Planning an estate sale

Whether you are downsizing or have inherited personal property that needs to be liquidated, an estate sale is a good way to earn money for the items you don’t want to keep.  Knowing some of the key steps to the process can make life much easier on the representative / executor and heirs of an estate. The “do it yourself” approach can save you the fees and commissions involved with hiring a professional. However, the property owner (or legal representative) will need to be present, and you will probably spend a couple weekends and many hours prepping and putting on the sale.

If you don’t want to go it alone or if you live out of town, or you don’t want the hassle and effort involved with managing an estate sale yourself, one can hire a professional, which typically is in the form of a reputable Estate Sale Professional or Auctioneer.                                                             Experienced Estate Sale Professional will handle all the details on your behalf including advertising, pricing, collection of funds and loading and help the buyer with the delivery of items if needed.   Licensed Auctioneer: An estate auction is a tried-and-true method to move items quickly. Pricing mistakes are virtually non-existent at a properly promoted auction. Also, an auction house can move and sell items at another location if the real estate is sold quickly or otherwise can’t be used. Both professional choices can provide you with options to liquidate items that do not sell. Often, they will offer to buy out the remaining items and resell them at their business location or will provide charities where they can be donated, (possible tax benefits). Realworks LLC can provide you with the names of reputable companies that can help you. Email for details.                      

So you want to take on an estate sale yourself: Let’s get into the primary steps to making it a success.

Legal note: Before you get started: Make sure you have the proper legal authority to sell personal items. It’s a good idea to consult a probate attorney to verify. Personal note: In the interest of keeping peace, it’s probably a good idea to have a conversation with other heirs or family members to make sure there are not any items they would like to have (value can be negotiated and disbursed equitably). I’ve found a few dollars at an estate sale isn’t worth the hurt feelings of a family member over the sale of a seemingly insignificant item.

Take Inventory: Go room by room, (and outdoors) listing all items and taking pictures. Once you have a complete list of items, categorize them into specific groups such as antiques, furniture, household goods, clothes, appliances, electronics, outdoor power equipment, tools, ect.. Price your items: Once you have your list complete, identify the high value items and do your research to determine value. Hire an appraiser for high end antiques, jewelry, and collectibles. Everything else, run an online search using a description of the item (serial # and model if available), document what others have been priced at and calculate an average asking price. Your item should sell within 10% +or- of the average asking price of similar items. Keep in mind, overall condition and location can make a huge difference in sale price. Once asking price has been determined, number each item and tag with a clearly marked price. If possible group items together by price range. Clearly marked prices will help eliminate confusion for both buyers and anyone who might be helping you with the sale. Best practice is to remove any items that are not going to be sold but if removal is not possible, clearly mark these items “NOT FOR SALE”.

Plan the date: The weekends are typically the best days to schedule a sale. A two-day event will allow buyers to preview and come back the second day to purchase (Friday PM – Saturday all day).  Check local event calendar to make sure your sale date(s) do not coincide with Holidays or local events that might affect attendance. Unforeseen weather events can play a factor, If you are planning to display items outdoors, make a weather contingency plan.

Compliance with local codes: Most Cities and Counties allow estate and garage sales without the need for a permit. However, there are some municipalities that require a permit and/or only allow a certain number of sale dates at one location within a calendar year, (check with code enforcement in your area). If your house is in a Homeowners Association, it’s also a good idea to check with the HOA as to whether there are any specific rules regarding an estate sale at your location.

Marketing: Advertise your sale at least one week in advance of the date(s). There are plenty of free places to post your ads such as, Facebook marketplace,, and For a reasonable one-time fee, you can advertise your sale on to reach a national audience. Post your sale on your social media so all your friends and family are informed. Include quality pictures in all of your advertisement, include prices of items that might draw the most interest. Signage: Professional signs both in front of the location as well as pointer signs from major streets will insure people make to your front door.  is a great place to order signs at an affordable price.

Getting paid: cash, check, credit card, cash apps. Cash is king, but in today’s modern society most people prefer to pay with a card or an app on their smart phone. There are many services that allow one to accept credit cards but one of the simplest to use without long term commitment is  As phone apps are concerned there are several easy-to-use options. Venmo is an app that allows the transfer of funds between individuals via smartphone . Cash App is another commonly used form of person-to-person money transfer .  The great thing about using credit card services or digital apps is you have an accounting of what you sold and for how much at your fingertips. You can accept bank checks at your sale. however, I would do so with caution and ask for photo identification that matches the check.  Whatever, way you decide to accept payment, it’s a good idea to place signage at your sale (and in advertisement) letting the buyer know how to be prepared to make the purchase.

Stuff left over: You have had your sale, you planned everything splendidly, picked the perfect date(s), weather was great, big crowd of buyers but there are still a few items that didn’t sell. There are a couple more options to squeeze more dollars out of your stuff without taking it to the dump.  Local auction companies are great for buying out antiques, furniture and small items that fit their niche. Pawn shops are a good place to unload, jewelry, guns, and tools. Vintage clothing stores will usually take any undamaged, gently used apparel. Offer a list (and pictures) of items that did not sell and ask for a “buyout” price offer.  You can help those in need by donating unsold merchandise to charity. Goodwill is one of the most recognized names for donations. .  The Salvation Army has locations in some area that will accept donated items, learn more here  . Local Churches often have clothes closets and thrift stores to support the community. Donated items may possibly be as a tax deduction, but you will need the proper documentation from the charity.

Sale is all done, still have the house: If you still have the real estate to sell, now is the time to clear out any leftover debris, clean the carpets, blinds / windows, fill holes and paint walls. Outside, cut the grass, trim the hedges, put down some fresh mulch. There are professional cleaning / clean-out and lawn services if you prefer to pay instead of getting a sore back.

If you are in the North Central Florida area and need any help finding suitable estate sale professionals, auctioneers or any other service providers reach out to us by phone, text or email and I’ll be glad to point you in the right direction.

Sidney Stidham, Broker Realworks LLC (352) 2 one 5 – 263one

Disclaimer: This writing / blog is for informational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended to be a replacement for legal or tax advice. Consult a qualified Attorney or Certified Public Accountant regarding your specific situation.