Estate Sale Services

Estate Sale Dos & Donts

By Gail Williamson

Five Key DOs and DONTís for Estate Sales

Many people who want to sell a house have items inside the house that need to be disposed of first.† An estate sale is one of the fastest ways to empty a house and turn the unneeded items into cash.† Here are a few tips for working with an estate sale company to make your estate sale a good and profitable experience.


DONíT throw anything away!† Donít give anything away casually thinking ďit canít be worth anything.Ē† Let the estate sale pro review your assets: then if you decide to dispose of something, you then know what itís worth!

DONíT cancel utilities or insurance.† In many cases, fire safety and other officials wonít allow a sale at a home with no water or electricity.† Make sure that the homeownerís insurance is still in effect, as you will be legally responsible for any accidents.

DONíT remove items after the estate sale companyís walkthrough: doing so will likely breach your contract and may result in cancellation of your sale.† Removing items after the estate sale company advertises them for sale is unethical and could even result in legal action.† Conversely, if family members want to add items to the sale, gather them before the walkthrough.

DONíT try to participate in pricing or conduct of the sale.† The estate sale company has in-depth knowledge of current values and will price accordingly.† It is in their best interests to get the highest prices, as their fee is usually a percentage of the total sale.† Some companies may allow you to set a minimum price on a few special items; others will not.† Also, family members should not be present on sale days, as this often results in lots of reminiscing with neighbors and other attendees Ė which may negatively impact sales!

DONíT expect to be paid immediately after the sale.† The company will rectify the accounts, making sure all check and credit card sales clear and there are no disputes about any items purchased.† If you have elected to sell some items online, there may be an extended period waiting for these items to sell.† After the sale, the estate sale company should disburse a check to you, minus their fees, within a time frame you feel comfortable with: 30 days is usual.


DO choose the right kind of sale!† A reputable estate sale company will tell you if your estate is better suited to an auction or garage sale.† An estate sale ideally consists of an entire household of items, from special antiques or collectibles to useful household goods.

Basic estate sale services should include:

  • walkthrough / assessment at no cost to you
  • organizing and staging
  • pricing
  • photography
  • advertising and signage
  • a sale of up to three daysí duration
  • post-sale disposal of remaining items according to your wishes: this may include leaving in place, buyouts, or charitable donation

Additional paid services might include:

  • pre-sale or post-sale house cleaning or trash hauling
  • off-site sales at a fixed cost
  • relocation of furnishings to a retirement facility or storage unit
  • packing and shipping selected items to out-of-area family members
  • on-site security for firearms or especially high-value items
  • staff in each room of the house if items are of small and of high value
  • online sales for selected items if advisable
  • any specific accounting required for legal purposes

DO make sure to get a written contract.† A contract spells out in clear terms the responsibilities and obligations of both parties.† The contract protects the owner as well as the seller.† Donít go with a company that doesnít offer a contract!† Before you sign, make sure that all heirs and interested parties are in agreement with the sale plans.† The estate sale company may ask for proof of your rights to disperse the estate before executing the contract.

DO schedule as far in advance as possible.† Many companies are booked up months ahead.† If the first company you call is not available in your timeframe, check with another company.† To have the best possible sale, the company must have sufficient time to advertise it properly.† If you are in an area and season where weather may be an issue, allow sufficient time for rescheduling if weather does not cooperate.

DO remove family heirlooms and items you are sure you want to keep before the estate sale walkthrough.† The company bases its acceptance of your sale on the value assessed at the walkthrough.† If you remove items after the walkthrough, you may be charged commission on those items.

DO negotiate access to the home.† Ask the company to commit to how long they will have your home.† Make sure this time frame is reasonable: you want to make the home available for realty viewings as soon as possible.† Ensure the estate sale company has time to advertise well and set up nicely.† Also have a set of the house keys ready to give to the estate sale company.† Theyíll need frequent access to the home for setup.† Most will ask that you have the only other set, as the are accepting responsibility for the contents at this point.


Ask your realtor to make literature available for the sale days.† Hundreds of people, including neighborhood residents, will walk through the home, and many will be interested or know someone who is.† Estate sales help to sell houses!