What to Know About an Estate Sale and How They Work


Do you know what an estate sale is and how they work? An estate sale is often the last step in the process of settling an estate and may be necessary if the deceased owned a lot of possessions.

Estate sales are a method of selling most or nearly all of the contents of a house. An estate sale is often the last step in the process of settling an estate.

Estate sales typically occur after the homeowner's death or another event that causes the inhabitants to quickly move away from the home. Estate sales usually are conducted over multiple days and are open to the public.

A professional estate sale organizer typically organizes an estate sale on behalf of the family members. They can be referred to as estate sellers or estate liquidators.

Some like to think of an estate sale as a garage or yard sale on steroids. Usually, with estate sales, the value of what's being sold will be worth far more than what you find at a typical yard sale.

What Are Estate SalesDeposit Photos

Definition of an Estate Sale

The definition of an estate sale is straightforward. Estate or tag sales are conducted to eliminate possessions in a one-stop event. It's more professional than a yard sale, and everything is marked with a price tag.

Usually, everything is for sale when an estate sale occurs; however, family members may choose to hold out a few select items. There could be something with fond memories attached or even an item of high value that might not return its proper value.

Items held out of an estate sale will be listed in the contract executed by the seller. Estate sales are often called tag sales because all possessions have the desired price. This type of estate sale should not be confused with a real estate attorney settling an estate by selling a house.

Why Should You Have an Estate Sale?

There are several reasons why someone may want to have an estate sale. The most common, of course, is liquidating a family member's possessions due to passing away. However, that is not the only valid reason.

Sometimes your average home seller will want to get rid of many things because they are downsizing into a smaller home or possibly a condo. There may be limited space at their new residence.

Other common reasons for having an estate sale include divorce, quick job relocation, or financial difficulties. Estate sales can occur for literally any reason when someone wants to get rid of their possessions in a timely manner.

Garage Sales vs. Estate Sales

While estate sales and garage sales are two methods of selling property, they differ. With an estate sale, potential buyers will often line up at the door before the estate sale starts. Buyers enter on a first-come, first serve basis.

It's not unusual to see antique dealers and other collectors come hours before the event starts hoping to find something exceptional.

On the other hand, garage sales typically occur in the home's garage and driveway. Typically, garage sales only include a more limited amount of things, whereas the estate sale will include most of the home's possessions.

Estate Auction vs. Estate Sale

The items estate auction and estate sale are often used interchangeably. However, there is a difference. All of the possessions are auctioned off to the highest bidder with an estate auction.

An estate auction is managed by an auction company and a highly-skilled auctioneer. The auctioneer is a member of their state and national auctioneers’ associations and follows a strict code of ethics.

Each item in the home is sold to the highest bidder.

With estate sales, buyers look at all the items on their timetable. The prices are set, and there is no bidding.

How Does an Estate Sale Work?

Knowing how they work is one of the most essential parts of hiring an estate sale company. The first job of an estate liquidator is to organize all of the items to be sold based on their value. They are then appraised, and the price is put on them. Similar to a real estate agent determining the market value of a home, an estate sale company will determine the possessions inside it.

Estate organizers will walk through the home before letting potential buyers enter.

If buyers are present when the estate sale opens, they will be allowed in on a first-come, first-served basis. Some estate liquidators use a number system, with buyers receiving numbers that match their place in line. Other estate sale organizers draw random numbers to determine which buyers enter the home first.

Shoppers can walk freely about the home and examine each marked item. They can then choose the items they want and pay for them on their way out.

Usually, buyers will be able to pay for their purchases with cash, checks, credit cards, or debit cards, but it's up to the liquidator's policy.

During the estate sale, the estate liquidator manages the sale and resolves any pricing issues to ensure the sale goes as planned.

Remember that some estate sales companies do not let family members attend the event. If this is important to you, make sure you ask this question upfront and choose a company that will allow you to attend.

What is Typically Sold at Estate Sales

The most common things you will see being sold at an estate sale include household items, furniture, electronics, artwork, and fine jewelry. Estate sales can commonly have antiques and collectibles.

How to Find an Estate Sale Company?

There are several ways you can find a reputable estate sale company. First, speak to friends and family to see if they can offer references. If not, ask your real estate agent. They are likely to know of some estate sale companies nearby.

Lastly, you can try a Google search. Estate sellers near me or estate seller near me should provide some companies to research. When picking an estate sale company to work with, ensure they are bonded and insured. You might also check the Better Business Bureau to ensure there are no registered complaints.

If you're a buyer and want to find an estate sale, try an estate sale near me.

Final Thoughts

With the estate sale out of the way, you can now focus on other vital things like hiring movers, changing your address, and closing the house.

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Bill Gassett is an avid writer for numerous real estate topics including finance, mortgages, moving, home improvement, and general real estate. His work has been featured on numerous prestigious real estate publications.

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