How to Have a Successful Estate Sale – 5 Keys

When an elderly parent moves out of their home, the rest of the family usually starts thinking about clearing out their possessions. They often wonder how to have a successful estate sale. Estate sales are a great way to find new homes for old memorabilia. However, professional estate sale companies usually take a huge chunk of money from your sales – frequently up to 35%. So you’re probably wondering whether you can do one by yourself and keep more of the proceeds? In this article we hope to show you how to do an estate sale by yourself, if you are so motivated.

How to Have a Successful Estate Sale

Sure, it takes a lot of hard work, but you can absolutely learn how to do an estate sale with the help of friends and other family members without hiring a professional.

One thing’s for sure: planning an estate sale takes a lot more time than you might expect. This is especially true if it’s your first time organizing one. Cut yourself some slack and give it at least a month to prepare if possible. But if not, you can take as long as you please. Keep in mind that it’s very difficult to run an estate sale alone. Make sure you pick a date that works for everyone involved. If you choose to hire workers, you will also need to consider their schedules as well.


Pre-Estate Sale Sorting

Part of how to have a successful estate sale is sorting out what you want to sell. Going through your elderly loved one’s things can take time. Make sure you give yourself and your family ample time to sort things out. You’ll most likely go through every nook and cranny in the home, including:

  • Closets
  • The basement
  • The storage area
  • Cupboards
  • Drawers
  • Rooms, and
  • The attic

Part of knowing how to do an estate sale is knowing what NOT to sell. If you’re conducting an estate sale due to a death of a loved one, make sure to separate out the items that will always have sentimental value. These include:

  • Memorabilia
  • Photographs
  • Private letters
  • Financial paperwork
  • Medical documents, and
  • Other important papers.

Keep these separated from the merchandise you are going to put on sale.

Ask your family members to pick anything they want to keep before you start selling. Seriously consider whether items will be of value to you, or just take up space in your home.

On the other hand, don’t sell things that you think your family would hold near and dear. Remember that you can throw those things away if you change your mind; however, you won’t be able to get it back once it’s sold.

For more information, we have another blog post on cleaning out your parent’s home here.


How to Have a Successful Estate Sale? Price things Right

If you’re not sure how to price the goods for your estate sale, it never hurts to do a little research. You may be surprised that many things you thought are sellable won’t bring you a ton of money, while the unsellable things will be the first ones to go.

If your elderly loved one owns valuable antiques or collectibles, it’s better to ask advice from a professional appraiser to help you determine the right price. If you think the goods cost a lot, you might want to consider selling them at an auction.

If you don’t know where to start with your research, you can head over to Etsy, eBay, Ruby Lane, or 1st Dibs to look at completed sale searches. You can find out what are other people are paying for similar products. Whether it’s vintage, new, or just used. Base your prices on how much people were willing to pay, not the price the sellers were hoping to get. Anyone can sell anything at any price on these sites. You can list a tattered shirt for sale on eBay for $400 but that doesn’t mean someone will pay for it.

Advertising Your Estate Sale

One big part of how to do an estate sale is to attract customers. To gain customers, you have to let people know that you’re having an estate sale through advertising. Spreading the word will maximize the number of prospective buyers which will help sell everything more quickly. There are numerous ways to advertise without shelling out a lot of money. One way is to place classified listings on Craigslist and in the newspaper. Make sure to include photos to pique the interest of the people. You can also tell your neighbors about the sale through the Next Door website.

If you live in a small town near a city, you can also advertise your sale in newspapers in both places. And if finances allow, opt for a larger display ad that can definitely catch the attention of the reader. Large ads also gives you more room for additional details and pictures of the goods you’re selling.

If you’re tight on budget, don’t worry because you can always turn to social media – Facebook, Instagram, and even Twitter. Likewise, create an album featuring your best products. There may also be local Facebook groups in your area so you might want to join and advertise there as well.

Another option is to list your event on estate sale websites, such as and on Both websites allow you to attach numerous photos to your listing.



Displaying all your merchandise on your yard means additional work for you. You’d have to get a lot of tables, stuff all the goods in boxes, and then arrange them again outside. Instead, you can display the goods in places where they are commonly used. For example, place the bed sheets, pillowcases, and blankets on top of the beds and dressers inside the bedroom. For dinnerware, table cloths, and serving pieces, place them on top of the dining tables and sideboards. The pots, pans, bowls, utensils, plates, and kitchen appliances go, where else? On the kitchen table and countertops. This strategy not only means less work for you, but also makes all the goods easier to find.

For more expensive jewelry and other valuable items, it is better to keep them on the cashier’s table that’s near the exit to prevent theft. Rent or borrow jewelry cases with locks during your estate sale. Or ask one worker or family member to watch over the goods throughout the sale.

Managing Customers

On the day of the sale, expect a lot of people coming in. And since the goods are scattered all around the house, theft will always be a concern. Consider hiring friends, workers or family members to keep an eye on everything. Have at least one person stay in each area and have other people supervise all the rooms.

If there are people lining up before the estate sale starts, let them wait outside.Don’t let them in ahead of time. Lock the doors and create signage to inform the shoppers where they should line up before the sale begins.

The first few hours of the sale are usually the busiest. To keep everything organized, ask the shoppers to line up and limit the number of people to enter the house. That way, you can easily spot thieves, minimize clutter, disagreements, and damage.


Hiring a Professional Estate Sale Company

A professional company knows how to have a successful estate sale. Hire a professional if you think holding an estate sale on your own is too much work or if you don’t have time. If you don’t mind paying for an estate sale company’s service, that is. Hiring professionals is extremely beneficial if you are hosting a larger-scale estate sale or if the items sold are mostly valuables. Other than that, these are the benefits of hiring an estate sale company:

  • Lessen Stress. Let’s face it, organizing an estate sale – big or small – can be stressful. Especially when you’re dealing with a loss of a loved one at the same time. Hiring professionals help lifts the weight off your shoulders.
  • Potentially increase revenue. These companies know a whole lot about pricing. They know which items are valuable and which items are not. They definitely know how to price your items appropriately.
  • Save time and effort. Eliminates the need to manually sort and take note of every sellable item your loved one owns. And you won’t have to worry about setting up, organizing, and running the sale.
  • More credibility. Professional estate companies potentially attract a higher quantity and quality of shoppers than family-run estate sales.
  • Be more visible. These companies know exactly how to market and advertise your sale. And it’s part of their job to ensure that the news of your estate sale will reach hundreds of people near you.

Whether you choose to hire a professional or do everything with the help of family and friends, hosting an estate sale is a profitable and fun way to bond with the family and downsize your elderly loved one’s possessions.

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From Pilot to Paradise: Meet Hal Cranmer!

Mr. Cranmer went from Air Force Special Operations Pilot to Airline Pilot to running a multimillion dollar manufacturing plant after 9/11 ended his flying career. Now he is bringing his business expertise to his true passion - taking care of seniors in his 'A Paradise for Parents' assisted living homes in Surprise and Goodyear, AZ. Read Hal's crazy career story, 'From Air Force Pilot to Assisted Living Owner'. Click the button to send Hal a message!

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