Estate sale advice

My best friend passed away this week. His brothers are coming into town to handle things.

Has anyone made use of an estate sale company? If so, could you give me an idea of how they work? The brothers have not handled something like this before so I’d like to give them good advice. I’ll likely offer to help with things on the ground when they need to return home.

Thanks for the feedback.

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Are estate and garage sales still a thing during COVID?

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Very much so

I’m so sorry for your loss! That’s a terrible thing to experience and I hope you have a good support system around you to help you grieve.

I frequent this auction site that specializes in estate sales. Might work out a bit better than a traditional estate sale due to current events.


Make sure family locates everything of value like coins, stamps, guns, etc… and gets multiple private appraisals and offers for them and keep a close eye on those items.


Depending on how much stuff there is, if a lot and his time here is limited, get a company to do it. They’ll put it online and do all the work. You’ll pay for the service but get a wider audience and avoid the hassle.

One company I’ve bought things from is a company that holds estate sales, like a garage sale, at the house. Beyond buying things from them, all I know. There’s other companies to be sure.

Be sure the estate Administrator or Executor approves selling off the assets to avoid any hassle with any other heir or Probate judge.


I would like to use a service like this for DMS so we can sell unwanted/broken tools and make some money, I wouldn’t be surprised if we have $50k in tools we arent using and could liquidate.

A commercial/industrial company may be better if most of it is industrial equipment.

If a “Seller Team” could be organized, a lot of it could be sold through CL, just have all the items located in 102 Warehouse, roped off. Have sale times to look at and pick-up. Volunteers would be needed to man the sale and commit to being there for say 3-4 hour blocks.

Personally think that sounds like a high estimate, but I’m not sure what all is out there. But lot of it is out there because it has problems.

The reason I suggested outsourcing it is because, in my frank opinion its probably too much to ask of volunteers.

May I have my thread back?


I’m so sorry. I know a teacher who retired and is running a company with her friends. If you want her info you can pm me.
I honestly don’t know the details of how it works.


My mom has hired estate sale companies when she moved.

Here’s how it works:


You usually leave everything set up in the home like it was and let people wander around. Trying to stuff it all into the garage, for instance, lowers the perceived value of the items. She was able to mark things that were not available for sale.


The estate sale company typically determines the prices and you may or may not get to / want to weigh in on some individual prices. This is probably the biggest benefit of the estate company. You probably don’t have the expertise or the time to price each item.


They also like to have you set some rules about discounting; e.g., at 10am on the last day everything goes to 25% off, at 3pm on the last day everything goes to 50% off … or whatever. Remember the estate sale company doesn’t get paid if your stuff doesn’t sell so they will strongly urge you to cut your prices to the bone.


It’s important that the company keeps records of every item sold that is worth more than $x and you should be entitled to see that accounting. This is an important point when you are interviewing estate sale companies. I think Mom’s sale was 2 days (possibly three) and she regrets that she didn’t get a daily accounting of everything that was sold. By the time she figured out that stuff wasn’t accounted for, they claimed that they didn’t remember (or something equally lame).

Obviously the estate sale company gets x% of the sale. I don’t know how much is typical. Someone else can weigh in.

The advantage of an estate sale company is that they will:

  • Set knowledgeable pricing
  • Advertise the sale
  • Staff the sale
  • Collect the money
  • Get it all done fairly quickly

The downside is that no matter how much you think the stuff is worth, you’re only going to get a fraction of it. And you’ll get less if you have significant loss/shrinkage - which is fairly common.

I cannot help you find a good company because my mom doesn’t live locally.

Both times she had a company highly-recommended by reliable friends. Both times she was sure she had “loss/shrinkage” and she’s pretty sure it wasn’t from the shoppers. In other words, estate sale companies have been known to just take items that they think they can resell and keep them for themselves. The only way around that is much, much diligence - being on site and personally watching what’s going on - especially with the money collection. People are embarrassed about doing this, but you shouldn’t be. It’s your money and you’re entitled to watch what they do with it.

Since the estate sale isn’t going to generate a very high fraction of the value (more than a garage sale but still not much), if there are any items that are worth anything significant you should sell those separately. Like if you have a grand piano or something …

Both times my mom liquidated nearly all her furniture and decorations and both times, between low prices and paying the estate sale company, she didn’t even get enough money to pay the movers to move what remained.

So if the goal is to just get rid of the stuff without it going to the trash - or if you’re in a big hurry, then an estate sale is a good idea. If there is a desire or need to get some money out of the sale, then a lot of diligence is required in watching over the estate sale company.


There is a growing market of online estate sales.

I had stumbled onto a couple from emails sent out weekly by
From what I can tell, instead of the company managing the crowds of people poking through the actual residence, their staff sorts stuff into lots, takes photos, and posts the lots together in an auction listing for a limited length of time. Then, they coordinate collecting payment and wrangling people coming to pickup their auction wins.

My personal favorite is Rusty by Design - a family firm that operates out of a warehouse in Forney, but there are evidently a goodly number of companies in the DFW area.

A month or so ago, I had followed a listing for a company that seemed to be based in Garland, but when searching for more company info, discovered they were a very new off-shoot of a more established auction company in Richardson that operated live auctions, but had their business model kind of gutted by COVID. They didn’t know what to expect when they tried out the online-only model, but were amazed how well it went.

I don’t think that anybody should enter into an estate sale agreement expecting to collect a windfall. Depending on the people looking at the auction items, something may go for too much money or for a song. I’ve made some great buys, I’ve made some bad ones. (anybody have a very small face that wants a pair of never-worn Bolle sunglasses?) But, on the plus column, the stuff will be mostly GONE.


Clayton, I’m sorry to hear of your friends passing. When my parents passed I used an estate sale service.

Lessons learned :
Interview several companies.
Be mindful of the ones that seem to have other sales outlets. They often are looking for their own resale purposes.
Expect a prep period of a week or more.
Fees are roughly 30%.
Target several items of reasonable value and use those in the interview to get a feel for the pricing the company will put on them.
Good luck. It is a painful process to see a loved ones possessions sold.


I’ll second this. Check the pockets, hidden drawers, coffee cans, old jars, cubby holes. linens and anywhere else that someone might squirrel away stuff. There are many stories of someone buying something at an estate sale and finding money sewn into the lining, or stuffed into a pocket or taped to a picture etc.

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I will second this. My grandpa hid his valuables in his suit pockets and when he passed we knew he had some expensive jewelry that was missing. It became a bit of a drama accusing the hospice people, ex-girlfriend, etc. later it was found in his suit jackets.


@Clayton deepest condolences on your loss. This has got to hurt. I’m so sorry.

Recently, I’ve become acquainted with estate sales as a buyer, so I can share that side of the experience with you.

The first day, everything is full price.
The second day, everything is 25% off.
The third day, everything is 50% off.
The fourth day, everything is 75% off.
At the end of the fourth day, I was told “Anything you can fit in a paper bag is $10.”

As an example, I purchased a 90’s era treadmill for $15, and yes, it works. I bought an antique sewing machine for a friend for $25 including the cabinet. These go for around $250 on ebay.

As a buyer, it is very uncomfortable, but at least I know the family is getting something and not nothing. On the flip side, you could ask an accountant for tax advice on whether making a donation to a place like Habitat for Humanity ReStore is a better way to go.

It would be a very good idea to clear anything out of there that you can sell for more on ebay.

This is a traumatic process. You and your friend’s brothers might want to weigh the costs/benefits of letting the possessions go for significantly less than you’d like vs. being stuck with them. I have had friends who have taken on their parents’ belongings into their homes, and fitting two households’ things into one household is a recipe for clutter. It can also be the start of epic hoarder-style clutter, because it is simply too overwhelming to deal with all of those objects.

I’ve been to estate sales run by the family, too. Everything is priced similarly to what you would pay for it new, which means a lot of people leave without buying anything. It’s got to be awful to be in the space with the buyers, so for that reason, a company might be the way to go. Interview them, a lot of them. Ask them how they promote the sale. Ask them what signage they provide from the street directing customers to the sale.

Again, I am so sorry you and your friend’s family are going through this. ((Virtual Hugs))

@Clayton sorry about your friend. That is terrible especially when we were all stuck home, etc.

I have my grandmother’s baby grand piano in my home office. Wish I had the space back but how can you toss/give away a 95+ old antique beautiful fully working instrument?

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True story. My brother and his wife bought her Aunt’s 300 acre farm in Ohio from the family estate. They moved in and started cleaning the house. The house had hardwood floors and large rugs that covered most of the floors. Several months later they decided to take all of the rugs outside to inspect, clean, and air out. Underneath everyone of the rugs they found cash, and plenty of it. Some of the cash was dated over 70 years ago. The Executor of the estate said it was all legally theirs since the Aunt’s estate had been closed, it was now part of their property they legally purchased. There was enough cash to pay several mortgage payments. During the Depression years many people did not believe in Banks and hid the cash elsewhere.

Not all your stories have this qualifier … what are we to make of that? :grin:

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