An Estate Sale, also called a Tag Sale in some parts of the country, is a way of liquidating the belongings of a family or estate. These are much more than garage sales and used when someone is in need of a way to sell all or many items due to downsizing, moving, divorce, debt, or death.
The typical estate sale goes like this: You hire a liquidator – an estate sale company that will come in and take care of everything for you. That comes at a price of 35 to 50% of sales but you don’t have to worry about anything. The sale is set up and staged by the liquidator who also determines the pricing of items. The sale takes place over two or maybe three days. The liquidator’s staff will be there during the sale, escort buyers through the house and collect the money and sales tax.
When it’s over the liquidator will dispose of any leftover items that didn’t sell based on the agreement contract that you signed in advance. Typically, this costs extra because they never know which items will not sell and how much it will cost to haul things away to a consignment store or the dump. In addition, the liquidator will also charge extra to do a post-sale cleanup of the house. Typically, within two weeks you should get a report and a check for your share. For some sellers this works very well. Sellers don’t have to be there for the sale, and they don’t have to think about it much at all.
There are some drawbacks to this type of sale but it depends on your situation. Read more about the Pros and Cons here. Estate liquidators provide a valuable service if you’re willing to give up about 40% or more of the sale, but it can be a bit of a conflict of interest. Their job is to get the best sales price for your property in just two days. That’s a lot to expect in a short time frame. Usually, your items are significantly discounted on the second day, but there will still be leftovers if items are not priced low enough.
Buyers interested in liquidation sales are looking for bargains. If your item is priced too high, it won’t sell and where does it go? It may go to a consignment store owned or connected to the liquidator. This is not necessarily a bad thing but you need to be aware of it, particularly if you have some items of value. This should be spelled out in the contract you sign with the liquidator.
If you only have a few items to dispose of you could use Facebook Marketplace, Next Door or even Craigslist. If you decide on Craigslist in particular, be sure to Read our Safety Tips.
Another way is to have an online sale. There are many companies that provide the option for you to create an online-only sale with items for sale at a fixed price (“Buy it Now”) or you can use an online auction format. For buyers it’s an easy process. They shop and pay online and arrange for shipping or on-site pick up. Many of these sites are national showing items from across the US, but buyers can limit the location to their general area. The items stay on your property and you are notified when a sale is made. You then need to arrange for shipping or a pick-up time with the buyer. As with a liquidator, you don’t have to deal with the money, the online company takes care of that. They collect the money online and will send you a check two to three weeks later. They will also take a percentage of the sale or charge a flat fee for other services. At the end, when things aren’t sold you will need to deal with finding a consignment store to take the unsold items or someone to haul them away. There are other things you still need to do such as stage the items, take photos and upload those photos to the website.
The third option is to use a company like us, Southern Arizona Estate Sales. We are somewhere in the middle and help sellers do a do-it-yourself (DIY) online/onsite sale by appointment. We work locally so all your buyers will be in your general vicinity and can pick up items, so you don’t have to package and ship.
We post all of your photos on a special webpage and respond to inquiries. If someone wants to see the item we contact you and you arrange an appointment directly with the buyer. The benefits of this type of sale include:
- You pay a low flat fee and you don’t have to share a percentage of the entire sale with a liquidator.
- You sell over a longer period of time (30 days) which means more items will sell and there will be fewer leftovers to consign, donate or throw out.
- You have full control over your items and who you let into your home and when. A herd of people will not be walking through your home for a weekend, unless you decide to also stage an onsite sale as well.
- You will get serious buyers. Buyers at a two-day onsite estate sale are often just lookers. They may buy a few small items, or they may be looking for certain collectables or things they can resell. Often they are just out shopping for the day to get out of the house. With the online appointment only sale you’re much more likely to get serious buyers, people who are looking for the specific items they saw on the website.