Whether you’re trying to downsize your possessions in preparation for a move to senior living or if you simply want to get rid of some of your old stuff (and maybe buy things that are more in line with your lifestyle/tastes/needs), an estate sale is a great way to clean out and cash in. However, they can also be overwhelming, especially if it’s been years since you’ve done any sort of tag or garage sale.
“Thanks to the rise of the Internet, having a successful estate sale is both more difficult and easier than it was in the past,” says Doris Lea, Executive Director of Hidden Springs of McKinney. Still, many of the practical tips that you may remember hold true, such as making sure you have cash and plenty of helpers on hand.
“Even if you’re not necessarily doing this for the money, you still want an estate sale to be as successful as possible,” says Doris. “The last thing you want is to go through all the work of advertising, organizing and holding the sale and end up with half or more of your items that didn’t sell.”
Here are some tips from professional estate sale companies on how to get as many sales as possible without it taking over your life.
Figure out what’s staying.
Before you do anything, take an inventory of your stuff and figure out what’s staying, what’s going and what’s being given away (to family members, friends, or whomever else). Think about your goal for the sale (are you downsizing? Moving to a senior living community?) and organize from there. Sure, you love your 12-seater formal dining room table, but do you use it anymore – and will you use it if you’re moving to a smaller home? What about your mother’s fine china? Be honest with yourself and cut with abandon. Doris suggests starting out by going through a room with no emotional attachments, such as a bathroom or the garage, to get into the groove.
Research the items you’re selling.
You don’t want to list something for a steal if it could actually be worth a big sum of money. Likewise, you don’t want to price something so high that no one will take a second look at it. Luckily, it’s easier than ever to figure out how much that spoon collection or Hummel figurines are worth. Hit up eBay to see how similar items have sold, or you can hire an appraiser who can figure out how much something is worth – and more important, how much you can get for it. You may be surprised at what sort of items are highly valued.
Be prepared to haggle.
We’ll be honest – the majority, if not all, of the people shopping at an estate sale, are looking for a bargain. You’ll likely end up with potential buyers trying to get you to lower prices, so be mentally prepared for that. Of course, you don’t have to lower your prices – in fact, some estate sales don’t accept any offers on the first day but will halve prices on the second day of a sale. Still, haggling can be part of the fun, so if you’re wavering on whether to price that sofa at a higher price, go ahead and mark the higher price to give yourself a place to start.
Mark prices clearly.
Everyone’s got to know where to start when it’s time to bargain. Be sure to place prices in a clear, visible place so that potential buyers can make a snap decision about the item that catches their eye. You don’t necessarily have to label every single item. If you are selling a bunch of the same thing (like dishes, sheets, books, or things of that nature) you can have a sign on a table that lets shoppers know the base prices. (Here’s another pro tip: as you’re marking down prices on the items, have a spreadsheet where you mark the prices for yourself so you have something to reference if someone tries to switch out a price tag on you. It happens.)
Staff up your security.
As much as we like to assume good intent from everyone, the truth of the matter is that you’re opening your home to a bunch of people you don’t know – meaning you run the risk of people stealing things or going somewhere they shouldn’t. Enlist a handful of family members and friends, enough so that you can cover each room of the house. Not only does this guard against theft, but you’ll also have helpers on hand so customers have someone to ask if they have questions.
Go with the flow.
The traffic flow, that is. You don’t want to get shoppers jammed into a bottleneck as they’re trying to look through everything you have. Try and keep your items to the outer edges of the room, and make sure you don’t put too many things together. It’s best if shoppers can take a quick glance of the room to see if anything catches their eye, as well as have some places for people to stand and think about an item without forcing anyone to a standstill.
Clearly mark anything that’s off-limits.
This goes for items (like the family piano, favorite chair, etc.) as well as rooms. If possible, try and put as many off-limit items into these “no entry” rooms to deter serious bargain hunters and reduce confusion from other shoppers.
Blast the news on social media, submit it to appropriate sites (like estatesales.net), put up flyers, post to your community sites, submit it to newspapers … do everything you can to get the word out so everyone knows when and where the deals can be found.
You’ll be surprised how early in the morning the crowd will start forming. Be prepared for lines to start forming as early as 6 am (you may even want to put out “line forms here” signs). Make sure you have a cash box and some small bills in change so that you don’t miss out on sales. You can also go all techy and get a credit card reader for your phone or iPad (like the Square) so you can give buyers the option of swiping.
Hire a professional estate sale company.
We get it – putting on a successful estate sale takes a lot of work. There are many companies and professionals these days that help people set up and run estate sales for a cut of the profits. You’ll still have to do some up-front work, of course, but hiring professionals can cut out a lot of work and stress on your end.
Hidden Springs of McKinney has many connections to companies that do estate sales, both locally and online. For more information about these firms, simply call us or stop by. We would be happy to speak with you and help you connect to a firm that can assist you.
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