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Holding a Successful Estate Sale


While the term might trigger thoughts of the postmortem disposition of personal property, estate sales are about so much more. They can also mean someone is scaling back to fit into a smaller place or simply selling items they no longer use.

Estate sales are also held to garner cash to shoulder an unexpected expense, or deal with debt through a program like Freedom Debt Relief. Whatever the cause, there’s more to holding a successful estate sale than you might think. Moreover, while an estate sale might seem similar to a garage sale or a yard sale, there is one key difference.

An estate sale usually takes place inside a house.

Here’s how to go about it.

1. Decide What Stays and What Goes

The first thing to do is decide what stays and what goes. It’s also useful to group items by category in different rooms of the house. As you’re reviewing the objects take note of what kind of shape they’re in so you can price things accordingly.

2. Wash, Polish and Shine

Items bring much more money when they look new, or as if they’ve been cared for well. Rather than putting out tarnished and dusty things, hoping people will see their potential, make it evident.

Clean everything up.

If you have sterling silver, polish it to a sparkling gleam. Get rid of chipped pieces of china, they will make the rest of the set look bad. Repair anything that’s broken the best you can. The idea is to make stuff look so good you’ll be tempted to reconsider selling it.

3. Determine Your Pricing

Know everyone shopping your sale will have a bit of a vulture mentality.

With that said, price items to be attractive, while leaving yourself room to go down on the price so those who like to dicker (pretty much everyone shopping the sale) will feel they got a “win.”

Sites like eBay and Craigslist provide a good idea of what people are paying for different items. eBay is particularly useful in this regard as it can show you what items actually sold for on the site.

Once you’ve settled on a price, mark it with a sticker. Score the label with a razor blade to thwart nefarious individuals who might try to take a tag off of a lower-priced item and affix it to a more expensive one. It’s also a good idea to color-code your stickers according to the type of item.

4. Think Like a Merchandiser

As we mentioned above, it’s a good idea to group like items together in different rooms so things are easier for customers to find. You also want to arrange articles so they’re easy to see at a glance.

Stage your tables around the perimeter of the room and place another small group of tables in the center. This makes it relaxed for people to browse in a logical flow. It also gives them enough space to go around people who stop to examine an item closely.

5. Advertise, Advertise, Advertise

A number of sites specialize in advertising estate sales. Craigslist also has an estate sale category in which you should place a listing. Take pictures of your most attractive items and include those in your ad to help attract attention.

Well placed signage listing the dates, times and address of the sale — put up a few days beforehand — will help people find the house. Place them at each of the major intersections near your place. Use secondary signs at all of the key turns to guide shoppers to you.  Have a friend go out every couple of hours or so during the sale to ensure the signs are still there and pointing in the right directions.

Be sure and take them down when the sale ends so you don’t clutter up your neighborhood. After all, people will know exactly where to come to complain about them.

6. You’re Going to Need Help

In addition to the signage friend we mentioned above, you’re going to need people to help load larger things out when they sell. You’ll also need people to keep an eye on your merchandise to make sure it’s purchased before it goes out the door.

On that subject, make sure there is only one way in and out of the house. Post your pay station in that room, so people have to walk past it to leave. Lock rooms out of which you want people to stay.

7. Disposing of Things Left Behind

Some items will fail to sell. You can offer them on Craigslist or eBay if you have room to store them while you wait for a buyer to emerge. Your other option is to donate them to a charitable thrift store and take the tax write off — if you itemize.

These six tips will make holding a successful estate sale much easier to accomplish. You’ll be amazed to see how many people turn up to see what you’re offering when you follow the above advice. As you can see, the process can be quite involved. It’s a good idea to start planning at least two months before the date of your sale.

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