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How to Hold an Estate Sale on Your Own

I heard it said that an estate sale is a garage sale on steroids. Not at all. Estate sales and garage sales attract entirely different buyers, and if you want to have a successful estate sale, you need to attract a certain kind of buyer. These days more and more people are going with an online sale.

  • An online local “by appointment sale” is more convenient for you and your buyer.
  • You stay in control of your items, who comes into your home and when, prices, and discounts.
  • You keep the money – no commissions.
  • It’s safer for everyone in terms of security, theft, and health issues.
  • You will attract serious buyers rather than those who are just showing up at your house to occupy their morning.

But can you do an onsite sale on your own? With a bit of time and energy you can do it yourself and put a lot more money in your pocket. Here’s the process but be sure and download our free forms to make it easier for you and Read our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

Sorting and Letting Go

Give yourself plenty of time to sort through your items. You will have to go through every attic, closet, storage shed, basement, cupboard, and drawer. It may look daunting, but just take one room at a time and decide what you’re keeping, what you’re selling and what you’re willing to donate. Separate into piles or boxes. Get a family member or friend involved to help you detach from the emotional value. There is a time to let go. What about keepsakes? It’s hard to part with some things. Do you really need ALL the kids (now grown) school records and kindergarten finger paintings? Either keep a few and toss the rest or give them to your grown kids to take care of. However, be prepared that they are not as attached as you. When I asked my son to take a bunch of his old school stuff, he said, “Why do I want that stuff? It’s junk, throw it out.”  Read our tips on what to keep and what to let go.

If there was a death and this is a liquidation, make sure to contact family members and allow them to purchase or choose objects to keep. Remember that everyone has a different memory attached to an object. What’s memorable to you may not be memorable to your sister. But at the same time, you can hold on to items that you’re too emotional about right now. You may need to wait for a period of time to see if you can let certain things go.

Create an Inventory

Download our Free Inventory Sheet here.  For now it’s on paper but we will have the online paperless version ready soon that will make all this even easier for you. 

Use the form. Walk through your home and list everything you plan on including in the sale. Write in the descriptions making note of each item’s condition. Write in the measurements if needed. Now, enter your price and if you are not sure, you may need to do a little online research.

If you need a little help, contact us. We can take care of the photography, taking item measurements, writing good descriptions, and researching the right price.

Fix and Clean What You Can

Estate sale items are sold as-is, but a quick polish or gluing a chair leg can make an item more valuable.

Take Great Pictures 

Make sure your photos are clear, well-lit and visually appealing. Read our Tips on how to take great pictures with your cell phone.

Stage and Display

When possible, display estate sale items in the room where they are commonly used. Take folded clothes, bed sheets, and blankets out of drawers and display the stacks on top of beds and dressers. Display dinnerware, serving pieces, and table linens in the dining room. Empty the kitchen cabinets and place all items, utensils, and small appliances on the kitchen table and countertops. Read our tips and suggestions about how to stage your items so you make more money.

Price it Right

Go online, look at catalogs, check Amazon, eBay, and local store websites for prices and descriptions of exact or comparable items. If you have collectables or antiques you may need to go to an antique dealer for market value. However, these things are not as valuable as they used to be, so be ready to price low.

If you’re in a hurry for a quick sale, keep the price down. If it doesn’t sell, you’ll be dealing with it after the sale.

Clearly mark each item with a price tag if you’re doing an onsite sale. If you have multiples of an item or like-priced smaller items, display them together with a group price. And don’t start off the first day of an onsite sale by discounting. Stay firm in your pricing just price it right the first time.

Create Good Traffic Flow

If possible, you want to create a logical flow through your house. You want buyers to browse each room at their own pace without a bunch of traffic jams. Keep items to the perimeter or center of each room (if the room is big enough), and don’t clutter tables with too many items so that it becomes distracting.

Clearly Mark Off-Limit Items

Put a large “Not For Sale” sign on any items you don’t want people to buy. However, that won’t deter many shoppers. People will ask about them anyway and then you will just end up wasting time. It’s better to remove items entirely out of sight. Put them in a locked closet or room.

Take Security Measures

Never leave an entrance or exit open and unattended. You and your helpers should be able to monitor everyone who comes and goes to ensure no one leaves without paying for their items. If you can’t move items not for sale to another room, rope or tape off areas and post someone to enforce those boundaries.

Close and lock doors you don’t want people opening. Keep your cash and loose change in a secure lock box and under constant supervision. High-value small items, like jewelry, are best kept at the cashier’s table so they’re always within sight.


Read our advertising tips and options here.

Place ads in local town, city and village papers a week before your sale as well as on any online classifieds for your area. We don’t recommend Craigslist as there is a well-known problem with fraud and you don’t want just anybody coming to your house. Regardless of where you advertise never list your address in the ad. Force people to contact you via a website or email with questions and items of interest.

Post signs with big, legible letters specifying the dates, times and address of the sale at nearby intersections a few days ahead of time. Get our free printable signs here.

Clearly visible arrow markers placed at intervals between the signs and the sale can help people find you. (Make sure to check local ordinances and homeowner association regulations before placing signs.)

Have a Plan for the Items that Don’t Sell

Find out local consignment or donation policies. Will they pick up? Never leave large piles of garbage or recycling on your curb without calling your town’s waste management provider first for permission.

Managing Customers During an Estate Sale

Theft is an issue at any sale. Enlist volunteers to help watch shoppers. Station someone in each area or have them wander frequently from room to room.

Never let shoppers in the door of an estate sale before it’s scheduled to start. Keep the doors locked, and place signage to indicate where they should line up until the sale begins. Organizing shoppers into a line also lets you limit the number of people in the house at one time, especially during the first hour or so of the sale.

Green Valley Annex Bookstore in the Green Valley Village  Located between the Green Valley Barber shop on one side and Moqah-Coffee.  101 S La Canada, Suite 58
Green Valley AZ 

A private, donation-funded, volunteer, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) organization. Our vision is A Home for Every Pet


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