Whether you want to have an inheritance sale – or a downsizing sale – an estate sale is a good way to earn money for unwanted property. However, it can be hard for an executor or heirs to know where to start. Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll discuss how you can hold an estate sale. We’ll give you helpful tips to prepare. You’ll also learn about estate sale planning, organization, pricing, and more. Let’s get started.


While most people ultimately end up hiring a professional to conduct their estate liquidation, occasionally, people do try to “go it alone.” It is not easy, and it will require a great deal of work. In a majority of cases, it will take longer and may produce less money. The “do it yourself” option is primarily only suitable for those who have a lot of available time, plenty of family and friends willing to help, and who like to “roll up their sleeves.” They will also need “thick skin,” because they will have to deal with large numbers of people.


Estate Sale Help

If you are considering having an estate sale yourself, without the benefit of professional services, this article will explain the process. If, however, you are like most people and would prefer to have a professional estate sales company handle all of the work for you, then you’ll definitely want to read this helpful article: How To Choose The Best Estate Sale Company: The Ultimate Guide. 


It is important to know that an estate sale or “tag sale” is NOT conducted the same way as a garage sale. A garage or yard sale attracts a different type of buyer. A garage sale shopper will expect bargains. You will not make much money selling items by holding garage sales or yard sales, and it will be time consuming. However, a well-conducted, successful estate sale will attract the higher paying estate sale buyer. Much of the time, items sold at a professional estate sale are likely to sell better than at a yard or garage sale.


Some of the key steps for estate sale or inheritance sale preparation include cleaning and organizing your home to make it presentable, pricing items you want to sell so that you attract customers (and don’t cost yourself money), figuring out how long the event should be held for, setting up tables, and arranging all the many details needed to conduct the sale. All of these things usually require much more time than most people anticipate, so plan accordingly.

Most estate sales require a time frame of 2-3 days for the actual sale; and occasionally, longer. Sales usually begin early in the morning and can last until late in the day. Additionally, some buyers may want to come back on another day to pick up larger items. This could extend the time period even more. You will need lots of time and patience if you are doing this by yourself.


You’ll want to make sure the dates you choose to sell do not coincide with holidays or any local events. If there are other estate sales in the area at the same time, you may lose buyers to them. It is to be expected that self-run estate sales will not attract as many buyers as a professionally run estate sale. Professionally-run sales will always attract more buyers because their operators are established and have a following.


Preparing for a sale can take take many days and often weeks. If you are doing this yourself, plan on it taking much longer than it would if a professional estate sale company were doing it for you. There will be unexpected situations and other details that will come up. 

  • The first thing you need to do is get the house in order. Clear out clutter and make room to walk around. Put away every personal item you find and do not intend to sell, including family photos or memorabilia.
  • Be careful about throwing anything away. Sometimes items that you might get rid of will actually sell. Your unwanted items may have value to someone else.
  • Create a list of items for sale. Be thorough, and make an inventory of everything you want to sell. Most everything can be sold: small, personal belongings; the occasional antique; and the more obvious large items. Make sure they are all presentable. If anything is broken or not working, note this and tell buyers, so you can avoid confrontations later.
  • Prepare the space for selling, making sure there is plenty of room and enough light. Make sure the space itself and every sale item is as attractive as possible.
  • In the event that you have a large estate to sell, it might be helpful to break up your sale into sections of rooms or types. You can also do this by moving some items out of the house and onto tables outside. Be aware of the weather forecast if you do, and be prepared for rain. You may want to buy waterproof tarps and other supplies for that purpose.
  • Arrange items into categories: furniture, dishes, books, clothing etc.
  • A furniture piece can be sold by itself or grouped with another, complimentary furniture piece. While a professional estate liquidator will automatically know the best way to do this, you will need to do some research and give it some thought.
  • A valuable piece or specialty item will likely do better if it is not lumped in with an everyday item.
  • Sometimes, personal property items that come in sets will have a damaged piece. A potential buyer may still be interested in the undamaged piece. Don’t automatically discard an entire set just because one item is damaged. Let the potential buyer decide.
  • The way you present something will have an impact on whether or not a buyer perceives it to be a desirable item. Keep things orderly and not piled up. Visibility is important in an estate sale.
  • Make sure you clearly mark and price every item. Be sure prices are realistic and competitive. This will usually take a fair amount of time and research. Pricing mistakes add up.


Estate sale companies have access to private databases that aid them in pricing. Since you will not have access to these, you will have to rely on what you can find by doing limited online price research. Some of what you find may not be accurate or up to date. An “asking price” is not the same as a “sold price.” You could use the same price as someone else, not knowing that it was actually one buyer who overpaid for an item. In that case, most buyers would never pay that price.

Demand for items can vary by city or region. Your personal property item may not be exactly the same as someone else’s personal property item. What’s more, demand for the same asset can change at any given time. If you price something based on what it sold for months ago in another part of the country, your item may never sell.


  • If a price is too low, you will lose money.
  • If a price is too high, an item will not sell.

If an otherwise appealing item is not selling, it typically means you have not attracted enough buyers, or that the price is too high. While self-run estate sales do typically attract fewer buyers, it is also likely that the item price is too high. If you wait too long to adjust the price, you will have to heavily discount it at the last minute to sell it. And, if you adjust the price too soon, you will lose money. Estate sale pricing can be very tricky. Without the benefit of experience, it is easy to lose money.


If your goal is to get true market value for your items, you should probably consider an estate auction. An estate auction is a faster, more effective way to get market value, since prices can only go up. You simply can’t make pricing mistakes with an auction. There are other benefits to an auction as well, which can be explained by an auctioneer or professional auction company. Plus, these days, bids can be made online, which reduces unwanted foot traffic. If you’d like to know more about this excellent option, you might review the estate services offered here by Juris Auctions.


  • Make sure there is ample parking and consider how additional traffic will affect your neighbors. You may need to station helpers outside to direct traffic in order to minimize neighbor conflicts and problems.
  • While some items, like artwork or furniture, might be better left in their typical setting, it’s best to group most items together by type on display tables. (You may, however, try to keep kitchen items in the kitchen.) You can rent tables from a banquet supply house or wedding planner. If you simply place items on furniture that you are also selling, potential buyers will have a hard time inspecting it. It will also become a problem if people want to buy that furniture, and then need to move it.
  • Make sure you have enough people to help answer shoppers’ questions and provide assistance. You will likely need more help than you think, since you will not have the benefit of an experienced estate sale team. Hiring people to assist you is an option.
  • Make signs for easy navigation around your home and yard. Items should be clearly marked with prices. Avoid marking something as, “best offer.” Some potential buyers will not stop to ask.
  • Have sufficient cash and change available, but not so much as to encourage theft.
  • Many potential buyers will expect you to be able to take credit cards. You’ll need a way to do that, or your sales will be lower.
  • Accepting checks is risky. On the other hand, you may sell fewer items if you don’t take them.
  • Many buyers will expect written receipts. Be prepared for this.
  • You may be legally required to collect sales tax and submit it by a certain deadline. If you fail to do this, you will have to pay the full amount yourself along with penalties and interest. If you are not utilizing an estate sale company, you will need to find out how to do this on your own prior to the sale.
  • Consider how you’ll deal with pets on the premises if you have them. You might want to have a friend or neighbor take care of any pets while people are present and then return them home afterwards.
  • No matter what your estate sale entails, it’s best to get started as soon as possible, since the process requires a lot of time, planning, and details.


Arrange the estate sale by room or area to make it easier for a potential buyer. Everything should be open and accessible, and items neatly arranged. You’ll want to make sure shoppers don’t miss seeing valuable items and high end items because they are obscured by clutter.

Plan how long the estate sale should run for and set up an opening time, usually around nine a.m., that will allow shoppers enough time during their normal work day but not too late at night so they can still find parking in your neighborhood. There are pros and cons to weekends; you may miss some people because they have other plans or are spending time with family. For this reason, many estate sales begin prior to the weekend and carry over.


Theft can be a problem with strangers on your property. It is highly unlikely you will be able to observe everything, even with lots of help. You should probably anticipate that some items may turn up missing. Thieves prefer to target individual sellers since professional estate sale companies have more experience in spotting and deterring them.

You will need to be vigilant. It is best to have only one entrance open, and it should be attended. You’ll want to keep any cash secured and never left unattended. Any high-end item, or otherwise valuable item should be kept in a place where it can be under constant supervision.

You’ll want to set up barriers so people don’t get into any room or areas where they’re not allowed. You might also need a secure cash box for handling money and change.

Be sure to secure your own personal valuables and belongings as well. You don’t want them “walking off” when you are distracted.


  • Tell friends, family and coworkers about the sale
  • Post flyers in your local neighborhood and in surrounding areas
  • Use social media to help advertise the event

In order to get decent prices, an estate sale will require a lot of exposure. For example, estate sale services typically advertise your items to thousands of buyers. Since you aren’t likely to reach anywhere near that many buyers, you will have a lot of work to do yourself to help make up for that gap. Make sure you devote sufficient time to this task.


Recruit helpers. Lots of them. The more friends, family members, or other helpers you can round up for the sale day(s), the better. You will need lots of help selling. Place people both outside and throughout the home to guide customers, answer questions, and keep an eye out for theft.

Recruit reliable, trustworthy, and knowledgeable people to help out. You will probably need more help than you think.

Start your sale early in the morning and be willing to stay open late. Some avid buyers like to show up very early in the morning to get the best selection, while others like to slip in later to get the best deals. If you’re trying to sell as much as possible, go the extra mile to liquidate your items. This will require multiple, long days. You will spend a lot of time talking to and answering questions for people who don’t end up buying anything. Many people go to estate sales as a hobby. Be patient and avoid showing frustration, since there may also be buyers scattered among all the “lookers.”

A lot of people will expect better deals and special discounts later in the day, and on the last day of a multi-day sale. Consider beforehand how low you are willing to go in order to liquidate an item. Don’t be upset when items you thought would bring more sell for much less. Many buyers will expect an independent seller to make bigger concessions and accept much less than they would pay at a professional estate sale. If you don’t accommodate them, they are unlikely to buy, and you will have unsold items when it is all over.


Most do-it-yourself estate sales result in a larger amount of unsold items or “leftovers” to get rid of. One way to deal with these items is to liquidate as much as possible, and donate the rest. (You can consult a tax advisor to find out if the value may be tax deductible.) Some local charities may pick up certain categories of items, while others only have drop off locations. You may need to rent a truck and line up family or friends to help transport all of this. It is a good idea to look into these options ahead of time. Keep in mind that not every unsold item can be donated, and broken or excessively worn items will likely need to be discarded. If you have much of these, you may need to rent a commercial dumpster or hire the services of an estate cleanout crew. Be sure to factor in the time and cost for this.


Having an estate sale will require the help of multiple people and involve many hours of preparation. There will likely be unexpected surprises, so proper preparation is essential. After evaluating their options, the vast majority of people usually choose to utilize a professional estate sale company or estate sale liquidator. That way, they save time, avoid costly mistakes, and can often earn more than if they went it alone. It will also be a lot easier and less stressful.

It’s important to know that most estate sale companies won’t be able to help you if you’ve already sold off much of the contents. This is because what is left may not be sufficient to cover their costs and expenses. For this reason, you should seriously consider – at the very beginning – if it might be better to utilize the expertise of a professional estate liquidator. Ultimately, they can help you make more money.

For valuable tips about choosing the right estate sale company for you, you will want to read this article: The Ultimate Guide To Choosing The Best Estate Sale Company.

For free, expert help with your specific situation, call the Estate Hotline at 1-901-254-8200. You can also request a referral to a probate or estate attorney, estate planning specialist, or real estate agent. Whatever your need is, the estate hotline is ready to help you. There is no cost or obligation for this free service.



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