The first step is to take stock of what you have, which will help you dictate the date for your event.
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House with antiques
Credit: Katarzyna Bialasiewicz / Getty Images

Whether you're moving a far distance and only want to bring a few possessions with you, or you're cleaning out the space of a recently passed loved one, you may be considering holding an estate sale. "Compared to a garage sale, which is typically limited to the interior of a garage with overflow onto the driveway, an estate sale is on a much larger scale and takes place within the home," explains Peggy Ruby, CEO and founder of Poof! Estate Services.

At estate sales, people typically part with items of varying value, including valuable décor, jewelry, vehicles, and more. "Individuals may choose to have an estate sale for various reasons including moving, downsizing, combining homes, transitioning to senior living, moving in with an adult child, or handling the estate of a deceased loved one," Ruby says. No matter the reason for your interest, there are a few steps everyone should take when organizing this large undertaking. Here, two experts explain the step-by-step process of planning your own estate sale. 

Take Stock of Your Inventory

Once you've decided an estate sale is the best option for you, Ruby recommends taking stock of everything you are looking to sell. "Keep in mind that customers who shop estate sales will buy just about anything you have in your home. This means linens and Tupperware through to clothes and shoes," she says. Knowing how many belongings you plan to sell will help you figure out how long it will take to organize and price your items, as well as how many days you should reserve for active selling. 

Price Your Items

In addition to helping clean out your or your loved one's home, another key reason for holding an estate sale is to make money—plain and simple. For that reason, you want to make sure your items are priced correctly. According to Ruby, pricing your belongings ahead of time will prevent you from getting overwhelmed by customer inquiries while your sale is in progress.

To determine how much each item is worth, Helaine Fendelman, the owner of Helaine Fendelman & Associates, recommends checking auction sites, thrift stores, and consignment shops. She also says to leave room in the set sale price for negotiation, noting that bargaining is a highlight for many people who attend these types of sales. In addition to discount stores, Ruby says to comb through receipts from past purchases and sold listings on resale websites, like Ebay. "We suggest pricing your items no more than 50 to 70 percent of the retail value in order to ensure your items sell quickly and you aren't left over with a lot of inventory at the end," she adds. 

Consider Having Your Items Appraised

To avoid pricing your items lower than they're worth, consider having an expert take a look. "Appraisers typically charge by the hour, will come out to your home, and will provide the top retail value for valuable items on site," Ruby says. "Although these prices may be too high for an estate sale, you will now have important information regarding your pieces of value, which will help you advertise and sell them to the public."

Seeking out the help of an appraiser is also useful for items you don't think will sell for much. Before donating or simply tossing them away, Ruby says an appraiser can tell you if they're worth selling and the best avenue for parting with them.  

Set a Date

The date you choose for your estate sale will depend on how much time you need to get all of your items organized and priced appropriately. "Once you have that length of time determined, plan your event for one week after that ending point to allow ample time for your online advertising to be seen by as many customers as possible," Ruby says.

While there is no one day that's better than the rest for hosting an estate sale, Ruby says to consider the amount of competition in your area and how robust the advertisement of your sale is in comparison. If there are a lot of estate sales, garage sales or rummage sales taking place on the same day, customers have more options to shop elsewhere. But if you feel your advertising can stand up to the competition, hosting your sale on the same day as others may not be an issue.

Ultimately, Ruby says the most common days for a sale are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. "If you have a more sparse grouping of items to sell, try starting your sale on a Wednesday to beat out competition in your area," she notes. 

Advertise Your Sale 

Ensure shoppers attend your sale by advertising it heavily. "We suggest a mix of advertising your sale both online and in person through street signage," Ruby says. "While the Internet and social media platforms will help attract a wider net of serious buyers, drive-by traffic can surprise you."

For online advertising, Ruby recommends using estatesales.net, but she does note that they charge a fee for sale listings. Additionally, Fendelman says to give away flyers and advertise your sale in local newspapers or antique publications.  "Put signs in the grocery or drugstore, if allowed," she adds.

Check Local Guidelines

In some cities, you'll need a permit for hosting an estate sale. Fendelman says to check your local ordinances by way of city hall to see if this is a step you need to take. In addition to needing a permit, Ruby notes areas may also have rules surrounding street signage placement, as well as how many sales you can host in one year at the same address. "If the city does not require a permit, they will still most likely have rules and regulations they would like you to follow," Ruby says. 

Prepare the Site

How you organize and present the items at your estate sale may dictate how successful it is. Ruby recommends grouping like items together, which ensures that customers will see everything you have to offer at a glance. "When items are grouped together, customers looking for that type of product will most likely buy more of it, meaning more money for your sale," she says.

Ruby also says to wipe down any dusty surfaces and clean your items leading up to the sale. Also be sure to remove any sensitive information. "It is important that there are no credit cards, bank statements, or family photos in the home during the active sale to ensure your privacy is maintained," Ruby explains.

Additionally, Fendelman says to make sure your space is safe for people to walk through. "Be aware of potential places where an attendee might fall or slip and eliminate those areas or mark them off-limits," she says. 

Consider Hiring a Professional Estate Sale Company

There are some instances in which it may be beneficial to hire a professional, rather than attempt to host an estate sale on your own. According to Ruby, one reason is not having enough people available to help you set up your sale and handle the public. Other reasons Ruby notes include having a large home that will take a novice months (if not longer) to sort through, handling a loved one's estate, as it may be an emotional experience, and dealing with a product set that is very valuable

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