Estate Sales: What Are They And Everything You Need To Know

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Estate Sales

There are many reasons why we may have to sell all the used items in a home quickly. Whether a loved one has passed away recently or you’re preparing for a long-distance relocation, it may be time for an estate sale.

Find out how you can breathe easy during this important time and get the best value out of your belongings. Compare yard sales, professionally organized estate sales and other sales strategies in your local area for a stress-free experience.

What Is an Estate Sale?

There are many reasons to liquidate your items. The process involves a lot of planning and labor, so many individuals choose to work with a professional estate sale company. Many companies offer slightly different services. At its core, an estate sale is a way to sell belongings and/or personal property. Typically, estate sales have the following features:

  • Accessible to the public
  • Occur over a few days
  • Sell most or all of a household
  • Individual prices for valuable items, such as gold, silver, vehicles, etc.

Beyond this basic definition, estate sales vary considerably in their size, location and value. Let’s discuss about different strategies, how to plan a sale and where to turn for professionally managed services. Here are some common options available when planning a sale:

  • Professional estate seller vs. for sale by owner
  • Auction vs. tag sale
  • Estate sale vs. yard sale
  • In-person vs. online

Explore all of these options in detail before choosing a strategy for your sale. Typically, estate sales come at a time in life when you’re busy, stressed or grieving. Choose the best option for your personal situation to liquidate items and move past this major milestone successfully.

Professional Estate Sale vs. For Sale By Owner

For sale by owner, or FSBO, offers homeowners and their families the option of selling their own possessions. You can list real estate and all the used items from an estate as FSBO, but you will then have to manage the entire selling process.

On another hand, professional estate sales are more common, particularly when you have a large number of items or high-value antiques. Work with a professional estate sale company to assist you with the process.

Auction vs. Tag Sale

Some estate sales use an auction process to receive a competitively driven price for belongings. Essentially, an auction process doesn’t offer a used item to the first buyer looking for a great deal. Instead, a professional auctioneer or online auction site accepts bids over a period of time. Once the bidding time ends, the highest bidder will receive the item and you will benefit from the proceeds of a competitively driven highest bid.

A tag sale involves an individual with varying experience of pricing assigning prices to individual items. Once marked with an asking price, the items are available during a window of time. The first person to show interest and negotiate a mutually agreeable price will receive the item.

A tag sale may seem like a good way to control price. However, sellers typically are left not selling a large portion of the items and obtain a negotiated price rather than receive a market driven price through competitive bidding like in an auction.

Both offer opportunities to clear out a home and generate income. However, mix-and-match approaches often leads to worse overall results than just picking one option due to limiting the marketable pool of goods for either option. 

Estate Sale vs. Yard Sale

The process of an estate sale is similar to a yard or garage sale. The biggest difference between these two are the size of the event and the reasons behind it. In fact, most estate sales offer the majority of the belongings in a home. In some cases, they also include the home itself.

On another hand, yard sales are typically smaller projects to help with a little spring cleaning. A yard sale is typically an easy project to take on yourself if you are younger. However, older people still in their homes may find this difficult – especially now with most marketing being done online. Moreover, an estate liquidation often requires professional management for a safe, effective and stress-free event.

A yard sale

In fact, listing large amounts of high-value and everyday items can be an exhausting process. If you put out items in a normal yard sale, you limit the amount of profit you receive and the number of buyers you draw in.

There are approximately 690,000 individuals who buy an item at a yard sale every week in the United States. The average price of items at a yard sale is just $0.85. This means your buyers may get sticker shock when you set the asking price for a full furniture set for thousands of dollars.

Online vs. In-Person Estate Liquidation

Generally, you can work with a local auctioneer to offer a sale for one day with typically local traffic only. Meanwhile, an online sale offers you a wider network of buyers and a safer experience with bidding over a few days. Especially, online selling reduces contact between interested buyers and manages the bidding process with certainty. For example, an online estate auction site, like MaxSold, can streamline the process to give you peace of mind.

On the contrary, In-person liquidation requires more individuals at the time of the auction or tag sale. Unlike an online liquidation process, you’ll have a large number of buyers walking through the home and looking at items. Furthermore, this increases the risk of theft, so you’ll need multiple people on hand to monitor the sale and answer questions. Consequently, more professionals assisting you can mean a higher commission cost for in-person estate sales.

Common Reasons to Hold an Estate Sale

Typically you don’t hold an estate liquidation to clean out your garage or tidy up your property. These events are often held after one of the following life events:

  • Cross-country move
  • Downsizing due to multi-generational living, retirement, bankruptcy or divorce
  • Death of a family member

Approximately 70% of seniors will require long-term care in their lifetime. Over 10% of the U.S. population moved in 2018. As family members age or pass away, you may have a significant amount of belongings that are full of memories. It can be difficult to sort through all these items and find a way to liquidate the belongings you don’t need anymore. As a matter of fact, relocating comes with its own stress. Many items probably cost more to transport rather than sell and buy again for your new home.

How Do Estate Sales Work?

Items from a MaxSold online auction

A professional estate sale company balances efficient sales, great value and stress-free estate liquidation. The process should sell most or all of the possessions in a household. Whether selling priceless antiques or everyday furniture, see how a professional company like MaxSold can help you liquidate used items.

Estate Sale Steps

The specific features of an estate sale can vary, but the process usually follows the same basic steps:

Organize items

When a sale involves an entire household, firstly, the property is usually cleaned and prepared for sale. Clear organization helps buyers find exactly what they’re looking for. Any items being kept by the family are removed to avoid confusion.

Display items

Next, the manager prepares items for sale. This involves cleaning and, in the case of an online event, taking photos and creating descriptions.

Market items

Next, draw in an audience by marketing online and around your area.

Sell items

At this step, prospective buyers need to walk through the house and make an offer. They attend an in-person auction or make offers based on online listings

Clean the house

Finally, you or an estate sale manager removes all sold items at the end of the sale. Essentially, you’ll need to find a way to recycle or dispose of unwanted possessions.

These steps take a considerable amount of time if you attempt to perform them on your own. Moreover, they also come with many options in terms of selling style, item pricing and marketing strategies. Explore all of these options to plan the best way to liquidate used items.

The Planning Process

While the process can vary, at MaxSold the entire process takes under 2 week. Here is an outline of key points throughout the sale process:

  • Day 1: A local team of experts organizes, photographs and sets a competitive value for your items.
  • Days 3-9: The online auction opens. It’s fully marketed and managed by your experienced team.
  • Day 11: After the bidding process ends, the team schedules a window for safe, contactless pickup of sold items.

How Can I Prepare for an Estate Sale?

Estate liquidation doesn’t necessarily require crowds of interested buyers walking through the property. After a recent death in the family, the last thing you may want is having a crowd looking through the house full of belongings.

A managed estate liquidation gives you the resources you need to accurately list items for a tag sale or starting bids for an auction.

Therefore, it is essential to consider the pros and cons of planning your own estate liquidation vs. working with a professional company. Be sure you have enough time to prepare for your big move or say goodbye to a loved one after a death in the family.

Can I Plan My Own Estate Sale?

DIY projects remain a major trend.  Similarly, the popularity of tackling projects by yourself extends to estate liquidation. Some individuals believe they can receive better rates or manage sales better than professionals.

Here are some common alternatives to choosing an experienced company to handle your sale:

  • Personal auction: You can handle all the steps of setting up a sale yourself. It can be a major project, but it’s possible to market, catalog, price and sell all the used items in the liquidation process.
  • Seller-managed: Choose a seller-managed sale if you want to handle the cataloging and managing process yourself but would enjoy a professional auction site or auctioneer.
  • Online event: Consider listing items through Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Craigslist or other online sites.
  • Consignment store: Some stores will take most of the belongings from your household at a steeply discounted rate for sale in their storefront.
  • Donation or removal service: You can donate items that don’t have a high value or aren’t selling. While you won’t receive any payment for these items, you can use charity donations as a tax deduction.

Concerns With Planning Your Own Estate Liquidation

Generally, most sales come at a time when you aren’t ready to commit a major amount of time to managing this type of project. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, are planning to downsize or preparing to move, you may have the following concerns with planning your own estate sale:

  • Preparation: Expect to take multiple days to sort through, clean and label items in advance of the sale. You need to remove items that aren’t for sale before taking any bids or offers for tagged items.
  • Pricing: How much is that vase worth? How about a silverware set? Pricing items correctly requires experience and time, both of which you may not have.
  • Communication: Essentially, it can take a lot of time, and sometimes money, to be sure you get enough competition. In fact, marketing is particularly important at an auction if you want to get the best price for used items.
  • Negotiations: Garage and yard sales come with fierce negotiations. Interested buyers are looking for a good deal. Many aren’t afraid to haggle aggressively to get the best price.
  • Cleaning: Aftermath, a clean estate is essential for a safe and effective sale. Not only do you need to invest time cleaning before the sale, but you will likely need to clean up after the dust settles. 
  • Safety: Theft of property and safety for prospective buyers are real concerns if you’re hosting and managing an in-person sale.

These concerns can be overcome. However, it may be more cost-effective to work with an expert estate sales company, like MaxSold. Consider the ways you can reduce or avoid these issues by connecting with a reputable company in your area.

How Can An Expert Estate Sale Company Help?

There are a wealth of services that come with an expert estate sales online auction service. From downsizing a modest home to a full real estate liquidation on a significant family property, you can enjoy these services:

  • Full cataloging of items
  • Professional photography and online marketing
  • Streamlined process
  • Supervised pick-up event with safety measures
  • Secure payment collection and reporting of sales

At the end of your estate sale, some companies offer to buy the remaining products. This service, known as a buyout, is being marketed as an advantage by many companies. Unfortunately, it typically comes at a steep discount of the actual value of the items. 

That’s why 71.11% of estate sale companies don’t offer buyout services. MaxSold doesn’t offer this service but has a proven track record of selling used items. The average sell-through rate is 98.9%, which means you won’t have to worry about what happens to your items after the sale has ended.

Benefits of Hiring a Company

These services offer you a number of benefits. Whether selling a few items or fully liquidating a large house, here are some benefits of choosing professional services:

  • Improved marketing success: Homemade signs and social media posts aren’t always enough to connect you with motivated buyers. An estate sales company helps buyers find your auction through improved marketing strategies.
  • Increased proceeds: Well-attended auctions and tag sales make more. Don’t let an item go without a bid or sale offer due to a lack of visibility or buyers.
  • Reduced stress: Pass on the logistical headaches and hours spent planning and managing your sale. A professional company streamlines the entire process during a stressful time in your life.
  • Decreased timeline: Sell everything in less time with a professional team. Expert organization and online marketing help sell almost 100% of your items in as little as 14 days.
  • Reduced workload: The liquidation process usually comes at a major milestone in your life. Spend more time with your family or handling other aspects of this major life event.

There is no way I could have done it without them (MaxSold) checking people in with the exact time slots. It was like magical, all this stuff was just leaving my house. It was great!"

Maya, 55

Clear-Out Timing

Managing your own estate sale can make it difficult to stick with a timeline. If you’re preparing for a long-distance move, you can’t afford a delay in the process.

Therefore, an on-time clear-out process means you can sell your home, move across the country or move on after a loved one has passed away. Especially, buyers remove any sold items in a 5-10 hour window that’s fully managed by your chosen company.

Professional Support

The last thing you want to do as you prepare to liquidate items is go through the hurdles of taxes, receipts and other financial areas. Therefore, receive dedicated support as you apply for tax exemption and other steps that can help you earn more from your estate liquidation.

This process is best conducted with the help of a financial team. Work with a team who can field any questions and prepare documents for you to sign to keep your event legal, profitable and stress-free.

How Is an Online Estate Sale Company Different?

Once you decide to work with a liquidation company, it’s time to compare in-person and online estate sales options. While you may be more familiar with a local team, there are several advantages of choosing an online company.

Network of Buyers

Firstly, an online company offers you an extensive network of marketing strategies to attract local buyers. Look for a company who offers services in your location and can successfully advertise to individuals looking for local pickup.

Because these companies combine online listings and local support, you can attract a wider network of buyers to your items. Local advertising can miss buyers who are willing to travel or infrequently go to your neighborhood. Don’t miss out on any buyers looking to purchase antiques or everyday items from your property.


Secondly, the combination of local experts and online shopping makes an online experience safer. It can prevent buyers from sneaking items out of the home as they shop. This is an unfortunately common incident during in-person tag sales.

Commission Cost

All estate sales companies use a commission-based system of payment. It prevents you from paying too much if you don’t have a large number of items. On average, companies charge about 35% for their services.

At MaxSold, we set commissions that allow us to serve all customer situations, regardless of value, provided there is volume. Discuss the commissions of a MaxSold managed or Seller managed model with our team to learn more.

How Does MaxSold Offer Hassle-Free Estate Sales?

From the initial meeting to the item pickup and final sales reporting, MaxSold is an expert company that offers hassle-free liquidation.

In conclusion, when major life events result in the need to downsize or liquidate an entire estate, work with a team who is capable of delivering timely solutions, effective management and peace of mind. Navigate this major moment in your life with the help of online estate sales professionals.

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