How To Host A Successful Estate Sale

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Having to host an estate sale is an exhausting process for anyone, especially when death is involved.

Some people hire an estate auction company instead of shouldering the burden of selling everything.

However, if that’s not an option, you’ll have to dive right in and make the decisions on your own.

Hosting an estate sale is stressful and adds to the pressure of the reason behind having to do so however there are other options.
15 Tips For Hosting A Successful Estate Sale In Canada

Getting The Most From An Estate Sale

Not everyone has to give everything away for free when emptying a house as part of an estate sale.

Often there are pieces of furniture, antiques, or even jewelry worth money.

The first step is understanding the process and what’s expected during an estate sale.

What Is An Estate Sale?

Estate Sale – Emptying A Home of Its Contents To Be Sold

Unlike a garage sale, where you sell unwanted items, an estate sale sells all of a home’s contents.

Most often, that means furniture, art, collectibles, tools, and kitchen appliances, all of which hold memories for the seller.

Typically an estate sale is associated with the death or deaths of the homeowners.

For death, it would likely be a power of attorney, the auction company, or the widow/er selling.

Perhaps the homeowner has moved into a nursing or long-term care home and cannot look after the house.

This is when the process of emptying the house and getting it ready to be put on the market comes in.

The last thing you want is a house full of clutter when your real estate agent hosts an open house.

Another reason an estate sale might happen is bankruptcy, divorce, moving, or downsizing.

Local Estate Sales vs. Garage Sales

Estate Sale Items For Sale

If you plan to liquidate a home’s assets for whatever reason, do as the pros do.

Research any pieces you believe are worth money or could be antique or vintage.

Clean the home and either host an online estate sale or an in-person estate sale.

You will do all of the marketing if you host a garage or estate sale.

Take the best photos of different angles and ensure you have the item’s measurements, make, model, and state.

People will ask if they are serious buyers, so have that information handy.

As well as numbering and pricing, the items have a master list that you can quickly reference.

Example: Item #1 Grandfather Clock, 1950, 6ft tall, solid wood, excellent condition $400.

If you have an outdoor estate sale keeping a measuring tape handy is a brilliant idea.

It’s incredible how much stuff people can amass over the years that collects dust.

So before you host a weekend garage sale or estate sale, do your homework.

How An Estate Sale Works

Estate sale items

As mentioned above, an estate sale is similar to a garage sale where items would be sold.

A garage sale removes stuff you don’t need or use any longer.

Whereas an estate sale liquidates the entire contents of a home, garage, and other assets.

However, if you are grieving the death of a parent or both parents, the hardest thing to do is liquidate the memories.

For this reason, estate auction companies, also known as estate liquidators, will sell the home’s contents.

There will be a fee when hiring an auction company to sell the estate assets.

It is often a percentage of what was sold or a flat fee, but it may be worth it.

Also, consider the cost of a dumpster bin needed at the house, which can cost upwards of $300 plus dumping fees.

This process allows those grieving to be with family rather than selling stuff.

Also, it’s an emotional process; for some people, it’s hard to let go of certain things.

This is why it’s best to remove what memories you want to keep and let the auction company take care of the rest.

Ultimately, they will auction everything, even if it’s a fraction of what the item costs or is worth.

Hiring An Auction of Estate

Grandfather Clock Estate Sale

When you hire an auction company to take over selling the estate, they do it all.

Estate sale companies are a hot business because selling the contents of a home with years of history can be traumatizing.

By this, I mean if you are a child who lost one or both parents having to sell personal items can cause stress.

A quick look at this estate sales company in Ontario offers both online and in-house estate sales.

We did not know about hosting an estate sale auction when we had to go through the process last year.

It probably would have been best to host an online estate sale auction.

The good thing about hiring an estate auction company is that you don’t have to be there.

For example, the pressure is removed if the power of attorney, executor, or adult children live out of town.

According to, they cover all the bases when they host an in-house estate sale.

Similarly, their online estate auction does the same as below, where the sale happens online instead of in person.

What caught my eye is how they research items to find their value.

You won’t have time for this when you are grieving and trying to empty a house to get it ready for sale.

In-Person Estate Auction Protocol

  • Clean, prepare, organize, and display all items in the home. 
  • Protect our clients’ confidentiality regarding every aspect of the sale.
  • We research and price all items based on our professional staff’s experience using current market values. Appraisal services are included.
  • All staff is uniformed and recognizable for assistance and sales.
  • We provide and set up shelving, tables, clothing racks, jewelry trays, and all necessary equipment.
  • Market your sale through many advertising avenues, including our website, newspaper classifieds, and social networks, including Flickr and Pinterest. Large directional signs are posted outside at main intersections towards the sale.  
  • We take digital photographs with descriptions highlighting items linked to your sale on our website. 
  • Send out email blasts to an extensive database of subscribers and buyers with a “wish list” of your upcoming sale. 
  • Mark steps and other potential hazards and close-off areas not to be entered. Safety is important to us.
  • We number the number of people who come into your home at once, and each room has a dedicated staff member for assistance and security. 
  • We have staff available to cover all areas of your home for security, assistance, complete sales, and help with the delivery of items.
  • In cases of a home being demolished, arrange a systematic schedule for the removal of items in a timely fashion.
  • We accept cash, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and  E Transfers.  
  • Provide an itemized receipt, and proceeds will be paid to you at the end of the sale day.
  • We clean sweep the home at the end of the sale.

Online Estate Auction Protocol

Since Covid-19 has blanketed the world in 2020 online estate auctions seem the better option.

This lets the buyers see what is for sale and answer questions before purchasing.

The online estate auction is the same as above, plus;

  • We send a newsletter to our large subscriber database and buyers with a “wish list.”
  • List the auction in advance. The online-only auction runs for one week.
  • We accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, E-Transfer, and cash at pick-up time.
  • Protect our clients’ confidentiality regarding every aspect of the sale.
  • We work with Executors, Power of Attorney, and out-of-province homeowners.
  • Provide an itemized list of the results per lot sold and payment by draft made fifteen days after the sale.
  • We are present when sold lots are picked up and ship any items.

Estate Sale Leftovers

Super Roll-Off Garage Bin

You’re wondering what happens to the leftovers after an online or in-person estate sale.

The simple answer is that if you are hosting an estate sale and items don’t sell, you donate them or give them away for free.

Often you will have many broken items you can’t donate, so having a ready bin is ideal.

After hosting an indoor and outdoor auction for my in-laws, we tried to maximize as much as possible.

Our theory was that it was better to get some money for an item than nothing at all.

  • Sold what was left for a fraction of the estimated market value
  • Gave items away for free
  • Donated any items to the Goodwill and Bibles For Missions

Even when the estate liquidators are finished with the sale, they, too, will donate the leftover items.

There will always be a buyer for something you don’t want, and it keeps items out of the landfill.

Related; How hoarding affects children when their parents pass away.

What Sells Best At An Estate Sale?

Fine China In A Solid Wood Antique Cabinet Estate Sale

I can confidently tell you what sells best since we’ve been through an estate sale recently.

  • Furniture includes bedroom sets, living room, dining room, or solid wood.
  • Antiques, and trust me, the people who show up know their antiques and worth.
  • China and Crystal
  • Christmas Decorations
  • Appliances – small and larger appliances such as a refrigerator, stove, freezer, washer, and dryer.
  • Any tools and machines, including garden tools
  • Garden furniture
  • Lamps and lighting
  • Television, Cameras, and Lenses
  • Exercise equipment
  • Computer or other electronic devices
  • Gaming systems and games
  • Jewellery
  • Canning Glass Jars and equipment
  • Name Brand Clothing
  • Carpets and Rugs
  • Wall Art and Home Decor

The hardest items to sell were the small items such as beach chairs, shoes, dishes, glassware, cutlery, pots, and pans, bedding, pillows, books, CDs, cassette tapes, VHS or Beta movies, hats, seasonal wear, or items that need repair, etc.

It’s the bits and bobs that people will go through and either offer you a quarter or you tell them to take it away.

As for any food in the freezer or multiple freezers before expiry, donate it for free to a needy family.

15 Tips For Hosting A Successful Estate Sale

If you choose to host the estate sale yourself, below are the tips we have to offer you based on our experience.

Just be warned that if you post an estate sale with free items available on social media or Kijiji (examples) be prepared for a flood of people showing up.

At least, that’s what happened in our situation, with cars and trucks lined up on both sides of the streets.

If you have any friends, family or siblings who can help, please ask them so you are not overwhelmed.

  1. Offer the people listed in the estate owners’ WILL to look around to see if they’d like something. (There could be provisions around this based on what is in the legal WILL)
  2. Stay organized and keep a log of all items for sale with specifics.
  3. Clean the items you are selling.
  4. Keep the house tidy if you have an inside estate sale.
  5. Never let people roam around the house alone.
  6. Remove any expensive items, cash, etc.
  7. Ensure anyone who comes on the property or indoors wears a mask and sanitizer is available.
  8. Know the worth of each item by researching it the best you can.
  9. Be open to negotiations.
  10. Leave the memories of what you are selling as memories and let them go.
  11. Take clear photos of each item.
  12. Have payment options available such as e-transfer, cash, or Paypal.
  13. Never let the buyer say they will pay you when they get home.
  14. Don’t put anything on hold. It’s first come, first served.
  15. Please remove what does not sell by donating it or offering it for free on the curb.

Final Thoughts For Liquidating An Estate

I’d hire an estate auction company if I had to do it repeatedly.

When you have parents who have been married for so many years, they tend to accumulate stuff.

There was a great lesson to be learned from what we experienced: to downsize as you go.

Sell items worth money and donate what you haven’t used in six months to a year.

Keeping the estate sale process simple for your power of attorney will make a difference.

The other thing to consider is that downsizing could eliminate the need for an estate auction company.

Saving money, eliminating stress, and a fair return on investment is what an estate sale is all about.

Discussion: Have you ever hosted an estate sale or used an estate auction company?

Share your experience below and perhaps what you might have done differently.


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