Estate Planning Canada

How To Host A Successful Estate Sale

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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

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

Instead of shouldering the burden of selling everything some people opt for hiring an estate auction company.

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

What Is An Estate Sale?

Estate Sale – Emptying A Home Of It’s Contents To Be Sold

Unlike a garage sale where you sell unwanted items, an estate sale is selling all of the contents of a home.

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

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

For the purpose of 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 home or long-term care and not able to look after the home.

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.

Other reasons why an estate sale might happen can be due to bankruptcy, divorce, moving, or downsizing.

Local Estate Sales vs. Garage Sales

Estate Sale Items For Sale

If you plan to liquidate the assets of a home for whatever reason, do like the pros do.

Research any pieces that you believe are worth money or could possibly 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 either a garage sale or estate sale.

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

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

As well, number and price the items and 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 smart idea.

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

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

How An Estate Sale Works

Estate sale items

An estate sale as mentioned above is similar to a garage sale where items would be sold.

A garage sale is getting rid of stuff that you don’t need or use any longer.

Whereas, an estate sale is liquidating 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, there are estate auction companies also known as estate liquidators who will sell the contents of the home.

When hiring an auction company to sell the estate assets there will be a fee.

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

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

This process allows those who are grieving the time to be with family rather than selling stuff.

Also, it’s an emotional process and 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.

In the end, 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 the process of 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 whose 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.

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

Looking back 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, if the power of attorney, executor, or adult children live out of town it takes away the pressure.

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

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

What did catch my eye is how they conduct research on items to find their value.

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

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, jewellery trays, and all necessary equipment.
  • Market your sale through many avenues of advertising including our website, newspaper classifieds, and social networks including Flickr and Pinterest. Large directional signs are posted outside at main intersections towards the sale.  
  • Send out email blasts to a large database of subscribers and to buyers who have a “wish list” of your upcoming sale. 
  • We take digital photographs with descriptions highlighting items included all linked to your sale on our website. 
  • Mark steps and other potential hazards and close off areas that are not to be entered.  Safety is important to us.
  • We number the number of people who come into your home at one time 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 removal of items in a timely fashion.O
  • We accept cash, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and  E Transfers.  
  • Provide an itemized receipt and proceeds are 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 like the better option.

This allows the buyers to see what is for sale first and answer questions before purchasing.

The online estate auction is the same as above plus;

  • We send out a newsletter to our large database of subscribers and to buyers who have 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 the time of pick-up.
  • 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

I’m sure 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 times you will have lots of broken or items that you can’t donate so having a bin ready is an ideal.

At the end of 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.

What Sells Best At An Estate Sale?

Fine China In A Solid Wood Antique Cabinet Estate Sale

Since we’ve been through an estate sale recently I can with confidence tell you what sells best.

  • Furniture such as bedroom sets, living room, and dining room, or anything solid wood.
  • Antiques and trust me the people who show up know their antiques and worth
  • China and Crystal
  • Christmas Decorations
  • Appliances – both small appliances and larger appliances such as a refrigerator, stove, freezer, washer, and dryer.
  • Any and all 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 a beach chair, shoes, dishes, glassware, cutlery, pots, and pans, bedding, pillows, books, Cd’s, 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 just tell them to take it away.

As for any food in the freezer or multiple freezers that is before expiry donate it for free to a family in need.

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 both sides of the streets.

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

  1. Offer the people listed in the estate owners WILL to have a look around to see if there was something they’d like. (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. Get rid of what does not sell by donating it or offering it for free on the curb

Final Thoughts For Liquidating An Estate

Personally, if I had to do it all over again I’d hire an estate auction company.

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 and that is to downsize as you go.

Sell items that are worth money and donate what you haven’t used in 6 months to a year.

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

The other thing to consider is that if you downsize this 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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  1. We are looking at options concerning what to do with my grandmother’s home and possessions now that she has passed. She has some kitchen appliances and art pieces that will no longer be of need. I will look further into the option of having an estate sale for the items that won’t be passed along through inheritance.

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