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Estate sales are the liquidation of a property and/or all of the items contained in it. They are often ordered by a probate court after a homeowner passes away if the assets of the owner need to be divided among the beneficiaries. Another reason may be that the heirs of an estate cannot decide what do with the property. Sometimes the homeowner stipulates in their will that there should be an estate sale.  Finally, the heirs may not be interested in the property. Very seldom, a homeowner hosts an estate sale themselves if they are downsizing, moving, or already live, out of the area.


In order to list a property for sale, empty it of personal belongings. Estate sales often happen prior to putting a home on the market to sell. There are several steps to follow to prepare for an estate sale. First, sort and organize all the items that will be for sale. Eliminate personal or sentimental items such as photographs, personal letters or records, or special family heirlooms. The next step is to price the items. Sometimes you will need a professional appraiser to help you value the items, especially the higher end pieces. Finally, when you have everything sorted and priced you are ready to run the sale.

Trash and Treasure

If you plan an estate sale, do not throw anything away. You may think something is just trash, but remember, “Someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure!” You never know, you might have a rare and valuable item and not even know it.

What Doesn’t Sell at Estate Sales?

If you host an estate sale, it is possible that not everything sells. Decide what to do with the leftover items. Some people donate them to a charity. You might take them to a consignment shop to try to earn a little more money. If there are high value items, consider finding a professional dealer to help you sell them. Instead of dealing with leftovers, consider having an estate sale auction to prevent having anything left at the end of the sale.

DIY or Hire the Professionals?

People sometimes run estate sales themselves or hire an estate company to do it for them. Granted, different companies handle estate sales in different ways, but the objective is always the same. One of the main reasons to hire a company to manage the sale for you is that you are likely grieving after suffering the loss of a family member. It is hard to see personal possessions in the hands of others. Instead, hire a company to manage it so you do not have to be present during the sale. Often, they make estate sales happen quickly and as painless as possible.

An estate sale company helps you assess your items. They are often appraisers or can connect you with one. For the most part, they display all the items, price them, and photograph them. They promote estate sales with social media, ads, and signage. Typically, they also do online promotion on their website. When the time comes, they run the sale. Many companies offer online bidding for interested bidders who cannot attend the sale in person.

After the sale, the company handles taking care of any items that are not sold. Some companies even clean the house after the sale. Finally, they will write you a check for the proceeds of the sale. This entire process usually takes around 45 days.

Cost of Estate Sales

Of course, if you hire an estate company to handle your sale, there is a cost. Typically, the fee is a flat fee of 30%-50% of the sales. Some companies use a sliding scale. They charge a higher percentage the more money your sale makes. Keep in mind that proceeds are often divided between beneficiaries or heirs. In addition, any outstanding debts require settlement. And of course, everybody loves to hate them, but there will also be taxes.

LAWSON & CO is an auction house and full-service real estate company. Give us a call at 317-745-6404 or visit us at LAWSON & CO to see how we make estate sales easy and successful!

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