How To Have A Successful Estate Sale

How to have a successful estate sale

The loss of a loved one is both an emotional and difficult time. While the grieving process is stressful enough, there are often a series of tasks that must be planned and addressed to ensure you will navigate the probate process without any issues. 

Planning and organizing an estate sale is one of those tasks that will need to be addressed which can be difficult both emotionally and logistically.

Many people do not know where to begin, but by having an understanding of how estate sales work and what is required to plan one successfully will help make the process as streamlined as possible. 

What Is An Estate Sale?

An estate sale is when someone’s personal belongings are sold, similar to a garage sale but on a larger scale, and items at an estate sale are of higher value. Typically this would be the belongings and personal property of a recently deceased loved one, or of folks who are looking to downsize.

This can be a gratifying and soothing experience in the end when you have a less cluttered environment, money in your pocket, and a meaningful grieving experience once the estate is finished.

Organizing and hosting an estate or inheritance sale during the aftermath of a loved one’s death can provide several challenges. It is more complicated than holding a regular garage sale, but this guide provides actionable steps and tips on how to make planning an estate sale much easier. 

First, Take Care Of The Legalities

It’s important to remember that preparing and staging an estate sale is not the same as having a garage or yard sale. You may need to take care of any legal issues ahead of the sale. One of the steps in the probate process is to take an inventory of the decedent’s personal property.

This is typically handled by the person who has been appointed as the representative of the estate. The representative of the estate has complete control over and is in charge of managing the estate. Going to court, formally opening the estate as well as dealing with selling personal property are all part of this process.

Depending on the unique aspects of each probate situation, there are various ways to handle the legalities of an estate. In many cases, it is best to consult an attorney. 

How To Organize A Successful Estate Sale

Once the official aspects of an estate sale have been properly managed, it is time to start planning. 

Take Inventory

Walk through the house and make a list of everything you want to sell, as well as any items you don’t want to sell. Divide the inventory per room and make notes on the condition of each item from a scale of poor to like new.

This will help you determine what to sell, what to keep, and what to donate or discard. This step will help tremendously when it comes time to determine pricing and to know where everything will go during the sale. You’ll be glad you prepared a thorough inventory.

Research Your Items

You don’t want to offer an item for sale at a low price based on your gut feeling just to discover later that it is truly worth a lot of money. So, before you open the doors to your estate sale, go over any items you don’t recognize and conduct a value research.

You can filter through similar items already sold by checking popular online resale platforms. You’ll be able to tell what is highly valued and what is not by determining what people have already paid for specific or similar items. 

How to have a successful estate sale

Clearly Label Items And Prices

Bargaining is a common feature in estate sales. However, you must make it as simple as possible for buyers to choose between several items. If you don’t mark anything, people will go out of their way to find you or a member of your family to inquire about the price.

Then, due to the crowds and chaos, they may give up and walk away from a possible purchase. It is also important to discuss prices and negotiation with anyone assisting in the sale.

If there are certain items you have a minimum price for, make sure that is effectively communicated. 

Make Sure Everything Has A Place

Shoppers who frequent estate sales are used to seeing certain products in specific locations. And if they’re searching for something particular, they’ll most likely go straight to that area of the house. So, if they’re looking for kitchen appliances, they will likely head right to the kitchen.

Making the shopping experience simple and intuitive ensures that you don’t lose potential sales because someone wasn’t able to find what they were looking for. 

Create A Space For Purchases

You’ll need a good amount of space near the front door so that customers can set down their purchases, a place where you can receive their money and complete each sale.

To reduce the risk of theft, store any small but highly valued goods on or near that front table. This space also provides a clear location for those who have questions or want to negotiate a price. 

Make Sure You Have Change

You may lose sales if you don’t have enough smaller bills to make change. People go to estate sales expecting to buy, so expect to be handed larger bills for which you’ll need to make change.

Having a suitable cash box to store all of your change and money from sales will keep it safe and orderly. You may want to consider offering Venmo, PayPal, or other forms of digital payment for those who prefer to pay without cash. 

Final Thoughts:

While some of those grieving a loved one are able to execute a successful estate sale, others may find it too difficult. Keep in mind, if you’re short on time or are overwhelmed, hiring a professional may be worthwhile.  

An Estate Sale Company has the experience to help you organize all of the personal belongings, help you determine pricing for the items, and be the third party that will help you avoid the emotional stress of letting go of your loved one’s belongings.

The two most important things to keep in mind are honoring the decedent’s estate and ensuring you are able to handle the process. 

If you would like more information on the probate process in Illinois, please contact me for a no obligation consultation. I would be happy to discuss your specific situation and help you navigate these difficult waters.

My name is Maria Mastrolonardo, I am a Certified Probate Real Estate Specialist with RE/MAX Enterprises. This is ALL I do; I help guide families through the process of selling real estate in probate and I would be happy to help you as well.

Call me today at: (630) 248-6077, or email me at

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