Host Your Own Estate Sale or Hire a Company?

Sometimes people think of an estate sale as a large garage sale, which makes them feel that they can handle an estate sale on their own. In some cases that may be the right choice, but in the majority of situations, estate sales are more successful when they are managed by a professional company.

The Pros and Cons of Doing it Yourself

People who choose to manage their own estate sale, do so primarily because they think it will save them money. They want to save the 35% commission paid to an estate sale company and do the work themselves. If they think the estate is worth $10,000, they are saving $3,500 in commissions.

The main reason to do it yourself is if no company will agree to take the estate sale. This can happen in cases where an intense amount of work is involved, or the company deems the sale to be too small. At that point, the options are limited and doing it yourself should be considered. If you have a background in the resale industry, have lots of connections, and happen to have a lot of extra time on your hands, it could also be worth your time.

What many DIY’ers don’t think about, however, are the long nights and weekends they’ll need to put in to get the sale ready. It can take hours to sort, price, and stage an estate sale while still juggling the daily demands of work and home. Many people also forget that doing it yourself means you’ll be missing out on the marketing, pricing knowledge, and professionalism that an estate sale company brings to the table. An estate sale service, in almost all cases, will end up paying for itself.

Advantages of Working with an Estate Sale Company

Marketing Matters

One huge advantage of working with an estate sale company is getting access to their marketing methods. Many DIY’ers think putting up signs on the corner (like you might do when advertising a garage sale) is good enough. The success of your estate sale depends, to a large degree, on the number of people that choose to attend. Estate sale companies can bring in many more interested buyers who are willing to pay top dollar for your items. Estate sale companies often have a dedicated following of buyers; some get over 10,000 views per estate sale listing online and have email lists that number in the thousands.

Industry Connections

Occasionally, items in an estate are so valuable or interesting that an estate sale isn’t the best place to sell them. Estate sale professionals will have a network of connections that help them find the right place to sell or the right buyer for the item, including through national auction houses like Sotheby, Rago, and Heritage. An estate sale professional will know the local collectors and resellers interested in your items and use those connections to get the maximum value out of your estate. Remember: the more money your estate makes, the more money your estate sale professional makes, so they are interested in maximizing the value of every item, too.

Experience Counts

Estate sales can be a lot of work, but you aren’t just hiring someone to do the sorting and organizing for you. When you hire an experienced estate sale company, you’ll be getting their pricing knowledge, skillfulness in running a sale, competent sales staff, awareness of city and state laws regarding estate sales, and someone versed in the security and theft issues that come up during an estate sale. Paying for that expertise can result in higher gross sales and a smoother sale event.

Less Physical and Emotional Stress

Organizing a sale takes a lot of work. For many people, the estate sale is happening because of a major life change. Perhaps they had a relative who died, are getting a divorce, or are going through another difficult situation. Sorting, organizing, and pricing all of those memories isn’t just a lot of physical work, it’s a lot of emotional stress as well. While you may end up getting to keep 100% of the sales, many DIY’ers tell estate sale professionals afterwards that they wish they hadn’t taken it all on themselves. Saving yourself the time, money, and emotional wear and tear can be well worth the fee you pay to a professional company to allow their team to do the work for you.

How an Estate Sale Company Can Help Your DIY Sale

As you may have noticed, we think hiring a professional estate sale company is the way to go. That being said, if you do find yourself in a situation where you are on your own, we have a few suggestions to make your sale a success. Explore bringing in an estate sale company to consult. Some companies offer a service where they will tour your estate sale after you’ve priced everything and reprice items they feel may have been mispriced. Very few companies will publicly offer this service, but if you ask several in your area you may be able to find one that will work with you. Getting even a few hours of their pricing expertise will have a huge positive impact on your sale. The most common mistakes they’ll identify include pricing large, dated, and heavy furniture for far too much, and pricing smaller, more valuable items for next to nothing, simply because the seller doesn’t know how much the items are worth. Here is a list of recent repricing examples:

  • A box of fountain pens and nibs. The seller priced them at $1; the estate sale company repriced them for $45, knowing these items are highly collectible and in demand.
  • A vase. The seller thought they’d be lucky to get $10. Pricing professionals identified the piece as a Rookwood and repriced it at $250.
  • A pocket watch. The seller hoped to get $50. The pocket watch was identified as a 14kt gold watch by the estate sale company and repriced for $450.

Hosting an estate sale under any circumstance is a major undertaking.  In most situations you will make more money, with none of the work or emotional weight, by hiring a company.  Estate sales, as with any other industry, are handled best by professionals who live and breathe it every day.  Most estate sale companies have handled hundreds of estates, sold tens of thousands of items, and have the expertise to quickly and efficiently maximize the value in the sale.  Whether you pursue an estate sale on your own or hand it entirely off to a company, using the expertise and advice of an estate sale professional will serve you well.

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