5 Dos and Don'ts for Estate Sales

May 11, 2017

Some sellers have a house full of belongings that they need to dispose of before putting their home on the market. In these cases, an estate sale may be necessary to get rid of the items quickly while also putting some extra cash in your client’s pocket.

Here are a few tips you can pass along to sellers to make their experience working with an estate sale company smooth and profitable.


  • Throw anything away. Likewise, don’t casually give items to friends and family, thinking they’re not really worth much. Let the estate sale pro review your assets before you decide to dispose of something.
  • Cancel your utilities or home insurance policy before the sale. In many cases, local officials won’t allow a sale to be held at a home with no running water or electricity. Also, you will be held legally responsible for any accidents that occur during the sale, so you want your homeowner’s insurance to still be in effect.
  • Remove items after the estate sale company’s walkthrough. Doing so will likely breach your contract and may result in cancelation of your sale. Removing items after they’ve been advertised for sale is unethical and could even result in legal action.
  • Participate in pricing items or conducting the sale. The estate sale company, whose fee is usually a percentage of the total proceeds of the sale, has in-depth knowledge of current values and will price accordingly. Some companies may allow you to set a minimum price for a few special items. Also, family members should not be present during the sale, as they may reminisce with neighbors and other attendees—which can negatively impact sales.
  • Expect to be paid immediately after the sale. The estate sale company will need time to make sure all check and credit card sales clear and there are no disputes about any items purchased. This may take extra time if you elect to sell some items online. After the sale, the company should send you a check—any fees will be deducted—typically within 30 days.


  • Choose the right kind of sale. A reputable estate sale company will help you decide whether an auction or garage sale is the best forum for your types of belongings. An estate sale ideally consists of an entire household of items, from special antiques or collectibles to useful household goods, and services will include organizing and staging, photography, advertising and signage, and post-sale disposal of remaining items.
  • Make sure to get a written contract.  A contract spells out the responsibilities and obligations of both the seller and estate sale company. Don’t go with a company that doesn’t offer a contract. Before you sign, make sure that all heirs and interested parties are in agreement with the sale plans.
  • Schedule the sale as far in advance as possible. Many companies are booked months ahead of time. If the first company you call is not available in your time frame, check with another company. To have the best possible sale, the company must have sufficient time to advertise it properly.
  • Remove family heirlooms and items you want to keep before the walkthrough. The company bases its acceptance of your sale on the value assessed at the walkthrough. If you remove items after the walkthrough, you may be charged commission on those items.
  • Negotiate access to the home. Ask the estate sale company to commit to a certain time frame when they will need to be in your home because you’ll want to make it available for buyer showings as soon as possible. Have a set of house keys ready to give to the company, as they’ll need frequent access to set up. Most will ask that you not give out any other sets of keys at this point because they are accepting responsibility for the items.

—By Gail Williamson, owner of LoveVintageStuff Estate Sale Services