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How To Have The Best Estate Sales: 8 Steps To Make Them Profitable and Easier

Posted by Jacqueline Petitjean

Nov 2, 2022 11:21:00 AM

How To Have The Best Estate Sales:

8 Steps To Make Them Profitable and Easier

how to have an estate sale

Here's the truth...The death of a family member can prove to be not only a sad but also a challenging experience. One of the more challenging experiences is planning and hosting estate sales.

What are estate sales?

An estate sale is the execution of an auction of someone's estate. Typically, this would be the items and personables of a loved one you recently lost. This event can ultimately be a rewarding and therapeutic process. When the estate or "tag" sale is over, you'll have a less cluttered space, money in your pocket and a helpful grieving experience.

That said...

The preparation and hosting of an estate or inheritance sale during this time of shortly losing a loved one can present many obstacles. It's much more layered than hosting the run-of-the-mill garage sale.

You can discover everything you need to know about planning and hosting a successful estate auction in this helpful guide.

In fact...

There are and considerations you need to undertake to get all the benefits of your tag sale. Following these 8 steps and considerations will help you maximize the financial, therapeutic and psychological benefits of your sale.

Intro: How To Have Estate Sales


The stark reality is that even as a person grieves the death of a family member, or other loved one, a number of important tasks must be tended to rather immediately.

Chief among these oftentimes complicated endeavors that must be addressed following the death of a family member or other loved one are dealing with the ins and outs of the state and probate process.

In addition, oftentimes the family of a deceased person must deal with planning and undertaking a tag sale. In many ways, and on a number of different levels, planning and pursuing a tag sale is far easier said than done.

You should know this...

This is a difficult process for an individual or family to handle on their own and without guidance. For them, this definitive, comprehensive guidebook is presented to provide a one-stop resource for people like you who face the prospect of planning and pursuing an estate auction.

At the heart of having an estate sale is developing a thorough plan of action as well as accessing an array of vital resources.

Before diving into the proverbial nuts and bolts of preparing for and undertaking a sale of your personal goods, a couple of preliminary matters must be addressed.

First, an individual who has lost a loved one must be certain that he or she is experience a healthy bereavement process.

There are a variety of considerations to bear in mind regarding the death of a loved one, associated grief, and the bereavement process.

Second, before planning for this, matters associated with estate and probate process must be addressed.

Depending on the specific set of circumstances surrounding a deceased individual and his or her estate, the probate process can prove to run the gambit.

The probate process can prove to range from nonexistent to highly complex. No matter where a particular estate falls within this spectrum, probate issues must be addressed in advance of a sale.

Loss of a Loved One: Deal with Grief and Undertake a Healthy Bereavement Process

loss of a loved one estate sale

When a family member or other loved one dies, maneuvering through the stages of grief and working through the bereavement process can prove challenging. Indeed, there are situations in which a person can become overwhelmed by grief and stymied by the bereavement process.

In such a situation, a person facing challenging grief should reach out to other family members and friends for support and encouragement. Of course, odds are that at least some of those individuals may be struggling with their own sense of loss, grief, and the bereavement process.

In relief from grief is not forthcoming, even in a small way, professional assistance might be recommended. If a person feels as if he or she is locked into a particular stage of grief, seeking assistance from a professional may be the advisable course.

There are numerous grief and bereavement therapists providing professional services today. There are different types of counselling and therapy options available to an individual struggling with grief issues following the death of a family member or other loved one.

These include group grief therapy as well as individual grief therapy. There are instances in which a grieving individual can benefit from participating in both group grief therapy and individual grief therapy.

Goodtherapy.org is a reliable, reputable resource utilized by people in need of assistance, support, and treatment from mental health professionals. Goodtherapy.org describes its services and resources:

Everyone struggles at times.

Our core purpose to make it easier for people to access mental health services and the dedicated professionals who provide them, anywhere in the world.

To help promote successful outcomes, we offer practitioners in our membership a variety of benefits: referrals, nationally recognized continuing education, publication opportunities, marketing expertise, data-driven performance tracking, personalized support, and more.

In many communities, there are mental health professionals who focus their efforts on assisting people suffering from issues associated with the dying and death of a family member or other loved one. This includes not only addressing the issues underpinning a challenging bereavement process but also involves providing support as a person works through what can be complicated matters in the aftermath of a family member or other loved one's death.

These include everything from the assorted legal issues associated with the estate and probate process to the planning and pursuing a sale of the estate.

In the final analysis, a grief therapist or grief counsellor develops a specific bereavement program for a client. The therapeutic course is designed to meet the specific needs, goals, and objectives of an individual dealing with the grief associated with the death of a family member or other loved one.

Handle the Legalities: Don't Get the Cart Before the Horse

handle the legalities estate sale

You must remember that planning and staging a sale is nothing like pulling off a garage or yard sale. In advance of a tag sale, you very well may have some legal niceties that need to be addressed.

Although this is the definitive guide to estate auctions, it is not intended to be a comparable text on probate law. Rather, this section provides you with some basic, vital information. To ensure you've satisfied all legal requirements before an estate auction, you must consult and likely retain the services of a skilled, experienced estate and probate lawyer.

In addition, a real estate agent should also be incorporated into the team, according to HomeLight. You can find experienced, reputable real estate agents who can assist in this manner. According to the professionals at HomeLight:

When a real estate property is involved during the sale of an estate, eliciting the help of a qualified real estate agent can greatly affect the outcome in a positive manner. An agent can help you assess the property's current condition. They can conduct a comprehensive market analysis to give a good indication of what your property is worth on open market. A qualified agent can also help you connect with other services, contractors and vendors that specialize in the sale of a home. Ultimately, an agent can help your prepare and sell your home for top market value.

Estate and probate law and procedure have considerable similarities in Canada and the United States and in individual provinces and states. This particularly is the case when it comes to dealing with the basic legal issues that need to be addressed in advance of planning and executing a property sale.

If a person dies with a last will and testament, that legal instrument will include a provision designating someone to serve as the estate executor. More often than not, this will be a family member.

The executor has the authority to oversee and manage all aspects of the estate. This includes going to court and formally opening the estate itself and dealing with issues associated with the property, including organizing a tag sale.

If a person dies without a last will and testament and has more than a minimal amount of property, a formal estate and probate process may need to be initiated in court. In this scenario, the court appoints an administrator or personal representative who oversees the affairs of an estate in much the same manner as an executor.

An administrator or personal representative is typically a family member or an attorney.


There are situations where a formal court probate process will not be necessary.

These include scenarios in which an estate has a smaller amount in the way of assets, as well as when a spouse is a surviving heir, and the property of the deceased individual goes to the living husband or wife.

When an estate has only minimal assets, an inheritance sale is not likely to be needed.

If a spouse is a surviving heir, he or she has complete authority over the decision of whether to have the sale and how it will be conducted.

When an estate has only minimal assets, there may not be a need for an estate auction. If a spouse is a surviving heir, he or she has complete authority over the decision of whether to have a tag sale and how it will be conducted.

Finally, if a trust has been set up, there will be no probate process in court. If an inheritance sale is desired, the trustee who oversees the trust itself possesses the authority to make decisions regarding that process.

The importance of consulting with an experienced estate and probate attorney was referenced a moment ago. An attorney will schedule an initial consultation with you to evaluate your situation.

You will also have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the probate process. This includes the chance to discuss issues associated with planning and pursuing a sale. Generally, there is no charge for this preliminary appointment with legal counsel.

The team at HomeLight shares how a real estate professional can assist in the probate process as well. HomeLight can be found online at www.homelight.com.

HomeLight is the leading online platform that helps sellers connect with top-performing real estate agents using an unbiased, data-driven process. Our agents help you sell a property faster and for more money.

Particularly when a property is going through the probate process, HomeLight can connect sellers with top performing agents that are certified in probate sales.

The experienced, committed team at HomeLight advises:

When someone inherits property after the death of a family member, there are certain laws that prevent them from immediately selling, renting, or moving into the home. Many times a property may need to go through the probate process before ownership legally passes to the inheritor. Individuals that are not aware of these complex rules can run afoul of state laws, which can be a costly mistake. Hiring an attorney to guide one through the state specific laws during inheritance is the most ideal step in moving forward. Bringing on a qualified real estate agent can also help in assessing property condition, determining property value, connecting with vendors, and preparing the property for sale.

Organize and Declutter: A Five-Part Strategy

organize and declutter estate sale

A five-part strategy typically proves to be the most effective method to utilize when it comes to organizing and decluttering all the excess stuff following the death of a loved one. The five elements of the strategy are:


Following an individual's death, there undoubtedly will be items of personal property that are bequeathed or given to specific individuals in a will. In the alternative, there will also be items that specific family members may want to keep for their own after a loved one passes away.

The first step in organizing and decluttering is identifying these items of personal property. These items are conveyed to appropriate individuals at the commencement of the effort to organize and declutter.

A problem area when it comes to preparing for a sale is that many people overdo it when it comes to isolating items that are to be kept. In other words, many people keep too much. A discussion presented later in this guide involves how a downsizing specialist, like Downsizing Divas, can provide assistance to prevent a person from overdoing when it comes to setting aside items to keep.


The second classification of personal property items is those that are to be stored. These can include items that might have sentimental value, but no one has come forward to claim them as of yet. They might also include items that are collectibles of some nature that are rising in value over time. Selling them later than the tag sale might be a wise course of action.

Another key reason why certain items might be stored stems from a reasonable determination that a person really is uncertain if another alternative is appropriate. For example, the possibility might exist that certain pieces of property might prove useful to certain family members at a future point in time.

Rather than throw certain items away or sell them merely because they are not needed at the moment, storing them can prove a rational alternative course of action.


habitat for humanity estate sale

When at all possible, usable items in good shape - but which are not needed or lack sentimental value - should not be thrown away. In some situations, items of this nature may not be suitable for inclusion in a sale of an estate. Items in this category should be segregated out and donated to a worthy cause or organization.

Habitat for Humanity Restore is an example of a nonprofit organization that welcomes donated items of this nature.

Throw Away

One of the hardest components of the organization and decluttering process is throwing away items. There undoubtedly will be materials that clearly can be categorized as trash. On the other hand, there are likely to be items of personal property in disrepair or lacking in value that should be thrown away.

A downsizing specialist can prove useful in developing a strategy to determine what items need to be thrown away. In addition, to effectively manage to throw items away, renting an appropriate dumpster renders the overall process far easier and more efficient.

There certainly will be some items that clearly need to be thrown away. Realistically, there may also be some items that might have questionable value, practicality, or sentimentality. Rather than immediately tossing some items into a rented dumpster, a staging area can be designated.

Certain items can be placed into the staging area to permit at least some time to pass and a bit more consideration before the final decision is made to throw out this property. Having a temporary staging area provides a person with some comfort that things will not be tossed into a dumpster willy-nilly.


After running personal property through the keep, store, and throw-away filters - perhaps with the assistance of professionals - you end up with those items to be placed into the sale of an estate.

Once this group of personal property items is established, giving them one more going over is advisable. The property review is undertaken to confirm that something or another that should be kept in the family is not heading to an estate auction. In addition, the review process works to ensure that junk also is not en route to an auction.

Hire a Downsizing Specialist

Because of the unique challenges associated with paring down personal property in anticipation of conducting a tag sale, many people are well served to engage the professional services a downsizing specialist.

In essential terms, a downsizing specialist is a person who assists a client with the oftentimes daunting, even overwhelming, task of sorting personal property items. A downsizing specialist aid in helping a client make the decision about whether specific items to personal property should be kept, stored, thrown away, or sold.

Downsizing specialists assist people in determining what to do with personal property in several situations. Some of the most situations in which a downsizing specialist is called in to assist include:

  • Retirement
  • Empty nest
  • Death in the family

Downsizing specialists come into the profession with a variety of different backgrounds. Some of the more common backgrounds of individuals who've become downsizing specialists are:

  • Gerontology
  • Social work
  • Psychology
  • Healthcare

Typically, a downsizing specialist charges a family an hourly rate following the death of a loved one. Before commencing work with family members of a deceased person, a downsizing specialist provides a no-cost and no-obligation consultation.

The process permits a downsizing specialist the ability to provide a reliable quote to a family regarding the cost of services.

In this day and age, downsizing specialists are ever more frequently called in for assistance before the death of an older family member. For example, many people in their Golden Year elect to move to smaller residences and even retirement communities.

Oftentimes, this move proves to be an ideal time to take at least some action at reducing personal property items with the assistance of a downsizing specialist, using the five-stage process enumerated previously.

Odds are you've never faced the prospect of hiring a downsizing professional. The National Association of Senior Move Managers, NASMM, has developed an all-inclusive list of questions to ask when seeking professional assistance from a downsizing specialist:

nasmm logo
  • How long have you been providing senior move management services?
  • Have you participated in any formal training?
  • Are you fully insured for liability and workers' compensation?
  • Do you charge by the hour or by a project? (NASMM recommends fees should be provided in writing to the consumer or responsible party before providing services.)
  • Will you provide a written contract?
  • Can you provide references?
  • Are you a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM)?
  • Do you offer customized floor plans?
  • Do you provide organizing, sorting and downsizing services?
  • Do you arrange for the profitable disposal of unwanted items through auction, tag sale, buy-out, consignment, donation, or a combination?
  • Do you interview, schedule and oversee movers?
  • How is the billing arranged for the movers?
  • Do you pack, or do you hire a moving company to perform the packing? (If the Senior Move Manager® indicates they pack, make sure they have the appropriate insurance to cover any damages.)
  • Do you completely unpack and set up the new home? (These services include unpacking everything, hanging pictures, and draperies, installing electronics, etc.)
  • Will you handle the transfer of my utilities, mailing address, etc.?
  • What additional services do you offer? Items to consider include:
    • house cleaning
    • waste removal
    • shopping
    • senior escort
    • assisting with the selection of a realtor
    • helping prepare the home to be sold

Senior Move Managers® have extensive, practical knowledge about the costs, quality and availability of various local community resources. Additionally, Senior Move Managers® frequently assist individuals who choose to stay in their own homes but simply require expert organizational skills and solid knowledge of "aging in place" concepts to help them achieve their goal of ... not moving anywhere but improving the quality of life. More information on Senior Move Managers® and the NASMM can be obtained at: www.nasmm.org.

Another resource when it comes to downsizing is Downsizing Divas. The Divas describe their services as:

Downsizing Diva helps you sort through your things, design an organizing system that works, and reduces, reuses and recycles items you do not want, use or need, and they do it all with care, compassion, and sometimes comedy!

Downsizing Divas also assist estate executors and administrators. This includes aiding people in organizing and preparing for estate auctions.


rent a dumpster estate sale

When you're about to have an estate sale, you'll start to organize and downsize; odds are that when all is said and done, there will be a considerable number of items of different types that will be thrown away.

You most definitely are not going to want to be running back and forth to your local landfill to dispose of items that are to be thrown away. Moreover, there are likely limitations on what and how much you can discard in a regular garbage pickup.

Understanding these limitations and issues, you will want to seriously consider renting a dumpster as part of your efforts to plan an inheritance sale.

The most common mistake people make when renting a dumpster is to pick up the phone and call the first rental service found online or elsewhere.

The reality is that there are some very important tips that you must bear in mind when it comes to renting a dumpster for any purpose, including as part of your efforts to prepare for an estate auction or sale.

Flat rate dumpster rental

Get a Flat Rate Rental

Basic rental rates associated with dumpsters are handled in one of two ways. Some companies that rent dumpsters charge based on a particular time period.

For example, they charge by the hour or by the day. Other dumpster companies charge a flat rate. The preferable course is to find a dumpster rental company that charges a flat rate.

With that said, your due diligence when it comes to dumpster rental fees does not end with the selection of a provider that advertises a flat rate.

You must explore whether there exist any other charges that will cause the cost associated with a dumpster rental to uptick. You need to ensure that either the time rate or the flat rate includes all costs. Time and again, certain dumpster companies charge "hidden" fees for:

  • Dumpster delivery
  • Fuel
  • Cleaning
  • Other fees
Dumpster Rental Time Period

These are charges that are assessed on top of the price quoted at the time a prospective customer approaches a rental provider seeking a dumpster.

Get an Appropriate Rental Time Period

The issue of the rental period was touched on a moment ago. You need to make certain that you obtain a suitable rental period to ensure that you can downsize and eliminate items appropriately.

Don't underestimate the time frame, and don't try to save money by skimping on the amount of rental time requested upfront.

If you shortchange yourself initially regarding rental time, you may have to pay a premium to add additional time to the rental period.

Most dumpster companies provide you with an included 5-7 day rental period, giving you a generously appropriate amount of time to accomplish your objectives.

Appropriate space for dumpster rental

Prepare Space for Dumpster Delivery

Don't overlook the vital need to ensure that you have an appropriate space where a dumpster can be placed.

Not only do you need to ensure that the designated space is sufficient enough for the size of the requested dumpster, but access to it is vital.

In other words, you need to make sure that the location of the dumpster will allow efficient disposal of items that are being eliminated as part of the downsizing and elimination process in advance of your sale.

A dumpster rental company will ensure that you have designated a suitable space for the equipment you intend to rent.

hire an estate sale concierge

If you are a good many people, you may have scratched your head when you read "estate sale concierge." You very well may be familiar with a concierge in a hotel setting. Indeed, you may have availed of the services of a concierge on your travels.

You may live in a more upscale residential building that employs a concierge. You may work in a building that offers concierge services. But, a concierge for the sale of an estate?

The reality is that the role and duties of concierges have evolved over time. The record of a concierge was associated with European royalty. They were assigned to the task of executing justice in a particular kingdom.

In this day and age, concierges have become something akin to lifestyle managers. As such, they are beginning to serve and assist in an ever-growing number of situations. These include settings beyond hotels, residential buildings, and office complexes.

The concierge can be found in such places as hospitals and even in aiding people in preparing and executing estate auctions or sales.

This type of concierge service offers heirs of a deceased person various vital services associated with planning and undertaking the sale of an estate. This includes assisting with different types of sales, whether the focus is on personal property, real estate, or both.

A concierge, like Blue Moon Estate Sales, assists in preparing for auctioning or otherwise selling probate property from the beginning of the process. This means that a concierge begins by assisting you in organizing personal property for sale.


The concierge is likely to utilize the five-part strategy discussed previously in preparing the personal property for a tag sale: keep, store, throw away, donate, and sell.

As was also noted, deciding what category to place the personal property in can be challenging for family members and others of a deceased person.

Issues from the sentimental value of some properties to not appreciating the value of other properties can come into play.

An experienced estate concierge can evaluate property from an educated and dispassionate standpoint. In other words, a concierge can provide you with an honest assessment of what should be done with specific items of personal property.

Quite like the skilled, committed concierge at duty in a nice hotel lobby, a concierge has "connections."

This concierge has a myriad of resources necessary to prepare for and then execute a profitable, successful sale. These resources include:

  • Estate and probate attorneys
  • Organizing professionals
  • Downsizing experts
  • Real estate professionals
  • Appraisers
  • Storage facilities
  • Transport and moving services
  • Roll off dumpster rental (like Bin There Dump That)

If you are like most people, you may have broad and professional connections. However, you likely do not have ready access to all of the resources you will need to mount an effective sale of an estate.

In addition to having direct access to everything and everyone you need to undertake an effective sale, a concierge provides thoughtful and seasoned oversight of these different providers and professionals.

A concierge of this type serves as something of a "general contractor" overseeing all aspects of a tag sale, from initial planning and preparation to ultimate execution.

Another important attribute of a concierge is a keen understanding of what a family and others go through after the death of a loved one. If a pair of personality attributes are notable among these concierge services, they would be sympathy and empathy.

In addition, a concierge performs his or her duties with discretion and dignity. A concierge understands that when all is said and done, the sale of an estate involves departing with a property that can include cherished items that were part of a beloved family member's (or other individual's) life.

The first step in engaging the services of a concierge is rather like what is involved in retaining legal representation from an estate and probate lawyer. An initial consultation is scheduled, which permits an estate concierge the ability to evaluate your situation.

During the preliminary session, a concierge estimates what he or she believes services will cost. A concierge will enter into a written agreement with you so that all costs and fees clearly are set out. There is no cost for an initial consultation with a concierge.

You can easily find a service provider by visiting estatesale.com or estatesales.net. This website is valuable to help find local estate liquidators and promote your sale (detailed later).

Tip From an Expert - Ryan Renner with Omaha Homes For Sale and Omaha Relocation

If you don’t know where to begin, a local real estate agent can be a great resource to help you find an estate sale company. I’ve had to work directly with these types of companies while selling client’s homes so I know which estate sale companies are great to work with and which ones to avoid. An agent in your home town should be able to provide you some direction as well.

Use Your Personal Network: Your Friends and Family

use your personal network estate sale

A tremendous amount is written about professional networking. Indeed, many people credit their professional success to their efforts at associated networking with colleagues.

Throughout this article, you've been presented with an array of professional resources that can assist you to undertake an effective, profitable sale of the estate.

These resources have included everything from estate and probate lawyers to concierges, as well as an array of other resources. These professionals and resources are invaluable to your sale; however, these are not the only elements you will want to incorporate into your overall efforts at planning and mounting this sale.

If you really want to have a highly effective sale, utilize your personal network as well. Turn to your friends and seek their assistance in organizing, promoting, and even running your auction or sale. The reality is that your network of friends can assist you in several crucial ways.

Organizing Your Auction

Even if you've enlisted the assistance of a downsizing specialist and a concierge, odds are that you still will have a good deal of work that will need to be done in preparing and organizing an estate sale near you. This includes physically undertaking the four-part strategy to organize and declutter.

The idea of organizing and decluttering can seem like a daunting and less than the enjoyable task at first blush. Understanding this reality, you can make the whole affair more manageable and even at least somewhat entertaining.

Strategies to employ to make organizing and decluttering as efficient as possible and less daunting for your friends is to designate specific tasks with readily attainable foals for each friend who participates in the endeavour. In other words, you do not want to overwork one or two of your friends. (Sadly, that is a common result with a wealth of volunteer tasks involving friends that are not sufficiently planned out in advance.)

Promoting Local Estate Sales

In days gone by, the local newspaper was a widely read and important conduit for information about an inheritance sale. The same cannot be said about promoting this sale in this day and age.

As noted earlier, estatesale.com is a great directory to list your local estate liquidation or auction. Don't rely on this source solely, though.

Another way in which you can advertise when you have a sale is by calling upon the assistance of your friends to promote the event. Odds are that a good many of your friends are involved in social media of one type or another. The social media platforms likely utilized by your friends are apt to include:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest

Many of your friends are apt to be happy to promote your sale through their social media platforms. Indeed, they might be flattered that you asked them to use their personal influence among their own friends and followers in this manner.

Your friends likely maintain a list of family, friends, and colleagues that they email with at least some regularity. Another way that your network of friends can be of assistance to you is by pitching your sale via email.

Being thoughtful, you should have a plan for having your sale visible to individuals who search "estate sales near me" queries on Google. This means having an ad on Craigslist or estatesales.org if they are ranked on the first page of Google for that query.

Don't forget word of mouth. Even in this high-tech era, word of mouth remains a valuable tool and a solid way of leveraging your network of friends to promote your inheritance sale.

Consider having simple postcards printed that contain all of the vital information about the date, time, and location of the sale on the "front" side. On the "back" side of the postcard, list some of the more interesting or appealing items that will be offered for sale at the event.

Hands-on Assistance at Your Tag Sale

Even with an experienced, tenacious concierge on hand, coupled with the presence of a capable auctioneer, there will still be a good amount of work to be done on the day of the big event.

These tasks include everything from setting up the auction to checking people in for the sale to tracking bid winners to a spectrum of other activities. Members of your network of friends can provide invaluable assistance in these and other ways on the day of your estate auction or sale.


You definitely will want to reward your friends for their assistance with your estate auction. This doesn't mean that you need to pay them for their efforts, although you certainly can take this route if you desire.

An appropriate way to honour your friends for their hands-on assistance with your sale is to have a gathering or party for them after the sale process is wrapped up.

Remember that you are likely to have friends assisting you with different tasks at various junctures in time. Therefore, you will want to make sure that you identify the most suitable time and place to thank your network of friends for your assistance.

Summary and Conclusion

At this point, you should know what an estate sale is and how to have an estate sale that is lucrative and therapeutic; following this guidebook aids in ensuring that the sale itself goes off without a hitch and proves to be appropriately profitable.

Topics: Home Renovation, Real Estate, Home Improvement, Home Cleanout