What is an estate sale? How does an estate sale work?

Dear Maria, I follow reDollar.com since some weeks because your website is very helpful to gather information about jewelry, gold and watches. I inherited the whole collector’s household of my uncle. He was a physician and passionate collector of almost everything. He has collected stamps, jewelry, coins, artwork, collectibles, porcelain, military accessories, furniture and much more. I know that my uncle spend much of his time and money for collecting, and I guess that much of his stuff is worth much more than just change. Your website has helped me to learn more about the value of jewelry, gemstones, watches and silverware but I’m uncertain how to proceed. I don’t like the idea of an auction and even also not the option to call a liquidation company. I’d like to keep an eye on the sale to achieve a respectful selling process. I’ve heard about estate sales and maybe this is an option for me and my collector’s household. I hope that you can explain me what is an estate sale and how does an estate sale work? Do you think an estate sale is a good option for me?
July from Birmingham in Alabama

July, I’m very excited to hear from your home liquidation. A home liquidation is much more than just an occasion to get some money. It’s a treasure hunt and time journey through decades of collecting. You can discover so many interesting things there. I also went to lots of estate sales and I got great stuff there. One of my best hits was an original Cheret Moulin Rouge lithograph poster worth a small fortune. An estate sale is a big chance for all involved parties but also a risk, especially for the seller. I’ll explain the risks in detail for you. I’m a big fan of estate sales and I would also recommend you performing an estate sale but only if you are well-prepared for the process and only after picking out the very valuable possessions.
Maria Tait, reDollar.com expert

Judy asked, what is an estate sale and how does an estate sale work?

Judy: My uncle’s home I’ve inherited is loaded with collectibles. I know that your company is specialized in jewelry, gems, silver, gold, watches and collectibles and hopefully you can help me with sound advice for selling. First I thought to sort the stuff by myself and to prepare everything for online auctions. I’ve finally auctioned two lamps, a rug, and two paintings online, but was faced with hours of work just to sell 5 pieces. But not only the time involved was a problem, the whole auction process and even the proceeds that I’ve received weren’t satisfying. Let me explain why. The prices for the two old lamps were decent and the price for the rug was ok but the winning bids for my two oil paintings were a catastrophe. One was sold for only one dollar and the other one for 11 dollars. Owed to the tremendously high shipping costs, nobody wanted to place bids on my oil paintings. But the bad prices were only one part of the hassle. First, I had to take pictures of all items. Then, I had to modify the pictures. After providing a description and waiting a week for the end of the auction I had to wrap the bargains for the buyers. Try to wrap an oil painting! It’s a challenge when you have never wrapped an artwork before. But that’s not the end of my auction-suffering. USPS had some shocking news for me. Both parcels were more expensive to ship than what I’ve charged the buyers. Finally, I had to live with losses in both paintings because the realized selling prices were too low as they could cover my costs. To make a long story short, I’m done with online auctions. It’s a time consuming process accompanied from unexpected surprises. This experience brought me to the idea of an estate sale. I found a website offering an estate sale advertising package for as low as 50 dollars. They advertise my sale nationwide and guarantee full attention of a bunch of people. Now, I hope that you can tell me, how an estate sale works. And what is an estate sale exactly? If I’m right it’s something like a yard or garage sale but inside the home, right?

Maria: Before I answer your questions, I fully understand that you turn away from online auctions. Online auctions are fun and a nice invention for casual sales but not an option for big liquidations. There is too much time involved. Paintings and heavy things in general are problematic for online auctions. Such stuff cause very high shipping costs that sellers often don’t expect. Commercial clients have better shipping rates and special contracts leading to reasonable shipping costs. Heavy artwork, furniture and other voluminous things are perfect for estate sales. But let me first answer your question, what is an estate sale. An estate sale is an open house performed selling occasion often organized from professional companies and sometimes from individuals themselves. There are household liquidation estate sales, moving estate sales and estate sales when it comes to bankruptcy. Sometimes companies buy the whole estate from an individual to perform a public estate sale on their own risk, or an individual agrees to a contract with a liquidation company to perform a commission based event. A commission based event usually doesn’t cause sales tax what is a benefit for buyers because prices are more reasonable. Most estate sales are announced to last for one, two or three days. Sometimes they start Friday morning and last Sunday afternoon. Usually they start in the morning and end early afternoon. The mentioned advertising package is a great way to attract people and especially dealers to show up at your sale, but don’t forget to make aware the neighborhood and community. You wouldn’t believe how many people from the direct neighborhood are excited to join your event. Besides curiosity, the lure for bargains will bring many neighbors to your estate sale. I recommend you to stop by a couple of professional organized estate sale events to learn from the pros. Shop around, listen to the sales talk and observe the organizers in their doing. When you come after the first rush, estate sale folks love to talk about their business. Listen carefully but better don’t mention your own plans.

Judy: That’s a great idea. I’ve never joined an estate sale before. This is what I’m going to do the next weekends.

Maria: Yes, do this. This is the best way to get an idea of how estate sales are working. This brings me to your most important question, how does an estate sale work. This is a complex question and takes some time to speak about benefits and drawbacks. First, an estate sale attracts collectors, neighbors as well as dealers and strangers. The first and most important recommendation from me is, don’t display petite valuables like jewelry, watches, gemstones, pins or medals. You could be faced with con men and thieves and during a rush it’s impossible to keep your eyes on all your small assets. Moreover real jewelry isn’t something for an estate sale. These things sell with companies like us or auction houses. Decide to sell with an expert, having the abilities to assess the metals and the gems for you. My recommendation is to clean out jewelry, coins, medals, petite collectibles, everything made of gold, silver, platinum or palladium, stamps, vintage photos and even silverware. You wouldn’t get a high price for stuff like that. But for all other items, performing an estate sale is a great option. But even when you have sorted the possessions before, ask a company like us or another expert to run a fast check of all your items. The lithograph I’ve mentioned initially was priced with $200. I took it for that price, suggesting to share the profit with the seller because I was pretty sure to get something very valuable. I tell you, they family was so excited to get a 1,000 dollar check from me some weeks later. But honesty is very rare in the estate sale and antique business. Never trust anybody and never ever sell outright if someone begs or pushes you. Begging or pushing are alarming signs that a sleeper could be present. But one of the biggest risks of estate sales are thefts. Professionally organized companies have an observer on duty in all open rooms and a security at the front door. Moreover bags are prohibited and controls of the grabbed things may happen.

Judy: That frightens me a little bit but maybe I can convince my nephews to support me as my guards. Maria, I fully agree with the jewelry and all the other petite valuables. I wouldn’t offer them for sale and you know that I’ll await your carrier to pick up a box filled with jewelry, gold, silverware, watches and other stuff that I’ve sorted for your company. I checked your price lists and I also worked with your gold calculator and to be honest, your purchase offers are really fair. I like the way you provide the advice. Transparency and reliability have become rare within the last decade.

Maria: Thank you very much for your kind words. We are aware of that and our service is based on the current market situation. The problem is that many people underrate their things. They hand over their estate to a stranger promising to do everything to achieve high selling prices. But how can you trust these guys? A decent evaluation takes hours or days for small companies and the result may be questionable. In hard contrast to reDollar.com, we have the infrastructure to asses almost all valuables within 24 hours. If customers ask for advice when it comes to dealing with estate sale companies or antique dealers, we always recommend to create a list of all offered items with pictures for your records.

Judy: An estate sale is a chance with risks. This is how I think about it. But I would try it. I think preparing the house is the first and most important step. I would restrict some areas, locking the doors and displaying the stuff for sale in only two, three or four rooms of the house.

Maria: That’s a very good idea. Furthermore, get some stickers to mark the majority of your things with prices. You can use our website, our experts and other price archives to find a fair price. Be alerted, some people are tricky and may change the price tags. Try to keep most prices in mind and be very careful when it comes to agree to a price for a whole lot of things someone has arranged.

Judy: I think you mean that people try to hid valuables within a lot of stuff to get a better price, right?

Maria: Exactly, this is what happens very often. Early in the morning, when the estate sale rush begins and your rooms are overcrowded, the risk of getting cheated is pretty high. You can fix this situation by building groups of visitors. Some companies allow only 5, 6 or 7 people to be in at the same time. This can cause incomprehension in the waiting line outside but reduces the chance to become a victim of a crook or thief. I think it depends on the stuff you offer and also on the area and your neighborhood.

Judy: This might be a good idea. Are there other things to consider?

Maria: Maybe, the parking situation. Some visitors act rude and selfish when it comes to get a parking space. They will overrun your front yard, flowers and decorative garden accessories and in some cases even your neighbor’s property. If you strive to stay in a good relationship with your neighborhood, send a family member to your front yard to keep an eye on your visitor’s cars. If there is parking space available mark it to get the driver’s attention.

Judy: I would not have expected that an estate sale may cause so many troubles but your explanation sounds reasonable. It feels good to receive sound advice from you. I’ll think about all discussed points and meanwhile I send you my jewelry, coins, silverware and collectibles. Thank you very much for your help.

Maria: Thank you for your trust in our company and your friendly words. We’ll serve you with the best offer for your possessions available on the market.

Judy: Thank you! Have a great day, Maria.

Maria: The same to you. Thanks.

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