How to Hold a DIY Estate Sale

Mar 2, 2018
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Contrary to popular wisdom, you don’t need to be struggling through a divorce or debt to hold an estate sale. Rather, it’s a great option to think about if you want to downsize your home, so you can cut maintenance costs, and live a simpler life. An estate sale not only helps you sell off most of your unwanted household contents in one go, it’s also a really good way to part with items that have a high resale value. Better yet, unlike a garage sale, you won’t have to go through the hassle of hauling all your stuff outside to the yard or driveway.

With an estate sale, visitors will actually enter your home to view the contents you’re offering for sale. Because of this, though, you’ll have to take a few extra measures that you wouldn’t necessarily think about if you’re just planning a typical garage sale. Here are the main points to keep in mind if you’re thinking about running an estate sale on your own:

Be realistic about the prices you can offer, while aiming for the greatest possible sales value

1. Make sure you know how much your items are worth

  • Call in a professional appraiser, if you have lots of items like jewelry, artwork, antiques, or valuable collectibles like rare books or comics.
  • Do lots of research beforehand to get a practical sense of the sale price for your items. Check online catalogues, other estate sales, or online marketplaces, where items similar to yours are bought and sold.

2. Clean or repair as many items as possible

  • This can increase the sale value of items which you thought would otherwise be junk.
  • If the item you want to sell has enough resale value, it may be worth it to have it professionally repaired or restored.
  • If you can’t afford to get an item repaired, don’t be afraid to sell it as-is. Some of your customers will have the skills or the know-how to make use of such items, and can take them off your hands.

3. Take lots of photos of your items

  • These come in really handy for advertising, and for creating a catalogue of the sale inventory.
  • You can use the photos to sell your items separately online, or to a private buyer or dealer.
  • Lots of detailed photos can help attract serious buyers and provide an amazing showcase for your items. If you can afford it, you should even consider using a professional photographer.

 Set up proper, secure display areas inside your home

4. Display your items with visible pricing

  • For transparency, keep like items together with like.
  • Ensure that prices are clearly visible on each item for sale. This will eliminate needless questions from your customers concerning cost, and allows you to focus your energy on more pressing tasks or inquiries.

5. Clearly demarcate items that are not for sale

  • Usually this means putting up a sign or a tag that reads “Not For Sale”.
  • Better yet, put all the items you don’t want to sell in a different room entirely, and completely out of sight from potential buyers.

6. Keep your items organized by room

  • This is an easy way to simplify your merchandising efforts: make sure everything is grouped by theme.
  • By seeing an item in its natural context, visitors can imagine how the item would look or fit in with their own living space.

If you’re planning to sell fragile items at your estate sale, then you’ll need plenty of tissue paper and bubble wrap on hand.

7. Close off the areas the private areas of your house

  • Make sure to block off or close any rooms that you don’t want to use to display your items.
  • Have enough trusted volunteers staffing your sale, i.e. friends and family, to prevent trespassing in off-limit areas of your house. This will also help you to monitor foot traffic and to keep an eye on things.

8. Keep the sale areas organized and manageable

  • To help prevent overcrowding, limit the number of visitors allowed at a time to enter your home.
  • Don’t allow pets or children into your home during the sale if you can avoid it, or if not, then bar their access to rooms where the sale is being conducted.

Even though you’ll be posting ads both online and offline, don’t forget to put up signage around your neighbourhood beforehand to provide directions, and to let visitors know where parking is available. You don’t know what kind of crowds you’ll get, or how long the sale will go on for, either, so keep plenty of bottled water or other light refreshments on hand for your visitors and your staff.

At the end of the estate sale, no matter how much effort you put into it, you’re bound to discover that there were some items that just didn’t sell, so make sure you’ve got a plan to get rid of these items. Give them away as charitable donations, or try selling them on Kijiji or Craigslist, in which case you might have to be a lot more flexible about the selling price. You can also put unsold items in self-storage temporarily, so you can get them out of the house until you dispose of them.

There are lot of things to consider when planning an estate sale, but no matter what, don’t leave anything to the last minute, or else you might risk forgetting a crucial step in your plan. Ultimately, as you long as you have enough advance-planning and volunteer help available, your estate sale is sure be a success. And once you’ve lost all that bulky clutter, you’ll be able to look forward to moving into the freedom of your new minimalist home!

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