Holding an estate sale at your property is a great way to empty an entire house of belongings, and to earn the most money for household items. But they require a lot of planning and manpower. You can host one yourself, but here’s how an estate sale works best: Hire an estate sale company to run the event at your house. Yes, you will pay a fee, but once you understand the work involved, you may decide it’s worth it for someone else to handle the logistics.

How Today’s Estate Sales Work

The days are long gone of auctioneers actually showing up at your house to chant their sing-song prices and bang a gavel, hollering “SOLD!” Live auctions were a lot more colorful, but selling at auction online is faster, cheaper and more efficient.

All estate sale companies have a minimum required value to make it worth their while to hold a sale. If the company decides you have enough value in the items you wish to sell, they will contract with you to handle your entire sale, from start to finish. This process can take months, so an on-site estate sale will only work for those who don’t need to empty the property quickly.

Although the sale itself usually happens via online bidding, a lot of on-site work makes that happen. (Click here to download our DIY estate sale checklist to see what needs to be done before, during and after an estate sale on-site.)

Estate Sale Timeline

 When an estate sale company manages the process, they put in a lot of work. Here is a typical timeline:
  1. Estate sale representative visits your house to evaluate the contents for sale.
  2. An auction date is set.
  3. Company reps research your items and set prices (minimums may start as low as $1).
  4. Estate sale company photographs your sale items and writes descriptions to list on their website.
  5. Estate sale company promotes your sale to interested buyers, including buying advertising.
  6. The company may set up a separate “viewing day,” for bidders to come look at your items.
  7. On viewing and pickup days, the estate sale company staffs your house for security.
  8. Estate sale company answers all buyer questions, manages all transactions, and handles pickups.
 
 What Happens After the Sale
 
For the amount of work an estate sale company does, it’s not surprising that they can charge 50% (or more) of your total sales revenue in fees. So, if the estate sale company takes in $12,000 for selling your items, you will get only about $6,000. They process all payments, and then write you a check for your share.

One thing the estate sale company will not do is empty the house after the sale ends. You will have to remove items that didn’t sell, and get them to donation sites or the dump. Then you’ll have to clean out the trash, and prepare the house to show if it’s going on the market.

If you don’t want to worry with the trash, or you don’t want people walking through the house, check out our other options. But if you don’t mind visitors, and a little cleanup on the back end, an on-site estate sale can work well to convert your household items into cash.

Get the Auction Checklist: Know What Will Sell


At Legacy Navigator we work with families in transition. We can empty an entire house within days, sorting what items to keep, sell, donate, and discard. Our employees pack and move everything, then prepare the house for sale. Call us for a free consultation.

Our advice is based on our experience cleaning out and settling estates for our clients. Each project is different, and each state's laws are different. We always recommend that you consult personally with experts about your particular situation before making any important decisions.