10 Simple Tips for Holding a Successful Estate Sale

Holding an estate sale is an excellent choice for liquidating a large amount of household items.  Experienced liquidators know the details, but if you choose to organize your own, here are a few pointers on making your sale a successful one.

A typical line on the first sale day.

A typical line on the first sale day.

Sale Date

Most estate sales are held over a 3 day period, try to choose dates that do not combine with major holidays or events in order to maximize the foot traffic to your sale.  You may want to check the weather also, rain can have an impact on the amount of foot traffic you get.

Estate Sale Inventory

Remember the saying “someone’s trash is another’s treasure?” that’s true when it comes to estate sales, don’t throw anything out, unless it’s deemed unsalable or damaged beyond repair.

Capture as many photographs as you possibly can of the items you will include in the sale.  Estate sale customers love seeing photographs of what’s coming up for sale, it’s the anticipation of what’s there and the type of items they’ll expect to see.  You’ll need those photos to advertise later.

Sale Setup

Use your creativity, stage items in their natural environment or combine the items in categories, but whatever you do make sure you display them properly.

Your home will turn into a retail shop for a few days; people that frequent estate sales organized by professionals expect a certain level of organization.  Besides, it will make your items more tempting for someone to purchase.

Rules, Safety, and Liability

Close off the areas where you don’t want shoppers to wonder to, place warning signs throughout the house to help guide your buyers, and make your policies very clear, “Items being sold as is, no returns, exchanges, etc.”

While you do your best to avoid on-site injuries, “things do happen”.  Estate sale liability is one of the biggest reasons families rely on professional estate liquidators to organize the sale.  A professional company is insured protecting the home owners from any liabilities that may occur.

Do your best to properly warn estate sale buyers by clearly identifying dangerous areas and items.  You may want to put away those kitchen knives and not include them in the sale for example.  Small actions taken early can save you for big heartaches later.


Each item should be labeled and priced; this will minimize the questions you’ll have during the sale.  You know what you want for each item, but if you’re unsure about certain antique items, use online resources like eBay, Etsy, Live auctioneers or contact a personal estate appraiser.

Remember, the value of an item is determined by how much buyers are willing to pay.  Experienced estate liquidators excel in this area due to their prior sales, and industry knowledge, this is one of the biggest reasons people choose to hire an estate sale company.

Your goal is to sell all the items in a few days, most estate sales will discount on the second and last day of the sale.  Establish a rule you will follow to keep the negotiating process simple.


Since you don’t have a large following of buyers to invite like most professional estate sale companies do, you’ll have to get extra creative to get traffic to your sale.

There are websites dedicated to advertising estate sales onlineEstatesale.com, Estatesales.net, and estatesales.org are the 3 most popular sites; you’ll want to make sure your sale is listed on all of them 1 to 2 weeks prior.  Remember those photos you took? They will come in handy when you’re ready to advertise.

Don’t stop with the online estate sale advertising sites, take your sale to the social media sites, create an album and event on Facebook, invite friends and ask them to invite others.

Place an ad on craigslist and your local community paper or penny saver.  Make your sale advertisement includes all the rules, hours, etc. for your particular sale.

Advertising an estate sale can cost a lot, most liquidation pros already have the accounts established, a following of buyers that way for their sales, and social media followers waiting for them to hold a sale.  To get the most out of your sale, it’s best to find a reputable and respected estate sale company.

Proper Signs

The average speed limit in a residential neighborhood is 25 miles per hour, which means most of your buyers will pass by your signs at 30 to 35 mph.

Make sure your signs are colorful, clear, and easy to ready, and actually lead the buyers to the sale without being lost.  You may want to consider extra signs and balloons in front of the house to grab their attention.

Estate Sale help

Rely on friends and family, ask for support on the days of your sale or hire a few people to help you staff the sale.  Estate sales tend to attract a lot of buyers, it can get overwhelming quickly, you cannot do it alone.  Professionals in the estate sale business are well staffed and have plenty of helpers during the sale, you’ll want to insure you offer close to that level of service to your buyers.

During the Sale

If you’ve followed all the steps, you’ll more than likely have a decent crowd waiting on the first day of the sale.  Let people in a few at a time based on the “first come first serve rule” Be friendly, courteous, and answer their questions regarding the items.  If they have a pleasant experience, they will leave and tell others.

Last Day of the Sale

This is it, the last day is your only chance to clear out the abundance of items you may be left with, don’t forget to go back and update your online advertisements and social media posts.  Make sure everyone knows the discounts you’re offering today.

If the item hasn’t sold by now, it’s possibly overpriced and you may need to re-consider and lower it or you may have to keep or donate it.

Estate sales are not the same as conducting a garage or yard sale, there are many details to consider.  Most importantly hiring a professional estate sale company protects you and your home from liability; they relieve you of the emotional burden and labor intensive process of setting up your own estate sale.

Attempting your own estate sale is a choice, but know that you’re taking a big chance, whereas an estate sale professional makes a living by organizing and holding a successful estate sale.

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