Will liquidators work with me if I don't have a big estate?
A general rule of thumb: If you have less than $10,000 worth of personal property sales value, you should either host your own sale, donate your items or do a combination of both. A liquidator may not take on a small estate or they may charge a bigger commission.
How much does a liquidator take of the sale?
They will take anywhere from 35% to 50% commission of the total sale, but if you're incredibly busy and/or have lots of stuff to sell, it could be worth saving yourself the trouble.
Does that cover everything?
No. Typically that does not cover disposal of the leftover items or cleanup of the site when the sale is over.
What if something valuable doesn’t sell—like a $20,000 painting or other collectables?
Collectables have greatly diminished in value over the years. It takes a very specific buyer for such items and these are unlikely to sell at an on-site estate sale over a 2-day period (unless you are pricing well under value). They may need to be taken to an antique dealer or listed on an auction site that promotes across the country. Even then, don't expect them to sell quickly.
Can I really hold my own estate sale?
That depends on your own motivations and resources. Are you in a hurry to sell or do you have a month to take care of it yourself? Do you want to make more money instead of giving half to a liquidator? How much there is to sell, and how much time do you have to dedicate to the process? If you have some time and a little bit of energy, then yes you can do it yourself. We, Southern Arizona Estate Sales provide some additional support to help, particularly if you don't have much in the way of technical skills like photography, posting pictures on a website, marketing and staging acumen, etc. We can also provide resources for helping with presale staging, cleaning or post sale disposal and clean-up.
How long will it take? Can I really do this in two days?
If you use a liquidator your sale will typically be set up for two days. This is not really enough time to sell everything and there are likely to be many things leftover. Some things simply sell better than others, but much has to do with your pricing.
What items are most likely to sell at an estate sale?
Most items are sellable at the right price but won't sell in just a week or two. That's another value of our service. Your private web page is available for 30 days, and that can be extended.
Things that are harder to sell these days include China, China cabinets, crystal, decorative glass, expensive stemware, upright pianos and organs, and all types of collectable figurines or other items originally pitched by the manufacturer as collectables (think Beanie Babies and collectable plates).
Do clothes sell?
Good quality clothes like leather, wool or silks will sell as will vintage clothes but it depends on your market and location. If you are in a senior area you're not likely to sell old clothes for much. If you live in a town near a University, you might sell some of the vintage items, but you might be better off taking it all to a vintage clothing consignment store. One thing to consider when people are coming through your house is are you going to let them try anything on? No. The best way to sell clothing is to group it and sell items as a set, but keep the price low.
How do I go about marketing the sale?
Know your buyer and cater to their typical ways of buying. These days, particularly during the pandemic, people just want to get out of the house and going to a local estate sale is just something to do to occupy their morning. They may or may not buy anything but they will take up space and time. Sadly, there are people who come to onsite sales to remove things without paying. Others are looking for super bargains that they can turn around and resell on eBay or in their own store. Some are serious shoppers looking for specific items to add to their home or to furnish a new rental. Obviously, you want to appeal to the serious shoppers and the best way to do that might be an online appointment only sale.
You will need to post the sale in a local newspaper. Call their classified advertising department and they will help you. They even write the ad for you. Costs vary depending on the newspaper, but it may be around $70 or more for a short listing for just a few days. If your HOA or city permits it, you can put up signs on the street corners. if you do that make sure to put up enough and on several large streets. Most city regulations won't allow you to put them up for very long (if at all) and in fact may come and remove them. You can also post on Next Door or on Craigslist but be particularly careful when you will respond to inquiries.
Should I put my address in the ad?
There's a lot of debate on this. Personally, I find that dangerous. You don't want people just showing up at your door prior to the sale for any reason at all. So, I would not. To do an estate sale yourself you need to use some sort of website to link to in the ad. Liquidators will have their own website, and it's one reason people use liquidators because they simply don't know an alternative. Take a look at how we work because we solve that problem.
What should I remove from the house before the sale?
Remove items that you do not plan to sell or move them to one room that is lockable. Take out any small items that are not for sale particularly jewelry, medications, newsletters, personal papers, and of course cash. Be sure and check in odd places for these items, as buyers will paw through everything as they go through your house during a sale. They will open doors, cabinets, boxes, drawers. Putting a “not for sale” sign on the item is not enough.
I've been told I need to stage items. Do I really need to do that? And what exactly does that require?
You absolutely need to stage items. It is a tried, true, and proven marketing necessity. It may be simpler than it sounds, but that depends on your house and how you have it organized and your clutter factor. We suggest getting a free consultation. Check out our post How to Stage an Estate Sale.
What if some items are dirty or broken or a set is incomplete?
That depends on the type of item. If it's a nice table with a broken foot, it still may be sellable, but very dirty items that are uncleanable are not likely to sell. We suggest disposing of those items before the sale. Even Goodwill or other thrift stores won't take broken or dirty items. In fact, at Goodwill, 50% of what you donate ends up in the trash. There are some exceptions and before you do any sale you should get a free consultation.
Is there a sales tax or other taxes and fees I need to pay?
Depending on the size of your estate sale, how you are involved (did you inherit a property?), you should check with an attorney regarding tax liability.
Arizona has a sales tax called the Arizona transaction privilege tax (TPT). In Arizona, applicable law says this: Beginning from and after January 1, 1995, the gross proceeds or gross income derived from the business of engaging in personal property liquidation transactions are subject to tax under the retail classification. Personal property liquidation transactions include estate sales and auctions which occur at the dwelling of the owner. So, if you use a liquidator, they should be charging sales tax (state, city, county) on everything that sold and reporting that. That’s not your problem, but make sure there is something about this in your agreement contract. At the end of the sale the liquidator will give you a check for whatever amount (percentage of sale) you've agreed to minus any fees (disposal and cleanup for instance) including sales tax. It is their responsibility to collect that money and report it.
Arizona law also states that casual and isolated sales such as infrequent or non-recurring transactions not regularly engaged in the business of such are exempt. so, you as a private seller do not need to charge sales tax for your one time or “casual” estate sale.
Should I accept only cash
Generally, yes, unless you know the person. These days a lot of people are using online immediate digital cash transfers such as: Venmo, Zelle, or Google Pay or Apple Pay. You will need to set up the app on your phone before the sale and learn how to use it (it's not hard).
Do I need a permit from the city?
No, but check with your homeowner’s association to determine regulations. There may be limitations and signage requirements. This is another good reason to start with a "by appointment only online sale" - you won't have 50 cars lined up on a residential street.
How long will it take to set up my private webpage?
That depends a lot on you. We need all the photos, measurements, descriptions, and your sales prices. We provide an Inventory Template for you to fill out. Once we have all that, we ask for 2 weeks to prepare the site.
How much photo editing do you do?
We have the skills do to a lot of photo editing and photo manipulation. However we are only charging $2 per photo edit which includes basic enhancements for lighting, color, cropping, and resizing as needed.