How to Do Your Own Estate Sale/Liquidation Sale
Doing Your Own Estate Sale? Some Pointers:
Estate sales and liquidation sales require a lot of work to set up and execute. Many people find the emotional stress of selling the possessions of a parent or loved one to be greater than they can handle. That's why there are estate sale and liquidation companies like the Estate Wizards. However, if you are just downsizing your own estate, and are a collectibles enthusiast or shop a lot of estate sales yourself, you might want to try doing your own liquidation sale. If so, here are some pointers:
The two biggest challenges to initially setting up are organization and display. How do you get everything organized? You must go through every drawer, closet, shelf and box to be sure that there is not some small thing of value tucked away. Jewelry, coins, pocket knives, old lighters, pocket and wrist watches, for example may be hidden away. Wherever they are, you want to be sure to put them in a display case or at least on the table nearest the check-out, to prevent theft, and to display them to their best advantage.
It helps to have lots of folding tables. We set up folding tables in nearly every room of the house, if existing furniture will allow (often, this requires moving furniture around). You will want to give each table a "theme", putting porcelain with porcelain, glass with glass, silver with silver, pottery with pottery, primitives with primitives, etc. You will want to wash or clean dirty or greasy items, before putting them on display, so keep a sink full of hot dishwater and some spray cleaners and paper towels handy.
If you do not regularly attend collectible shows and read price guides, you should spend as much time as possible, before pricing anything, reading up on antiques and collectibles. Most people are amazed to find out that an old fountain pen, cigarette lighter or postcard could be worth a lot of money to the right collector.
Once everything has been sorted, cleaned and is placed on a table or somewhere for display, it's time to price. You can use price tags with string, masking tape, or the little colored dot stickers, along with a Sharpie marking pen. This is the trickiest part, because inflated prices drive away buyers, while under-pricing can cost you a lot of money in lost income. If you are already an enthusiast who visits a lot of estate sales, antique shows, and are a regular price-guide reader, you will do better than someone who does not. This one aspect can make or break an estate sale.
Once everything is priced, it's time advertise. Hopefully, you will have friends or relatives that you can count on, who will have agreed to come and help hold the sale. You need people to watch over the rooms for breakage and theft, answer questions, and perhaps help move or break down larger furniture pieces. Denver has only one newspaper now, but you will definitely want an ad there (in the "Estate Sale" section, not the "Garage Sales"). The biggest draw these days, however, is online. If you have a website or blog, advertise there. Craig's List is a free advertising site, and you could become a member of EstateSales.net and place an ad with them, but there is a monthly membership fee for that. If you have any kind of marketing email list, you might send out an email advertising your estate sale. Oh, and it really helps if you can post pictures of your better items online with your ads, too.
Finally, the day of the sale, be on site early, and be prepared for lots of early birds. It's your choice whether you want to allow them in or not. We would recommend against it - it really upsets the buyers who are counting on your published open and close times. Also, be aware that there will be more people waiting in line to come in, than can comfortably fit in the house. It's your choice, whether to throw the doors open wide and let the throngs all elbow their way through the house, or only let a few in at a time. In the first case there is a lot of breakage and theft, in the second case there will be upset buyers that don't like to wait in line. Like we said - it's your choice.
Before the sale starts, send someone out to place directional arrows and signs on the street corners, if the city codes and homeowner's association allow it. (You will need to check with the authorities in question first.) A big sign in the front yard and banner flags help people to identify your sale as they come down the block, so they can park before they get there.
If, like most estates, there are other family members with a financial interest in the sale, you had best have plenty of notebook paper at the register, and be careful to log each item that sells, so that you will have an accounting record to show them. Also, be prepared with lots of packing materials, bags and boxes, because people will expect you to pack (or at the very least help them pack) the smaller items and breakables.
After your liquidation sale, you will have two things: a mess, and some amount of unsold items and trash. You need to plan in advance as to how you want to dispose of these things. Trash pickup can be picky about what they take, so be prepared to haul some stuff to the dump, or pay someone to do it. If there are some good items left, perhaps you have family members or friends who would be happy to take them. Some items you can give to Goodwill or other thrift stores, but those venues are much pickier about what they will take these days, and even pickier about what they will pick up. It helps if you have plenty of time, before the house needs to be emptied, so you can work with more than one venue.
And so, your sale is done, your accounting is done and distributed as necessary, and trash, junk, and unsold items have been hauled away. Congratulations! You did it!
Hiring an Estate Sale Company or Liquidation Specialist
We, A&A Estate Wizards, Inc. are estate sale and estate liquidation specialists. We have been doing estate sales for over 35 years, so it's not quite the headache or worry for us that is to an individual or family doing it for the first time. Granted, it's lots of work, but after all, it is something we know how to do, and we are very good at. Also, for a family, it can be very, very hard to sell items belonging to a loved one, and watch other people taking them away. We empathize with our clients, and understand that feeling. It has happened to all of us. But we can be the buffer that makes it less stressful for the family. And, like a realtor selling a house, we can do a better job of selling than the owner or the family, simply because we do not have those emotional ties. You can just turn everything over to the Estate Wizards, and put your mind at rest! We will handle all the headaches, do all the work, and deliver the proceeds to you, usually in a matter of weeks after our initial consultation!
We set up a sale very much as we have described in the previous box. We have HUNDREDS of folding tables, so there is no shortage of display space as long as we can find places to put our tables. (It sometimes takes some creative manipulation of furniture and other furnishings!) We dig through all the drawers, boxes, closets, crawl spaces, attics, storage bins, etc. and identify every sellable item. Many times, things we find in the garage amongst the tools gain a prized position on display next to the check-out register, simply because, to the previous owners, this collectible item had no value.
We sort things out, placing more breakable, stealable, and valuable pieces near the register, where they can be most vigilantly watched. We clean what needs to be cleaned, in order to display best. We price things with tie-on price tags or stick-on labels. (Buyers like to negotiate, but they like to know the asking price before they approach the seller.) Our 35 year experience in selling in the Denver marketplace means we know what prices to put on things, so we can do it very quickly, compared to an inexperienced seller. We can set up most sales in 2-3 days, whereas it takes most inexperienced sellers weeks.
When it comes to advertising the sale, we have a large advantage over the typical non-professional. We have our website, where we post advertising and photos for our sales, we have a large (over 1100 names) email list of buyers to whom we send emails, and we belong to estatesales.net. (The latter is a service that has it's own email list and website - two more areas of exposure for our clients!) Of course, we still post large ads in the Denver Post and Craig's list, as well.
Again, the procedures we have outlined in the previous box for the do-it-yourselfer is pretty much the procedure we follow ourselves. The biggest differences between that and what we have to offer are our advertising venues, our devoted following of buyers, our marketing and pricing skill and experience, our professional staff of help, and our contacts for removing trash and unsold items after the estate sale is complete. And of course, if you are from out of state, we have the advantage of being HERE, in Metro Denver.
We outlined the procedures for "doing it yourself", because some people are determined to try, and we like to help people. But for those of you who haven't the time or expertise to conduct your own estate liquidation sale, we hope you will give A&A Estate Wizards a call! We will be glad to come visit you and give you an initial consultation (at no cost to you). Then you can relax and leave it all to us! (We promise we'll take good care of you!)