How Does An Estate Sale Work?

February 07th, 2023

Homeowner Guides | Selling | Buying
How Does An Estate Sale Work?

How Does An Estate Sale Work?

An estate sale is a method used to liquidate a property and the contents of a home. Follow along to learn more about an estate sale, how it works, how to prepare for one, and more! 

What is an estate sale, and how does it work? How do you organize an estate sale? How much can you make through an estate sale? What sells best at an estate sale?

These are all questions that must start to swirl through your mind. It's essential to start with the basics here. We at Raleigh Realty want to be sure you know all the facts before performing your estate sale.

An estate sale is a method to liquidate the contents of a home and, in turn, receive a profit. Often, estate sales directly result from a loved one passing away. Sometimes it's the homeowner looking to get rid of many items because they are redecorating or preparing for a big move across the country. Whichever the case may be, estate sales offer the option of creating liquid cash in exchange for the home's contents.

In the circumstances of an estate sale after the death of the loved one, the family is left with an entire home filled with contents they will need to go through. It could be emotionally difficult to part with certain items, or the heirs don't have use for some of these items yet; they are still valuable and in good condition. 

In this article, we will go through the benefits of having an estate sale and explain how it works and how much is involved in preparing for your estate sale. 

Estate Sale sign in a front yard near plants

1. What is The Difference Between an Estate Sale and a Tag Sale?

A tag sale is something that most Americans are familiar with. A homeowner selects certain items from their home they no longer want, creates a one-stop shop on their front lawn or driveway, and waits until people come and look around to see if anything interests them. Most of the time, tag sales are a way for people to purge unwanted or used items and furniture in the home.

Many people choose to frequent tag sales and estate sales as a way to pass the time. It can be fun to sift through someone else's treasures and give them new life!

Many times at a tag sale, you can work to agree on what would be a fair price to pay for each item, and most of the time, people love doing this because you can walk away with some good finds at a great price without emptying your pockets.

An estate sale is different because, most of the time, it is designed for people to come to the home and walk through the house and view the items for sale in the environment just as they were intended. The homeowner or heirs of the estate will have to go piece by piece and label each item with a specified price.

Under certain circumstances, you may ask the host of the estate sale if any items are allowing bids. If the answer is yes, this may work out in your favor. If you place a bid under the sticker price of that item and no other onlookers place a bid on that item, you will win it for the amount you agreed to pay for it, and the seller is still able to sell their item.

Most of the time, with an estate sale, everything within the home is for sale. If you are working with a realtor as you prepare to market the property, your agent will advise you to remove any items from the home that you may want to keep, such as personal items, photos, and family heirlooms.

2. Estate Sale Companies and When to Bring in Help

Hiring an estate sale liquidation company may make more sense in specific scenarios. There are a lot of companies that prepare homes for an estate sale, and this will make the process go faster and smoother. 

The most significant advantage of hiring help on this task is that it can be beneficial for anyone, especially in a situation with a death in the family.

It is a natural way to go for many families who are facing inheriting the property of a loved one. The task can sometimes feel overwhelming, and by taking some of the footwork out, you will walk away from the estate sale feeling like it was worth it. 

Typically the estate sale company will either charge a fee or take a set percentage of the funds raised. So, that would be one disadvantage of hiring out for help, but it certainly makes it a lot easier and seamless. 

Some popular websites to help you as you're searching for an estate sale company in North Carolina are:

3. What Types of Things Can I Find At an Estate Sale?

People often think that estate sales are just furniture and oversized household items. We are here to tell you that estate sales sell much more than furniture.

As you visit your first few estate sales, you may notice that if it's a home liquidating the entire estate, you will find anything from clothing to trinkets to collections of artwork to kitchenware and dinnerware. Remember, if heirs are hosting the estate sale, they are trying to liquidate everything that belonged to the deceased so that they can divide all the assets in cash. 

You can stumble across some beautiful antiques and finds while you browse through some of these estate sales! If this estate sale is advertised in any way, you can tell from the photos that this is an estate sale that would be worth your time to attend. 

Antique pottery and vases with pretty patterns

You will want to ask yourself, what is the condition of the couches? How do the rugs look? Are some of the items in the home antiques or collectibles? Is the artwork your taste and style? 

Often you can purchase an entire set of dinnerware or china at a fraction of what you would spend in a retail store, and many times, these items could have been preserved well and may even be barely used. 

We recommend checking out an estate sale if you've purchased your first home and are trying to save money. You can supplement your new purchases with items you've found at an estate sale and get some things you need. 

4. Timing is Everything!

One important thing to remember when planning your trip to an estate sale is to get there early. Many times the more appealing items for sale will go first. It is common practice for the estate sale to have a specific start time. Once you know the designated start time, it is common for onlookers to start lining up at the home's front door until the estate sale commences. 

From there, it is first come, first served. If there is a specific item you're looking for, you will want to make sure you comb through the inventory carefully and claim the piece you wish to purchase before someone else scoops it up!

In specific scenarios, there may be a sign-up online where you can reserve your place in line, so be sure to check for an option like this too. This will make it easier for you to plan to get there as early as possible. 

5. What Does the Payment Procedure Look Like At an Estate Sale?

Depending on which items you want to purchase, it can go one of two ways once you are inside the home and can start selecting your items. 

The first way, if it's a smaller item, is to pick it up and bring it to the host. You can take it to where you check out and start yourself a little pile of goodies.

The second way is intended for those more oversized items- the dining room table or sofa and loveseat set just are challenging to pick up and bring to check out, so in these cases, the articles often will have a ticket for you to take. When you're ready to check out, you will hand your ticket to the host to pay for your items. 

At this point, you wouldn't be able to change your mind, so please be sure you're committed. By handing in your tickets to the host, you are committing to purchase the item.

Most estate sales prefer cash payments, but with so many payment apps readily available many times, estate sales will be ready to accept cash apps such as Venmo, Zelle, or PayPal, so if you run out of cash during your shopping spree, be sure to ask the host if they're accepting payment through any cash app options. 

Furniture for sale at estate sale in house

6. How To Prepare For an Estate Sale?

Before you throw an estate sale, you must start some significant preparations. Remember, an estate sale is like a garage sale, but you are selling everything within view of every room of the home, including the garage! You will need to start somewhere, so we recommend you remove all items you want to keep in your possession. 

If you're hosting an estate sale after a loved one has passed, get everything out of the home you may want to keep to pass down. Discard any items that you feel aren't worth selling or holding onto. Clothes may be easier to donate since they are particular in style and size. Remove all personalized items and personal photos. 

You've cleared out everything besides the items that will go to the estate sale. It might be a good idea to start sorting these items based on which rooms of the house they will be displayed. Once the items are placed in the room they are intended to be sold in, you will want to make a list and start taking inventory of everything you have that will need pricing. 

Keep recycle sell graphic with colorful blocks

You will want to research each piece and see what each piece would be sold for. We recommend using as your baseline. You can often see what people are asking for specific brands and styles of furniture, artwork, china, and crystal. 

As a rule of thumb, try to locate at least three similar items to compare for pricing and set your pricing based on this. In some estate sales, you may find that some things are indeed one of a kind. They could be antiques worth a lot more money than you even realize. 

In the circumstances like this, consider hiring a professional appraiser. A lot of times, the appraiser may have ideas on antique collectors that are willing to buy it directly from you after the appraiser has completed the pricing on inventory and thus making you more money in a much more efficient way, so be sure to ask them if they are aware of any alternative sale opportunities that they are aware of. 

If you decide to hire a professional appraiser, please ask them what they will charge for their services and see if you can agree on a flat rate instead of taking a percentage of the entire inventory sold. 

Estate Sales - Final Thoughts

As you can see, estate sales can be very involved, and we hope we've covered all your questions about how an estate sale works. There are times in your life when you may be faced with a situation where you are looking to liquidate all of the contents of your home or a loved one's home. Be sure to refer back to this article as a guide to help you decide if an estate sale would be the right path for you. 

If you're not looking to host an estate sale and are curious about attending one, please look at this article for tips and tricks on landing some unique pieces for your home decor. 

Whether you are looking to sell your estate or purchase your first home, we at Raleigh Realty are here to help you every step of the way. Be sure to contact our team, and we will be happy to help you with all of your real estate needs!




Find your new home Search real estate and homes for sale
Share this post