How Do Estate Sales Work? A Guide to Understanding the Process

how do estate sales work
Category: Home Selling
Published: September 21, 2023

Have you ever wondered how do estate sales work?

Estate sales are commonplace in the real estate industry, particularly when a family member or a loved one passes away and leaves behind a house full of belongings. These sales are an opportunity for the surviving family members, or the estate executor, to sell most of the personal property to cover the expenses and debts incurred after the passing of the deceased person. Although they may seem like a garage sale, estate sales are often much larger, more organized, and can last for more than one day. If you’re wondering how estate sales work, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we will explain the process of estate sales from beginning to end.

How Do Estate Sales Work? The Initial Meeting with the Estate Sale Company

Before the estate sales or estate auctions begins, a professional estate sale agent will meet with the surviving family members, or the estate executor, to discuss the property and the items for sale. The estate sale organizer will ask for a walkthrough of the house to assess the value of the items, take photographs, and ask questions to determine what is valuable, what should be sold, and what can be donated. They will also point out things the family may have missed or overlooked.

Pricing and Tagging

After the assessment, the next step is to price the items and tag them for the sale. Most estate sale companies will use their expertise to do the estate sale pricing work, and the prices will be placed on tags with a unique code or color to identify each item. For higher price items, they may be sent to an auction house. The price tags should be visible for buyers when they arrive on the day of the sale.


Once the pricing and tagging are completed, the estate sale agent will advertise the sale to the public. This includes listing the sale in local newspapers, online classifieds, and estate sale companies’ websites. They will usually also put signs on the property to advertise the sale to passersby.

Sale Day

On the day of the sale, the estate sale agent will arrive early to set up the estate sale items for display and arrange the space. They will usually have a cash box, receipts, bags, and plenty of helpers to assist and answer questions from buyers. Buyers will usually start arriving before the start time, and the estate sale agent will follow a policy to ensure orderly shopping and payment.


Once the estate sale is over, the estate sale agent will handle all the paperwork for the sale, including accounting for the sales and costs. They will determine the payment of the sales to the family or the executor of the estate, minus their fees for conducting the sale. Afterward, they will remove any items that didn’t sell and clean up the property.

Doll behind shopping counter

The Difference Between an Estate Sale and a Garage Sale

Have you ever wondered what sets an estate sale apart from a garage or yard sale? These three types of sales may seem similar at first, but they are actually quite different. Below, we will delve into the details of estate sales, garage sales, and yard sales, so you can see the pros and cons of each type of sale. Next, you will have a better understanding of what kind of sale is the best fit for your needs.

What is an Estate Sale?

An estate sale also known as a tag sale in some parts of the country, is a type of sale that occurs when someone has passed away and their belongings are being sold. The purpose of an estate sale is to liquidate all of the belongings of the estate. Many estate sales usually are typically run by a professional liquidator or estate sales company and is held inside the home. Estate auction sales tend to have higher-quality items priced accordingly, as they can include valuable art, jewelry, and furniture.

What is a Garage Sale?

A garage sale is a sale that occurs in the garage or driveway of someone’s home. It is typically held on a weekend day and is a way for people to get rid of unwanted items without having to leave their property. They are often informal, and there is no set price for items. You haggle with the homeowner and try to get the best price you can. Garage sales usually have a mixture of items.

What is a Yard Sale?

A yard sale is similar to a garage sale, but it is usually held in the front yard of a home. Yard sales are also typically held on a weekend day and are a way for people to declutter and get rid of things they no longer need. Yard sales are more likely to have lower-quality items and are priced accordingly. There is no set price for items and people haggle to get what they want, and there is usually unsold items that will be thrown away.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Each Type of Sale?

Estate sales have the advantage of being run by professional estate sale companies who price items according to their true value. However, estate sales are typically more expensive and may have less room for negotiation. With a garage sale, you have the opportunity to haggle with the seller to get the best deal. However, the quality and value of items sold at a garage sale may not be as high as an estate sale. Yard sales are typically the least expensive of the three types of sales. But, finding high-quality items may take more time and effort at a yard sale.

In conclusion, estate sales, garage sales, and yard sales each have their unique advantages and disadvantages. Estate sales are the most formal and typically have the best-quality items, while garage sales and yard sales are more informal and offer more opportunities for haggling. With this knowledge, you can now decide which type of sale fits your needs when looking for good deals or selling items you no longer need. Always consider the advantages and disadvantages of each type of sale before making a decision. Happy bargain hunting!

House with sign in front

Understanding Estate Sale Etiquette: What You Need to Know Before Attending One

If you’re looking for a great place to find unique, vintage items, antiques, and even household essentials, attending an estate sale should be something you consider. However, whether you’re an avid collector or a first-time buyer, knowing the right etiquette to follow can make all the difference in your experience. Lastly, we will cover some of the essential estate sale etiquette you need to know before you attend your next sale.

Arrive Early

One of the best ways to find the best deals and items is by arriving early at the estate sale. This helps you avoid the crowds and increase your chances of finding unique items before anyone else. Remember, estate sales are a first-come, first-served event, which means the earlier you arrive, the better. Keep in mind that some estate sales will have a sign-up sheet, and it’s important to follow this rule to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings.

Respect the Property

When attending estate sales, you’ll likely encounter items that have been part of someone else’s life, and it’s crucial to respect the property. Keep in mind that just because an item is for sale doesn’t mean it’s up for grabs. Avoid opening closets and drawers, and only handle items you’re interested in buying. If you’re uncertain about the condition of an item, ask the estate sale staff for help.

Negotiate Politely

It’s important to remember that when you’re attending an estate sale, you’re not shopping at a regular retail store. It’s common to haggle over prices, but it’s important to do so politely. Don’t lowball the estate sale staff and respect their judgment on pricing. It’s also important to remember that some items may not be negotiable, and you should respect that.

Follow the Rules

Estate sales often have specific rules that should be followed, like no holding items, no smoking on the premises, or no public restrooms. Following these rules shows respect for others attending the sale and can help make for a smoother and more enjoyable experience for everyone.

Bring Cash

It’s important to bring cash when attending an estate sale as many sales only accept cash payments. Make sure to bring enough money, but also be prepared to haggle over prices or leave items behind if your budget is tight. It’s also important to keep an eye on your belongings and personal items, as estate sales can attract a lot of people.

Attending an estate sale is a great way to find unique and vintage items at a reasonable price. However, it’s essential to follow the right estate sale etiquette to make the most out of your experience. Remember to arrive early, respect the property, negotiate politely, follow the rules and bring cash, and you’ll have a great time exploring the treasures of an estate sale. Happy shopping!

In Conclusion:

Now that you know how estate sales work, you can consider holding one if you find yourself in a situation where you need to liquidate personal property after the passing of a loved one. The estate sale process can be overwhelming and emotionally taxing, but by hiring a professional estate sale agent, you’ll be assured that everything is handled professionally. Overall, an estate sale is a great way to clear out, declutter, and sell valuable items to those who will appreciate them.

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Mark Tetreault II Real Estate

Thinking about selling your house? Mark Tetreault II Real Estate is here for all your needs! Give us a call today!


Mark Tetreault II
RE/MAX Bell Park Realty

610 Hartford Pike
Killingly, CT 06241

(860) 377-2595

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