You Need to Hold an Estate Sale... Where to Begin?


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Typically, the decision to hold an estate sale is made in the wake of an illness or death, a trying time. To further complicate matters, the household may be located in another town or state, far from the family member trying to coordinate things. Since most folks do not use estate sales services with any regularity, they are uncertain how to proceed.

Whether you are downsizing to a smaller residence, or dealing with an inherited estate, the right estate sale team can help ease the process of sorting through personal possessions, arrange a successful sales event and maximize the dollar value you receive. The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to help select a reputable estate sale service:

  • Set up appointments to interview two or three services. Ask a trusted realtor, banker or attorney for recommendations.
  • Before setting up an initial consultation, ask how long the estate sales agent has been in business, whether they are members of professional associations, if they are bonded and insured, and if they can provide professional references. Check with the BBB for a report.
  • They should be willing to come to the home to offer an initial no-obligation consultation for free. At that time, they will evaluate household items and advise you if an estate sale is your best option. Prior to their arrival, do not throw anything away as you may not recognize items of value.
  • Ask about fees and commissions. Commissions can range anywhere from 25%-50% of the gross proceeds of the sale. Will you be responsible for any up-front or out-of-pocket costs (appraisals, security measures, trash removal)?
  • When are the sales proceeds paid to you and how (cash, cashier’s check)? Will you receive an itemized list of everything that was sold?
  • Ask how the estate sale will be advertised (flyers, neighborhood signs, newspaper ads, client base mailings, etc.).
  • What is the background, qualifications and certification of their staff? If your possessions include jewelry, antiques or other items of considerable value, how will the pricing be determined? Do they use professional appraisers?
  • How will they protect against theft during the sale? What about cleaning up after the sale?
  • Do not sign a contract unless you understand the services to be provided, out-of-pocket fees you’ll be charged and how and when you’ll receive payment of the sales proceeds.
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