Guide to Estate Sale Planning and Shipping

Tara Chila
Written by Tara Chila
Updated August 12, 2016
Antique furniture in formal living room
Planning an estate sale may require pros to advertise and determine shipping logistics. (Photo by Frank Espich)

Planning an estate sale doesn't have to be complicated.

An estate sale, also known as a tag sale, is a common way to liquidate items from your home due to any of the following reasons – downsizing, divorce, bankruptcy, moving and death. 

Planning early is important to a successful estate sale and will provide the best outcome. Planning ahead will allow you to do the following without any issues: 

  • Sign documents

  • Give clear instructions

  • Provide access to financial records

To take care of your estate, you will need to sign the legal documents and give clear instructions on what is to happen with your estate, meaning where each item will go and to whom it will go. Also, you will need to give someone you trust access to your financial records.

What is an estate sale?

Estate planning is more than naming who should receive your items after you pass. It also provides instructions for other essential items, such as:

  • Passing of valuables

  • Instructions for care if disabled 

  • Guardianship of minors 

  • Instruction for special needs without interrupting government benefits

  • Life insurance

  • Business transfer (if you own a business)

  • Help to minimize legal fees

Hire a professional estate salesman

After all of the proper papers have been signed and all the legal documents have been taken care of, you will need to host the actual sale. We highly recommend hiring a professional to host the sale.

A professional is needed when there are high value items, to help save time and money and to properly stage the sale. Organizing an estate sale is overwhelming and requires a lot of patience and the ability to deal with a large crowd.

An estate salesman will bring both experience and a team of highly motivated professionals. Make sure you do your research before you hire a pro. Take a look at their references and their success rate with estate sales. Find someone who you feel comfortable with and trust – this will help the process go smoothly.

The estate sales professional will help with set up, including pricing and staging. You can help by organizing your furniture and items into what can be sold, what should be trashed and what should be donated to places such as Goodwill or Salvation Army.

Estate sales advertising

The estate sale professional that you hired will help with the advertising, but you can definitely help by posting it to social media, like Twitter and Facebook. Make sure your sale is on Craigslist and the local papers. If you have the time to make flyers, put them up in your local shops, church and YMCA, just to name a few places. The more people who know about your sale, the better turn out you will have. 

Tips for the day of the sale

After many days or weeks of planning, stick to your plan. You will have a set date and time for the sale, so do not allow people to come early. Letting people in early will help you sell, but then you will be left with the less desirable items on the day of the sale.

You should expect at least 200 people to show up – estate sales are popular, so prepare yourself emotionally for the public. The items that you are selling do not have any memories or meaning to them, so their words and comments may seem disrespectful.

Tip – Use the discount strategy. Start with no discounts the morning of the sale. As the day moves on, offer a 15 percent discount, and at the end of the sale (say the last two hours on the last day) offer 50 percent off.

Keep track of all sales in a log or receipt book, or consider an app on your phone to keep track. This will serve two purposes: 

  • 1) It will help with the estate’s accounting, and 

  • 2) It will help resolve any cost disputes you may have with the buyer. 

Estate sale shipping

Many customers will leave with the furniture that they purchased, but just as many will need to have their items shipped. Your customers will need a less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping company. This means the shipping company that you hired will ship small amounts of furniture and boxes. In other words, the items will not fill an entire moving truck.

There are shipping companies, such as Transit Systems, who specialize in shipping a small amount of furniture based on the weight and distance of the shipment. These types of companies will also ship multiple items to multiple locations. This is important if your customers’ purchased items that need to go to different friends and family members across the country.

Remember to work with a moving company that specializes in shipping family heirlooms and antiques. You want a company that will understand both the monetary and emotional value of your customers’ furniture.

With these tips and strategies for planning and shipping an estate sale, your estate sale should run smoothly without a hitch.

As of August 11, 2016, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.