How we Conduct a Quality Estate Sale

When we conduct a sale it becomes an EVENT. People are crowded outside waiting with anticipation for the sale to start and then shop till they drop. We make sure that public awareness and anticipation is high by advertising through local newspapers,, Craigslist, notices to our over 800 followers email list, local shops, and with strategically placed signs. Our job is to attract as many people to your sale as possible.

Very often the success of a sale also depends on the proper placement and presentation of your items – this is called staging. Our more than 30 years of experience assures you that your property will be staged in the ways that attract and interest most buyers. Furnishings will be moved to show them to their best advantage. Locking cases will be brought in to safeguard small valuables and fine jewelry. You can rest assured that when we open the sale for business it will look attractive and inviting.

We recognize that liquidating an estate often signals a life transition that may have a strong emotional component. We want you to know that we are your agents and we will do everything we can to relieve you of the burdens that accompany the transfer of your property to others.

HOW MUCH DO YOU CHARGE? Usually, this is the first questions asked, and while possibly the least import question, our answer:

We charge a commission based on the sales total from the estate. Unless otherwise agreed, there are no upfront costs to our client, e.g., advertising, labor, supplies, security (if required), etc. Our commission, deducted from the final sales total, is determined after we examine the estate items and estimate our costs to prepare, stage, and conduct the sale. Our mutual goal is always to make the most money possible, since the more our client makes the more we make!


STAGING AND PICTURE TAKING: The staging or set up of a sale is the most labor intensive part of our estate sales. An estate sale bears no resemblance to a garage sales. Garage sales provide an outlet for items that are worn out and/or are of no further use for their owners. Estate sales provide quality items that, in general, have outlived their owners and are treated with the respect due. To stage a sale we bring in tables, tablecloths (carefully selected to match décor), bookcases, clothing racks, etc. We display the estate items in the most attractive setting as possible…why? The setting creates the buyers expectations for its quality and ultimately its price. Compare, for example, buyers pricing expectations from items displayed at Neiman Marcus versus Sam’s Club. After the house is staged, we take pictures of most items and then edit them to provide the best photos possible for our buyers to preview on the Internet. Next to our reputation for outstanding estate sales events, quality photos and item descriptions are the most important components for attracting buyers. As a side note: We have the best decorator in the area allowing us to display your items for maximum visual effect.

PRICING: After pictures are taken, we begin pricing. Pricing is a “science” that goes hand-in-hand with experience (We consider experience so important that we discuss it under a separate article: “Not All Estate Sales Are Equal”). Pricing estate items is based on a number of factors. Some factors we control by staging and polishing. Some factors are based on the item’s condition, its intrinsic value (gold, silver, platinum, etc.), its construction, who produced it (known artist or artisan), market conditions (up or down) for general buyers, investors or resellers at the time of the sale, and comparative costs for similar items locally or in other markets.

Our purpose in an estate sale is the same as yours, to sell the maximum number of items, in a short period of time, for the highest price. Under these conditions can you expect to get what similar items are priced for in antique stores or on the internet? Possibly, but probably not, since at a retail outlet items can be offered for sale for long periods of time before they are actually sold. Buyers also expect to pay more from a retail outlet where items can be returned or guaranteed.

Additionally, the demand and hence prices for items are very region dependent. For example, we have sold items to out-of-state dealers for higher prices than collectors in our area are willing to pay. Likewise, beachy-condo items don’t sell as well in the North as they do in our area. Pricing items lower might quicken sales but get smaller returns, and pricing items too high might mean more items remain unsold (more on this later). Also, prices may vary from sale to sale as location (traffic, distance. etc.) local area affluence, weather, local events (festivals, carnivals, etc.) and national events (major ball games, bank holidays, etc.) are all factors determining the customer base on any given day for any given sale and hence the proceeds for those days.

CONDUCTING THE SALE: The actual sale is the fun part where we collect money and items are rolling out the door! The number of days in the sale depend on many conditions. We have conducted sales from two days to one sale that spanned a total of eleven days. Each estate is different and we do not believe “one size fits all”.

For running the sale, we employ additional people to assist customers and to provide security. If there are small valuable items, we stage these items in a controlled area and employ a person(s) to control customer handling of these items with no items removed from the area without a paid receipt As the sale progresses, we offer progressive discounts. It’s not in our best interest or our clients’ best interest to deeply discount high quality or valuable items so our policy and our practice is to offer quality items at fair and competitive prices. We will never be a company that “gives away” great items to expedite a sale. If any of the more valuable items do not sell, a rarity, we have other methods for marketing these items.

CONCLUDING THE SALE: At the conclusion of the sale, there will usually be some unsold items, including coffee mugs, picture frames, mismatched glass and china, etc. We always offer several disposal options and allow the owner to decide what best suits their plans.

When the sale is concluded and the remaining items have been disposed of in accordance with client’s wishes, we leave the residence in a “broom swept” condition: meaning there is no debris from the sale in the house and it looks neat and orderly.