6 Estate Sale Fails and How to Fix Them

A well decorated family room in a modern american home with an overstuffed sofa, chair and glass coffee table. Large windows make the room very bright and airy.

When planning an estate sale, many people struggle with the long process of sorting and selling items with such strong emotional ties. With an increasingly aging population in the U.S., more and more people will experience this struggle. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed and at a loss for what you need to do, you can learn from the mistakes of others below as well as how to succeed at your estate sale.

Fail #1: The DIY Estate Sale

Many people wrongly assume they can tackle their estate sale themselves with great success. The truth is, most don’t have the time or expertise to pull it off. Professional estate sale companies that are certified or accredited by the American Society of Estate Liquidators provide the necessary industry knowledge to organize, sort, advertise, price and sell estate items. This means more sales and less items left behind to trash or donate. Pros in your area can also relieve the emotional burden of sorting through a loved one’s belongs; however, most companies take 20 to 50 percent of the sale’s proceeds according to U.S. News and World Report.

Fail #2: Overpriced Items

If you plan to hold an estate sale without hiring a professional to value and manage it, you should concentrate on establishing each item’s realistic value. No matter how much nostalgia that quilt holds for you, an over-priced quilt won’t sell. To avoid this, educate yourself on the fair market value of each piece. For antiques and collectibles, consult reference materials used by the experts on “Antiques Roadshow” or hire an appraiser who complies with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice.

Fail #3: Not Protecting Valuable Items

Some estate shoppers can be unscrupulous. To protect priceless items like jewelry or dishes from thieves, buy or rent a locking display case. Carpet and upholstered furniture in high-traffic areas can be covered in shrink wrap to prevent damage. If you’ve hired a professional, make sure there are several staff members present to provide enough supervision. You also may want to provide newspaper and paper grocery sacks to safely pack up your customers’ purchases.

Fail #4: Failing to Appeal to Buyers

Before the sale, stage your property by sweeping the house of clutter. Remove all items that aren’t for sale, like photo albums claimed by family members. Then, group furniture together in a realistic and attractive way. Rather than shoving the arm chairs against the wall, use them to anchor a sitting area in an extra room. The most valuable items should be displayed prominently near the entrance. Showcase dishes, purses and collectibles on tables throughout your home. Display lighted lamps on side tables for ample lighting and a welcoming atmosphere. HGTV recommends 100 watts per 50 square feet.

Fail #5: Not Enough Pictures

Premium photos and videos will attract more buyers to your sale. After staging your property, take high-quality photos and videos, and share them with your professional estate sale firm, social media sites and local newspapers. Use your iPad Mini 3’s 5-megapixel iSight camera to make your photography session easy yet professional looking.

Fail #6: Arriving Too Late

With estate sales, early birds really do get the best deals — often within the first few hours of the sale. To help manage the onslaught of anxious prospective buyers, organize a number system at least an hour before the sale is scheduled to start. This way customers can line up to get a number, and then go get a coffee or take a walk. When the sale starts, buyers can line up and calmly enter the sale according to their number.

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