Planning the Estate Sale & Getting Organized
For those with a small inventory of items, or those with previous experience with estate sales, here are a few ideas to assist you in the process.
Photos courtesy Cole's Antiques Villa
First, take a look at what you are getting into...many hours of sorting, moving, lifting, and thinking. You will need to be in good physical condition to run a sale, and be able to lift heavy boxes, furniture, etc. You will also need a handful of people to help with the sale. Many boxes, bags, and newspaper or tissue paper are needed for packing items away that are sold. Folding tables are a must if you have many smaller items to display. Have a good calculator on hand for the transaction process, and several notepads and pens/pencils for writing receipts and logging items you have sold. If you are having the sale indoors, be sure to post signs on any doors or rooms that buyers shouldn't enter. It's always a good idea to have a helper to monitor the items and answer any questions. You'll want to have a clear and obvious entrance and exit so there is no confusion of how to get in and out of the house. Don't be surprised or offended if a buyer offers a certain price, or tried to bundle items together. Just remember to be pleasant and patient. At the end of the sale, there will most likely be items that haven't sold. You can sort what to keep, donate, throw away, or even try to sell online.
Sorting your items to sell
When sorting items before the sale, don't throw anything out!
What you might think is trash can surely be treasure to another person, and who knows? It might actually be worth something! Many people "re-purpose" items such as old furniture, windows, doors, light fixtures, etc. and they love finding these things at sales! If you have an assortment of old 'things' that might not be worth anything to you, put them in a separate area. You can price these items low, or put a sign up that says "make offer". Even old clothing and bedding with rips and stains, save them...they can be used as rags, or as drop cloths. They might even come in handy for customers that buy furniture, and need a cushion to protect it during the transportation. You can put these items in a separate box and label them as rags/drop cloths, and mark them as free (you were going to throw them out anyway).
How to Price Items
When pricing items, be sure to have tags on every item that you are selling with the price on it. Adding a short description or title is helpful in case a tag falls off, or if the buyer isn't sure what the item is. If you are uncertain about the worth of something, research it!
This is one of the biggest problems with running your own sale. Professional liquidators have many years of experience in dealing with items and what they are worth, so there isn't much question about what the price should be. Pawn shops, antique stores, and other consignment stores are a good place to visit to find similar items and get an idea of what the price should be. Search eBay
for items that you want to sell to see what they are worth online. If for any reason you are selling more than one persons possessions, or if it's a multifamily sale, be sure to separate the items if the profit is going to be separate. To avoid having items mixed up, try color coordinating the items with different color stickers. When the buyer is checking out, you will know who's item is who's, and you will be able to record how much it was sold for.
Advertise your Sale!
In today's world, you can't rely on just putting up signs at the end of the road pointing to your sale. Put an ad in the paper the week of your sale, and maybe even a week before if you want a larger buying crowd. Estate sales are typically a two or three day deal, with a half-off discount day for the last day of the sale. The hours and days of the sale is up to the seller, but consider the schedules of most people who work. Weekends are usually most convenient for the buyer, and the earlier the better. If you can start your sale at 7 or 8am, there's a bigger opportunity for the people who have to be at work mid-morning of the day of your sale. Expect to see "early birds," people who show up to the sale early to get the first picks, if the seller allows. When you advertise your sale, be sure to have the correct address and times, and consider providing a basic description of the type of items people will find at the sale. Is it mostly furniture, kitchen ware, decorative items, antiques and vintage things? The buyer will want to know before they take the drive to the location. If you are putting information on the web with pictures, be sure to put the link in the newspaper ad. Some people appreciate having a phone number to call for any questions or directions to the sale. This is especially helpful if a buyer wants to know if a certain item is still available, so they don't have to drive back to the location to find out. Lastly, do take advantage of hand written signs. This is especially helpful for people who don't have GPS, or if you live in an area that isn't well-known. You might even pick up some passerby's that have a few extra minutes during their route to take a look at what you have.