How does an estate sale work?
An estate sale, also known as a tag sale, is the process of selling all or most of the contents of a home. Estate sales are typically held after a death or other major life event, such as moving, divorce, or bankruptcy. Although they can be run by the homeowner or family, estate sales are typically held by professional service providers and operate at a larger scale than a yard or garage sale.
Organizing the Sale
Before a sale, the estate sale company assists the family or homeowner with organizing, sorting, and pricing their belongings. They then prepare the house for the sale by cleaning and staging the items to optimize visibility. The day of the sale, the public is invited into the home to browse the items for sale. The estate sale company coordinates the buying and selling process from end to end.
This often includes managing substantial traffic flow. Popular estate sales can open with a line out the door, and estate sale etiquette dictates that customers remain in this order so that everything is seen on a “first come first serve” basis. Some estate sale companies use a number system to guarantee this process, in which every customer is given a number as he or she arrives and shopping proceeds based on that order.
Purchasing and Selling the Items
At the sale, customers simply pick up smaller items that they wish to buy and take them to the check out station to complete their purchase. They may also tell sale attendants to mark larger items as sold. The option to bargain for price depends on the sale. Some estate sale companies will also allow bids on more expensive items, using a system similar to a silent auction in which a customer sets out a price that he or she is willing to pay, but only retains claim on that item if someone else is not willing to pay more. The item is sold to the highest bidder at the end of the day. Traditionally, many estate sales only took cash, but that is changing with mobile credit card readers and some sales now accept major credit cards as well.
Some estate sale companies sell items through other venues in addition to the home, such as online auctions, directly to antique dealers or brokers, or to private collectors. The vendor is motivated to sell your belongings for the best possible price, because their compensation is based on the value received for your items. In return for their services, estate sale companies take a percentage of the total earnings from the sale, typically 25-35%.