A common question asked in the downsizing or estate liquidation process is, "How do I sell my antiques, art, and collectibles?" When things need to be moved along sooner than later, an estate sale is one option to consider.
The first step in the process is finding a reputable estate sale company to conduct your sale. A good venue to look for potential companies is the website estatesales.net, which is a terrific website that you can access for free. It is nationwide and will list estate sales in your area each week plus provide direct links to the sales, item images, etc. By browsing this site, you can find companies active in your area and then use this a starting point for in-depth research. Estatesales.net will also allow you to see the format in which the sales are conducted (some companies prefer an auction format, for example). A note of caution: this site can be mildly addictive if you like to hunt for treasures like I do :-)
Another consideration is whether your location is conducive for estate sales. In some cases such as a gated community or condo complex, an on-site sale may not be viable or even permissible. In such instances, look for a company that can move the items to be sold to an-off site sale location. If they will do this, find out the details of their insurance and transport policies.
And, before signing on with anyone, make sure the complete terms are spelled out. I.e., what percentage of sales will the company take, will there be significant discounting on the second day of the sale, etc. Be sure to get all of this in writing and have the owner/representative of the estate sale company sign off on it.
Another consideration is pricing. Usually, your estate sales company will have the expertise to set prices and I generally recommend deferring to them. They will know the regional market and will view items dispassionately. For you, the seller, be pragmatic. It is easy to let emotional attachments get in the way of realistic pricing, which can reduce the likelihood of the item selling if the price is set too high. When in doubt, bring in an appraiser such as myself for a walk-through to make sure that nothing significant is overlooked.
Lastly, be sure to have a plan to deal with the items that don't sell. Sometimes the estate sale company will take items on a consignment basis but you may find yourself also hauling things to Goodwill or similar venue and settling for a tax deduction.
Follow these steps and you will more than likely have a successful estate sale. If your time frame is very short, however, an auction house may be a better fit and that will be the topic of my next blog post.
Bryan H. Roberts is a professional appraiser in Sarasota, FL. He is a member of the Florida State Guardianship Association, the Sarasota County Aging Network (board member), and is certified in the latest Uniform Standards of Appraisal Practice (USPAP).