Estate Sales

Estate Sale General Information and Policies

For more information, please see our Frequently Asked Questions page.

What is an Estate Sale, and How Does It Work?
An Estate Sale, also called a Tag Sale in some parts of the country, is a means of liquidating the belongings of a family or estate.  These are usually much more than garage or yard sales.  They are used when someone is in need of a way to sell items due to downsizing, moving, divorce, bankruptcy or death.  The public is invited into the home and given the opportunity to purchase any item that is priced for sale.  At times, there are items that are not for sale because the family has decided to keep them, or new owners of the house have made them part of the contract to buy the house.  Estate Auctions are just that–everything is auctioned instead of being marked with a selling price.

There are several ways that Estate Sales are run.  Items are marked with a selling price; and if you want an item, you usually pick it up and carry it with you until you are ready to check out.  If an item is too large to carry, you can have it marked “Sold.”  If you do not want to pay the marked price, some companies allow or welcome Bids, although you are taking a chance that someone else might be willing to pay the marked price before the end of the sale when bids are usually opened.

Estate Sales Entrance
For lining up and entering the sale, most companies use the “First Come, First Served” policy.  This is when a line is formed at the door of the home of the estate sale.  Lines may start several hours before the sale opens.  Most people know how to use this system, but there are always those who feel they are entitled to a front spot, but this is not the case.  Leaving the property usually means you have abandoned your place in line, and you will have to go to the end of the line when you return.

Some companies use a Number System, and they usually have some sort of policy concerning this.  You should check with the individual companies that do use this system for their rules.  The Number System is usually run by the estate sale company, and numbers are given out starting at a particular time prior to the opening of the sale.  This does mean that at times there will be a First Come, First Served line, just to get a number to enter the sale.  Most companies give out numbers at least an hour or several hours before the sale starts.  This gives people time to go do more hunting or eat breakfast before the sale opens.  Usually, your number is good as long as you are in line when the sale opens.  If you are not in line and your number is passed, then you must go to the end of the line, and your number is no longer valid.  You should know the policy of the company holding the sale.

There are also companies that use the Self Start Number System.  This system is one where the first person to the sale site gives himself/herself number one and waits for the next person to show up and passes the duty to them as number 2 in line, and so on.  This is a self-policing type number system that is vulnerable to many abuses; and companies that use this system usually do have a strict policy on how they are handled.  For instance, number 2 could take numbers 2 through 7 and give the next person number 8, then give the numbers 3 to 7 to friends at some point later; and number 8 would have actually been number 3. 

Sign-Up Sheets are also used and are similar to self-start numbering.  This system is one where a list is started at the door to the sale, and as people come up they can sign their names to a list for entry to the sale.  Again, there is a chance of abuse here, too, as someone could sign up several people to the list who have not actually been there themselves.  Some companies allow everyone in line to enter the sale, and others have limited access.

Bids at an Estate Sale
Most estate sale companies take bids on larger items, usually items with a price of $100 or more.  Some companies require the bid to be a certain percentage of the sticker price, and others have no requirements.  Also, some companies require that a good-faith deposit be left when leaving a bid.  A bid is your word that you will pay your stated price for an item if the estate sale company is unable to sell it at the marked price.  A bid is a contract, and you should honor your word.  Companies that do not require deposits apply the deposit toward the sale price.  They also refund your deposit should your bid not be the highest.  If you are called and informed that your bid WAS the high bid and you back out, your bid is forfeited. 

Estate Sales Etiquette
There is such a thing as Estate Sales Etiquette.

  • Respect others in line and treat them as you would expect to be treated.  Hold your place in line with your presence and do not cut in line.  Do not rush the door when the sale opens.  Do not block others from entering.
  • Do not hoard items you do not intend to buy.    Hoarding is the practice of gathering a bunch of items in a pile and taking your time looking while trying to decide whether to buy or not.  Some companies do not allow this practice and require you to buy what you pile.  Hoarding effectively removes the items from the sale during a time when the sale might have the most potential buyers.  This is not fair to the estate sale company or others attending the sale.
  • If something is marked SOLD, do not remove the sticker.    Some companies allow you to mark items sold that you do not want to carry around the sale with you because they may be too large to carry, etc.  Other companies only allow their workers to mark an item sold.  Once an item is marked sold, you are obligated to purchase the item because you have effectively removed it from the sale. 
  • No large bags or purses, please.  Companies are leery of small items finding their way into a large purse or bag.
  • Leave children at home, please.  There are usually huge crowds present at estate sales, and a child may get hurt accidentally or items may be broken unintentionally.  It is usually the company’s policy that if an item is broken, the customer must pay for it.
  • Honor your bids.

Our Rates
You pay nothing up front!  We pay the expenses for the entire sale out of pocket and are reimbursed from the sale’s gross proceeds.  The commission rate you pay is calculated on a sliding scale based on our estimate of the gross amount of money that will be generated by your sale.  Our commission and charges vary from sale to sale and house to house, depending on:

  • challenge of project
  • preparation time
  • hours needed to research values
  • marketing and advertising
  • distance from our home office
  • cost of food for pre-sale and crew
  • supplies to prepare and run the sale
  • workers needed to complete the sale
  • clean-up of the home, yard and garage

Other factors may come into play that would alter the pricing structure, so it is best to speak with us in person in advance to get a good grasp of what sort of costs or fees will be incurred.  On average, expect to pay 50% of the net sales realized in commission.  The average estate sale costs 20-30% of the gross proceeds to run, which is paid out of pocket by us and then reimbursed to our company prior to splitting the proceeds with the family.

We are committed to your satisfaction and will do everything to make your sale successful.  Our assessment of your property and your family’s estate is absolutely free of charge and will only cost you your time.  We look forward to helping you.

Terms and Conditions
All sales final.  No returns accepted. We accept cash, check (local) and credit cards.  We do not provide movers.  You will need to be able to move the items that you buy.  Please be considerate of the neighbors and do not park in front of any of the driveways or mailboxes!