Estate Sales, Downsizing Your Stuff

I was recently asked if I could help provide some pointers for a senior couple who I helped downsize their living situation to meet their current lifestyle needs. The request inspired me to write this blog. You see, too many seniors are under the impression that an estate sale has to come after they have transitioned to “the other side.” It sounds gruesome or eerie, maybe even a bit morbid but it really is none of these things. Estate sales are a great way to earn some extra cash, pass on the furniture that is too big for your next home (or stuff you simply don’t want to take with you), and it helps avoid family members from fighting over the items. Estate sales can be a new start for you. The best part is that charity can win from an estate sale. Most charities are happy to come over and pick up whatever you don’t sell at the end of the day, and you get a tax write off too!

There are two ways to host an estate sale. The first way is to hire a company to prepare and manage the sale for you. The company takes a percentage of whatever you sell. The other way is to host the sale yourself. If you’re going to do this, have neighbors or family help. There is power in numbers and if you are going to allow strangers to walk about your home- you want people manning each room to answer questions, accept payments, and keep an eye on your merchandise.

If you are going to host your own estate sale, put money into print and online advertising. Signs on the street are not enough these days. I suggest buying ads two weeks before the sale. Make sure they are bold and clear. Don’t only note an address, note the cross streets. You can also put street signs up the day of the sale, this does help but it should be your only effort.

Mark your items. Don’t try to not price items. Be clear about pricing. You can make a note under pricing that says either “Negotiable” or “Firm”. This way if someone is interested in an item, they know if they can haggle the price with you or not. Also, know you bottom line.

Make payment easy. I suggest getting a Square reader to take credit cards at your sale. Sure, a small fee is associated with it- but you can make more money taking credit and cash payments vs. cash only. If you take cash only, chances are by the time someone has to find an ATM and then refind your home, they will just forget about the item they were looking at.

Host an online preview sale. You can setup an online “preview and buy early” event. Most estate hosts charge $10 per person and limit the arrival to the first 25 people. This is for the hardcore yard and estate salers out there. They pay $10 to pick through your items an hour earlier than everyone else. They prepay for this either online or at your door. If they don’t find anything they like, they lose their money. If they do end up purchasing something, they get a $10 credit towards the item. Usually hosts will setup a $15 purchase minimum for the credit to be used.

I hope these tips help you to clear the clutter as you transition into a smaller and more rightsized home.