Estate Sales Part 2 of 4 – Methods of Liquidation

Estate Sales Part 2 of 4 – Methods of Liquidation

If an estate sale is held to pay off debt, it is a liquidation sale. Other methods—estate sales, auctions, consignments, garage sales, dealers—each have their own advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to realize that like many other things the quickest and easiest solution is likely to return the lowest amount of cash for the person selling the personal property.

The fastest and easiest way to liquidate an estate is to contact a used furniture or antique dealer and sell everything to them. Once you agree on the price, you get the money and the dealer gets the furniture and goods. The disadvantage of this method is obvious in that this will result in the lowest overall selling amount. The dealer does not appraise furniture item by item. He or she does a mental appraisal and you can be sure they are also factoring in the costs of storing and advertising the product. A dealer must also be aware that some pieces will not sell and be aware that you may be shocked by what you are offered.

An auction may be a better alternative if time is not a major concern and you require more money. It is easier and more convenient because the auction house picks up your merchandise, takes it, sells it and you receive a check. Some auction houses will provide transportation and packing services but expect to pay a higher commission for this additional service. Also, good to keep in mind, you may not get a check right away because the auction house has to get enough “lots” to make a sale worthwhile.

Choose an estate liquidation company for an on-site “Tag Sale” if you want a fast response and the highest dollar amount. The time involved is generally two to six weeks from initial contact. Unlike an auction, the liquidator will display your merchandise to its best advantage within the house, usually taking about a week to do so. The liquidator deals with individuals while the auctioneer’s responsibility is to involve the entire crowd in the bidding. The sale typically takes two to three days; prices are negotiable from start to finish.

One more option: you may wish to hold your own sale. You control everything including the profits, but the process can be exhausting and time-consuming and requires knowledge of antiques, collectibles and how appraisals work.  Most of the people I encounter who have done this themselves tell me they wish they hadn’t as their personal lives suffer greatly as a result of the tremendous amount of time involved.

In my next 2 articles , I will discuss How to Choose a Liquidator and Do You Sell the House or Its Contents First.

 Michael Olear is a Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker – Find him online at

Estate Sales – Part 1 of 4

Most of us accumulate a surprising amount of stuff over the years, whether it is valuable family heirlooms, our children’s memorabilia, or our every day possessions that seem to multiply without warning. Some of us may do a purge by donating or disposing of those items or selling them at a yard sale a little at a time.

But what about the situation that requires you to dispose of an entire house full of things in one fell swoop? Many of us face that scenario at some point in our lives, usually when a family member passes away or sometimes after a divorce, bankruptcy, or long-distance relocation. The task is often daunting, especially when dealing with a home’s personal property and the sentimental attachment to those items. Fortunately, professionals are available to help you organize an estate sale.

Estate sales are similar to auctions; they can be a good way to reduce or eliminate debt or make money off unwanted items. Estate sales, unlike garage sales, are also known as tag sales and are usually run by a professional company. The objective is to sell all the items remaining in the house. In most estate sales, the public is invited into the house and can browse through everything there. Shoppers may find bargains, antiques, and unusual items.


When you are the responsible person for an estate sale, you will probably want to ask yourself several questions. First, what would the deceased person want and what is the family’s agenda? How do I find common ground if there are conflicts? Regardless of the first questions, what are my top priorities as executor of this estate?  How do I find a good company in my area and what type of sales method should I use?


A few things are crucial to keep in mind at this point in the process: Remove or set aside what appear to be the most valuable possessions and refrain from the natural urge to begin throwing things away. Your perception of what is junk may actually be of value to someone else. It’s also important to realize up front that if the personal property is completely “cherry-picked” by family, it might be very difficult to find a liquidator who will be interested and able to dispose of the rest for you. If there is nothing to advertise, they will not take on the sale and the clean out. A good liquidator will recoil if in your first conversation you reel off a list of things that are “maybe” not included. It is best to give family members a reasonable deadline to pick things up if they have laid claim to certain items. It is the best way to treat everyone fairly and still keep the process moving forward.


At this point, I think it’s also important to say that we need to be easy on ourselves as well as dealing with family with an extra measure of empathy. Whatever the circumstance leading to this “mass sell-off”, there are a lot of feelings involved. If you are directing the process, you will need to balance getting the job done with maintaining positive relations with everyone involved.


In the next three articles, I will discuss Methods of Liquidation, How to Choose a Liquidator and address the question Do I Sell the House or the Contents First.

Michael Olear is a Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker Find him online at