14 Tips for Hosting a Successful Estate Sale

Estate sale success

Estate sales can be great for making some extra money and clearing out unwanted items. But they can also be complicated and difficult to run if you don’t have the right understanding of how estate sales work and what makes them successful. Here are some practical tips for estate sale success that you can use to make sure you get as many sales as possible.

Estate Sale Success

Do Advance Research on Items

You don’t want to list an item for sale for a low price based on your first instinct only to find out later that it was actually worth a large sum of money. So before opening the doors to your estate sale, go through any items you aren’t familiar with and do some research on value. You can use eBay’s “advanced” search to filter items that have already sold. If you sort by “highest priced” first, you can see what’s highly valued and what’s not.

Clearly Mark Prices

Bargaining is often a big part of estate sales. But you still have to make it as easy as possible for customers to make decisions about different items. If you don’t mark anything, you’re basically forcing people to hunt you or your family members down to ask the price. And then crowds and chaos may force them to give up even trying and walk away from a potential purchase.

Make Sure the Entire House is Properly Staffed

It’s not enough to just have one person available to collect money from buyers. You should have family members or others covering each room of the house so that they can answer questions from customers and cut down on theft.

Set Up a Table for Purchases

You’ll need a decent space near the entrance of the home so that shoppers have enough room to set down the items they’re purchasing and you have enough space to collect their money and complete each sale. You might also keep any small but valuable items at or near that front table to cut down on theft.

Get a Cash Box and Make Sure You Have Change

If you don’t have enough small bills to make change, you may lose sales. Folks come to estate sales prepared to buy, so you can expect hundred dollar bills to be handed to you that you’ll need to make change for. So get yourself a proper cash box so you can keep all of your change and the money from sales safe and organized.

Clearly Mark Parking Areas

If you want people to come to your sale, they’ll need a place to park. Use yellow tape or orange cones if possible to clearly mark the areas where you want customers to park. If they don’t see any designated spaces, they might just park on the property itself, which could cause damage. Or they might even leave altogether.

Be Prepared for Large Crowds Early

Shoppers head out to estate sales as soon as the sun comes up. If you’re still inside setting up and people start wandering in, it could lead to a loss of sales or even theft. Estate sales can start as early as 6 or 7 AM, so it’s usually good practice to get everything set up the night before.

Provide Beverages for Sale

If the house is hot and crowded and the air conditioning is turned off because the doors are all open, people are likely to get thirsty. If they can easily purchase bottled water for a dollar or two, you can not only increase your sales totals, but you can also ensure that they stay longer to shop around.

Keep Items for Sale in Areas of the House Where They Belong

Estate sale shoppers are accustomed to seeing certain types of items in certain places. And if they’re looking for something in particular, they’re likely to go directly to that part of the house to look for it. So if someone is looking for kitchen appliances, they’ll probably head right to the kitchen. If they don’t see any there, they might just leave without looking through the rest of the house. So keep tools in the basement, keep linens in the bedrooms, keep kitchen appliances and dishware in the kitchen, keep dining items in the dining room, and keep household decor in the living room. This can cut down on chaos and streamline things for shoppers and collectors.

Keep Children Out of the Fray

Estate sales are chaotic enough without you adding any of your own family’s confusion. If family members or your own children are running around underfoot and grabbing items, playing with them and moving them from room to room – shoppers may become frustrated and leave.

Keep Pets off the Premises

Estate sales can be stressful for dogs and other animals. The large crowds and chaotic atmosphere could cause animals to become fearful and potentially react in a dangerous or aggressive manner, even if that’s not their normal tendency. In addition, you don’t know how all of the different shoppers are going to react to or treat your animals. You don’t want Sparky biting anyone because his tail was stepped on, or because some stranger attempted to touch him and he was afraid.

Advertise – EVERYWHERE!

You can advertise your estate sale in local newspapers, mobile apps, on bulletin boards at the local grocery store, and by blasting out messages to your social media followers.

Use Signage to Provide Directions to the Location

In addition, many shoppers stop by estate sales just because they saw some signage while they were already out and about. Start with funneling passers by in from major roadways and then guide them right to the front door by providing clear, legible, signs that have large font and are easy to read when breezing by in a vehicle. So keep it simple with an arrow and an address.

Hire a Professional

There are also some professionals and companies that focus specifically on helping people set up and run estate sales. So if you feel like you are out of your element or don’t have the time to run a successful estate sale, consider getting in touch with one of those companies.

Estate Sale Photo via Shutterstock

Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

2 Reactions
  1. I like that you said that estate sales can be stressful for animals. When I was moving I didn’t even realize what was happening to my dog. You may want to get professional help when you are moving so that you can take the time to help the other people and animals in your house.

  2. I like your recommendation to use a space for purchases such as a table that is big enough for people to put down the items they intend to buy. My wife’s father passed last month and she volunteered to take care of his estate cleanout and sale. We may consider finding a professional to clean it after an estate sale.