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How to hold an estate sale

Created date

October 25th, 2011

If you re looking to downsize, you could be sitting on a goldmine. I m not talking about your house itself although you should be able to get a good price for that with a savvy real estate agent. I m talking about all of the stuff inside your house. The tools and snow blower cluttering your garage, the patio set you don t need, and even some of those dresses you saved from the 1950s many of the things you ve held onto could net you a pretty penny if you hold an estate sale.

Take stock

Certain items have good resale value, while others can be difficult to sell. Start by taking a good look at everything you ve got. James Massey is the publisher of (, a website that tracks top-selling items on popular auction site ( You can browse the site by category from coins to sporting goods to jewelry to see how much people are willing to pay for items you may have stashed in your basement. Massey says some of the hot-selling items at the moment are rare coins, Asian antiques, and Beatles memorabilia. If you want to get the best price possible, do your homework before selling, especially if you suspect something is worth a significant amount of money. That could mean researching online or consulting with multiple experts in their area, Massey says. If somebody was getting an estimate on their house, they would get three estimates, but with antiques, they often get only one.

Tips from the pros

The way you advertise and set up your estate sale can also impact your bottom line, so take some cues from estate sale professionals. John Buckles is a founder of Caring Transitions (, a nationwide company that assists older adults with moving, downsizing, and estate sales. Buckles says to group items to sell as collections. This strategy is often effective with collectibles like Hummel figurines or tools. If there is one item in the group that people want, then instead of selling one for $20, you can sell the whole lot for $35, Buckles says. While you can generate decent traffic from signs posted in your neighborhood, Buckles says it s also important to market your sale online. Post ads on free sites like or

Outsource it

It s possible to hold a successful estate sale on your own, but you could make more money by hiring a professional even after you account for the fee you ll pay. For starters, an experienced and certified estate professional will be able to assess which of your possessions are worth money. Jeff Baker (, an estate sale operator in Ohio, says he once worked with a client who was planning to throw away a collection of old wine. Baker sold those bottles for $5,000. If you re trying to do it on your own, it s going to be a stab in the dark, Baker says. I would compare it to trying to sell your house yourself.