An estate sale is an auction of an individual’s belongings that typically takes places due to a downsizing, divorce, housing transition or death. In most cases, it is a means of selling goods not settled or included in the will of the deceased individual. If the survivors cannot agree on the distribution of the possessions, a court might intervene by calling an estate sale and dividing the proceeds among the disputing parties. Estate sales are particularly appealing for settling debts- if the individual’s survivors were left with high medical bills, funeral costs, or other forms of financial debts. Other times, the deceased may have wanted to donate the proceeds of their estate sale to a charitable cause. In most cases though, estates sales occur because a deceased person’s possessions need to be liquidated and their real property sold.
An individual contacts an appraisal company that specializes in organizing the estate sale, and the company manages the auction at the individual’s home. Having a third party handle the transactions is usually the preferred course of action of family members who might be undergoing the grieving process and have no need for the possessions of the deceased. The auctioneer or estate sale professional typically takes 25-35% of the total sale earnings, which pays for their effort in value assessment of the items, marketing the sale, displaying them, and cleaning the home afterwards. Theft and fraud are common problems, so fees also go towards security and making sure that the sale runs smoothly. Since their income is commission based, they are incentivized to bring the highest profit for their clients, often tapping into their network of connections to ensure that antique and expensive items get sold to the highest bidder. In addition to the public, the estate sale professional usually has a following of dealers and collectors that are more likely to understand the value of the estate sale items and pay more for them.
The ideal appraisal company is licensed, bonded, and insured. In the event that an individual or their survivors suffer a breach of contract with the company, the bonding company pays the individual for their loss. Reputable companies do not charge for house inspections and typically have many references that will vouch for their legitimacy.
The public is invited to purchase any priced items at the selling price, otherwise, they may place bids on items if they do not agree with price. This opens the item to bidding and the item goes towards the highest bidder. Items that are too large to carry can be “marked sold”, while it may still be on display for the remaining duration of the estate sale. Smaller items may be picked up and purchased at the checkout. Most companies operate on a first come, first serve system, with shoppers viewing items in a line. Estate sales tend to last one or two days, on a weekend.