rather than in the garage or driveway. This means that everything, and we mean everything in the home is for sale. From general items like clothing, cleaning supplies, furniture, and vehicles to large collections, jewelry, luxury items, and high end antiques. You name it, we can sell it!

So, What Happens First?

The first step is to sort through everything in the home and determine what you would like to keep. That is all you need to do to prepare. An estate sale company will sort through the items you leave for sale, think of them as a second line of defense. They may find items you have missed but should not be the ones removing the personal statements and memorabilia from the home. The most important thing to note is that an estate sale company cannot decide what is sentimental to you or what items could be useful to family and friends. It may seem like a daunting task depending on the situation and your timeline, but it is very important that you at least skim through every room. Whether you are moving to assisted living, downsizing, or have experienced the loss of a loved one, you will be thankful you took the time to do this.

  • We suggest tagging anything you know you are taking with you but, cannot remove from the home, with sticky notes or painters tape (items like large furniture). It is also a good idea to either box up small items or remove them entirely from the property before a company is interviewed.
  • Don’t worry about throwing things away (unless it is obvious rubbish or expired food).
  • Don’t worry about grouping like by like. The experts you hire will take care of that work for you. The most important thing is to ensure you are taking everything you want. Once the estate sale happens, you will not be able to get the items back.

old handwritten letter with photograph of woman and black cat

You and Your Family Have What You Want. What’s Next?

The next step is to book your free consultation. During the consultation you will learn how estate sale companies charge for their services; Fixed fees, set percentage, sliding percentage scales etc. In order to determine the cost for services, the property and all sellable contents must be evaluated. The consultation will accomplish this. Be ready to walk the company through the home, discuss how they charge for their services, and ask all questions regarding their service and review their contract. For a free guide on what questions to ask, download our Successful Sale Checklist.

  • Do not wait until the last minute to take this step! It is important to know that most companies are typically booked 4-6 weeks out. This means if you wait until a week before the closing date, you might not be eligible for an estate sale.
  • Before you call, decide on dates and times that work for all family/friends that should be involved on the consultation so you are prepared for any potential dates the company provides.
  • Ensure that all items family/friends are interested in are either clearly marked or removed from the home entirely.
  • Know your potential move out date if living in the home.
  • Know the closing date if the home has sold.
  • Have a list of acceptable weekends for the estate sale that fit your time frame.

Owner Allison shaking hands with a client while entering her house

You’ve Chosen the Company! Now What?

At this point the home should be cleared of all items deemed “not for sale” and ready for the estate sale company to enter and get to work. You can expect to furnish the company with a key or garage code to enter the home as they need to get the job done. Each process differs but, ours will include bringing in tables and supplies to stage the home similarly to a store, professional advertising, appraising and pricing the contents within the home, and finally, hosting the sale which can be anywhere from a 1 to 4 day event. The estate sale process from beginning to end (meaning the first day the company begins to work in the home until the close of the sale) takes roughly 1 to 2 weeks on average and should be completely hands off for you.

  • Relax! Take time with family and friends or decorate your new space. Now is your chance to sit back and reap the benefits of making the decision to hire a professional.
  • Try not to interrupt the process. Estate sales happen on tight deadlines so it is important that the company has the space to complete the job efficiently.
  • Collect your check! Expect a check and a detailed list of what sold within a couple of weeks following the sale.

What Happens With the Sale Leftovers?

You can expect anywhere from 5% to 25% of your items to be left-over after the sale has come to a close. In order to get rid of the rest, most companies will offer clean-out services. Each clean-out service is charged differently if at all and it is important to understand what the company you choose offers. Common clean-out options include:

  • A flat fee provided prior to the sale
  • An hourly fee per employee per hour
  • A quote on the final day of the sale
  • No charge and the company owns all items remaining
  • A combination of the above with consignment options for leftovers
  • No clean-out service – to be outsourced
  • If there is no charge, ask why. This could be positive, however there is a small chance the company will over-price your items so they may sell them elsewhere after the sale.
  • If the company charges you a flat fee regardless of what is left, find out what the cost includes.
  • If the charge seems high, ask if a dumpster is included. If a city has a strict curbside trash policy this may be why the cost is higher than usual. If the trash is unlimited at the curb the high cost is cause for concern.

An empty, clean interior of home