Our expert-approved guide to planning your own real estate sale in 8 easy steps
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Whether you’re moving a long distance and only want to take a few belongings with you, or you’re cleaning up the space of a recently deceased loved one, you may be considering hosting an estate sale. “Compared to a garage sale, which is usually confined to the interior of a garage with overflow onto the driveway, an estate sale is on a much larger scale and takes place inside the home,” explains Peggy Ruby, CEO and founder of Proof! Real estate services.
At estate sales, people usually part with items of varying value, including valuable decorations, jewelry, vehicles, and the like. “Individuals may choose to sell an estate for a variety of reasons, including moving house, downsizing, combining homes, transitioning to a retirement home, moving in with an adult child, or managing the estate of a ‘a deceased loved one,’ explains Ruby. Whatever the reason for your interest, there are a few steps everyone should follow when organizing this great undertaking. Here, two experts explain step-by-step the process of planning your own real estate sale.
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Take stock of your inventory
Once you’ve decided that an estate sale is the best option for you, Ruby recommends taking stock of everything you’re looking to sell. “Keep in mind that customers who buy real estate will buy just about everything you have in your home. That means sheets and Tupperware to clothes and shoes,” she says. Knowing how many goods you plan to sell will help you determine how long it will take to organize and price your items, as well as how many days you should set aside for active selling.
Set the price of your items
Besides helping to clean your home or that of your loved one, another key reason for having an estate sale is to make some money, plain and simple. For this reason, you want to make sure your items are priced correctly. According to Ruby, pricing your goods up front will prevent you from being overwhelmed with customer inquiries while your sale is in progress.
To determine the value of each item, Helaine Fendelman, owner of Helaine Fendelman & Associates, recommends checking out auction sites, thrift stores and consignment stores. She also says to leave room in the set sale price for negotiation, noting that negotiation is a high point for many people who attend these types of sales. In addition to discount stores, Ruby says to comb through receipts of past purchases and listings sold on resale sites, like Ebay. “We suggest pricing your items no more than 50-70% of retail value to ensure your items sell out quickly and you don’t have a lot of inventory left at the end” , she adds.
Remember to have your items appraised
To avoid pricing your items below their value, consider having an expert take a look. “Appraisers typically charge by the hour, come to your location, and provide the best retail value for valuables on-site,” says Ruby. “While these prices may be too high for an estate sale, you will now have important information about your valuable pieces which will help you advertise and sell them to the public.”
Asking an appraiser for help is also helpful for items that you think won’t sell for a lot. Before giving them away or simply throwing them away, Ruby says an appraiser can tell you if they’re worth selling and the best way to part with them.
Select a date
The date you choose for the sale of your estate will depend on how long you need to organize all your items and establish an appropriate price. “Once you’ve determined that duration, schedule your event for a week after that endpoint to allow enough time for your online ad to be seen by as many customers as possible,” says Ruby.
While there isn’t a better day than the rest to hold an estate sale, Ruby says to consider the degree of competition in your area and how robust your sale is being advertised in comparison. If there are a lot of real estate sales, garage sales or jumble sales on the same day, customers have more options to shop elsewhere. But if you think your ad can stand up to the competition, arranging your sale on the same day as the others may not be a problem.
Ultimately, Ruby says the most common days for a sale are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. “If you have a more sparse group of items to sell, try starting your sale on a Wednesday to beat the competition in your area,” she notes.
Advertise your sale
Make sure buyers attend your sale with lots of publicity. “We suggest a mix of advertising your sale online and in person through signage,” says Ruby. “While the internet and social media platforms will help attract a wider network of serious buyers, drive-through traffic may surprise you.”
For online advertising, Ruby recommends using estatesales.net, but she Is note that they charge a fee for sale ads. Additionally, Fendelman recommends distributing flyers and advertising your sale in local newspapers or antique publications. “Put up signs in the grocery store or pharmacy, if allowed,” she adds.
Check local guidelines
In some cities, you will need a permit to host an estate sale. Fendelman says to check your local ordinances through City Hall to see if this is a step you need to take. In addition to needing a permit, Ruby notes that zones may also have rules regarding the placement of street signage, as well as the number of sales you can hold in a year at the same address. “If the city doesn’t require a permit, they will most likely have rules and regulations that they would like you to follow,” Ruby says.
Prepare the site
How you organize and present the items during your real estate sale can determine its success. Ruby recommends grouping similar items together, which ensures that customers will see everything you have to offer at a glance. “When items are grouped together, customers looking for that type of product are likely to buy more of them, which means more money for your sale,” she says.
Ruby also says to wipe down all dusty surfaces and clean your items before selling. Also, be sure to delete any sensitive information. “It’s important that there are no credit cards, bank statements, or family photos in the house during the active sale to ensure your privacy is maintained,” says Ruby.
Additionally, Fendelman says to make sure your space is safe for people to walk around in. “Be aware of potential places where a participant could fall or slip and eliminate those areas or mark them as no-go,” she says.
Consider hiring a professional real estate sales company
In some cases, it may be advantageous to hire a professional rather than trying to arrange a real estate sale on your own. One reason Ruby says is not having enough people available to help you set up your sale and manage the audience. Ruby notes other reasons, including having a big house that will take a novice months (if not more) to sort out, dealing with a loved one’s estate, as it can be an emotional experience, and manage a very valuable set of products.