We sold our home in March, knowing that we were moving back to Phoenix.
Due to the long move and cost that can ensue, we decided to sell most all of our furnishings at an estate sale, which we held in April. We rented our home back from the new owners for a few weeks in order to have the estate sale after closing was complete. That way we did not risk selling everything and then the deal falling through… only to have to put the home back on the market with no furniture staging the home anymore, and nothing to sit or sleep on.
Wouldn’t selling most furniture and decor in an estate sale mean we’d lose money on the items sold, yet we have to re-purchase them once we get to AZ? Is that smart?
Let’s run through a quick version of the numbers that we considered in this decision.
It was going to cost $17-24K to move everything (due to needing a van line, having several moves with temporary housing and all, and storage) from TX to AZ.
On the flip side, if we sold everything in an estate sale and moved a small amount of stuff in a UHaul, we’d spend about $4000 for a few individual moves, move help, storage and estate sale costs. Then, you’d tack on to that the $6000-8000 it’d take in addition to the estate sale earnings to actually re-purchase just the main pieces of furniture and décor that was sold. (Craigslist helps a lot when re-purchasing items.) That totals $10-12K for the move this way.
That saves us $5-14K. Quite a bit of money saved!
As you can see, in the end, it made sense to sell most everything and start over.
So, what all are we taking with us and NOT selling? Computers, clothes, some tools from the garage, kitchen items, a bed, a table, the breakfast room chairs, the pub table and chairs, tv stand, and that’s about it!
Estate Sale To Do List
Back to the estate sale… Actually, first we had a garage sale and sold a large portion of non-furniture items. Then, we had the estate sale and sold furniture and décor. So, it was a two phase process, but today, I wanted to give the rundown of how we did the estate sale, as it was much more complex than a garage sale.
Here is the basic rundown of the order of things. But, after that, I’ll give more detailed tips and info on how it was actually ran.
1. Get organized.
Decide what you are going to sell, what you will donate, what you will give away, and what you plan to keep.
We sold most furniture and décor (we left the armoire for the new owners), gave away a lot of odds and ends including plants, paints, a grill, a smoker, craft supplies, books, and so on. We donated about 8 large boxes worth of stuff.
2. Make an inventory list.
Make a list with the item description, price, and an item number. This is not fun, but it will keep you organized and will help you run numbers.
3. Run the numbers.
Decide if the numbers make sense for you to have an estate sale before you move. Keep in mind the effort of finding and buying the new items if you sell a lot. For us, having an estate sale saved us money. It may be different for you.
4. Set dates and times.
It’s wise to have an estate sale for two days, and to realize you may need to make time for a few appointments for purchases after that if things are still left. The first day, you will keep prices the same. The second day, you will discount items that are left that you for sure want sold. We chose to hold our estate sale on Saturday from 9:30-4 and on Sunday from 10:30-4.
5. Get help.
Figure out how much help you will need and recruit helpers. You will need one person to man each room, plus a couple of guys to help move and load things, two people at the checkout, and someone handling the entry for the first few hours. For me, that meant at least 10 people, once we consolidated some upstairs rooms.
Below is the actual floor plan of the home we sold. (We love that floor plan.) We printed it and wrote the name of each worker that was in each space.
Pack up all of your personal items. You do not want an estate sale attendee to try to buy something you intended to keep. Make sure all drawers and closets are empty. Keep your personal items in a separate room during the sale. All items left out should be for sale.
7. Purchase supplies.
You will need price tags, estate sale signs, name tags, a cash box, receipts, money for change, pens, and index cards.
8. Market the sale.
Post about the sale on Craigslist, on area Facebook groups, neighborhood sites and by sending personal emails. Make sure everyone knows at least a couple of weeks in advance!! I made a web page that was all about the estate sale that gave many of the details about how it was going to run.
We also sent out price lists to anyone interested. That way, people who were shopping in those price ranges would come.
9. Price every item.
I bought Easy Peel stickers by Avery and printed the price, item number and description on them. I labeled every single item in the house that was for sale, no matter how small. We sold things from tissue holders to rugs to sofas. Note that these prices are more like you’d see on Craigslist, not at a garage sale. This is an estate sale, different from a garage sale.
10. Set rules.
Set rules for the sale. Will you allow children? Will you allow pets? Will you allow large bags? Figure out how you want to run things. I’ll go over how we did it below.
11. Put signs out that morning.
12. Brief workers the morning of the sale.
Go over all rules and answer questions. Make sure everyone is on the same page.
How We Ran Our Estate Sale
We had a lot of compliments on being organized, so here is how we ran things.
Though I was asked in at least 350 emails to pre-sell items, we did not pre-sell anything. The rule was that you must come to the estate sale on the day of the sale to make a purchase. Why? A couple of reasons – I didn’t have time to meet people for individual items but more importantly, we were located far enough away from downtown that it was very important that there were enough items at the actual sale to draw people in! If I pre-sold things, I probably would have had half of the stuff left by the time the estate sale happened, and it may not have been a big draw.
Anything that we were keeping, including all packed boxes, was kept in one bedroom with the door shut. Out of the way from shoppers. In other words, things that were not for sale were separated from things that were for sale.
We allowed folks to line up out front before the doors opened. They started arriving about an hour early, I believe. We then let 10-15 people in at a time. That way, it’s not overly crowded, no one is fighting over anything or running, etc. It’s safer for everyone.
Each person was met outside the front door and given an index card and pen. They were instructed by that worker to write the item number of anything they want to purchase on the index card and to take it to the checkout once they are ready. Do not remove items from the room. A receipt is required for that. Once an item was purchased, the buyer showed their receipt to the estate sale worker in that room and were able to take the item then or pick it up before the sale ended that weekend.
We had one worker in each room with a name tag on. That worker could answer questions about items and how the sale worked. They also checked receipts and marked things off of an inventory list as they were sold.
If someone wanted to offer a price lower than we were asking, they did so by bidding. They wrote their contact info and bid on an index card which was turned in at the checkout counter. If the item was still left at the end of the sale on Sunday, we contacted the highest bidder.
We insured that receipts were not faked by having a specific form and by writing them in a certain color of ink.
When items were sold, the worker in that room would view the receipt and mark that item as sold with a red circular stickers (dots). An item could not be carried out of the home without this red sticker.
There was also an inventory list posted on the wall in each room. The workers would mark off any items sold so that customers could easily see what was left.
We only accepted cash. Checks can be cancelled. Money orders can be faked. Cash only.
It’s common for those who frequent estate sales to come in with post-it notes and mark items as sold by sticking them on items as they walked through. We had a strict policy of no post-it notes. Why? We didn’t want an item to say “sold” and then the person who put the post-it note on it to never purchase it and in that process, another buyer to miss out.
We also didn’t allow pets, kids under 10, or large bags inside.
All sales were final.
As people purchased items we marked them off of the inventory list by highlighting that row in red. That helped us to know exactly what was still available.
Conclusion/ Lessons Learned
Everything went super well. Our workers were amazing!! I am so very thankful for each of them. They really made it run smoothly.
We sold just about everything! I’m not going to lie though, it was A LOT of work. Much more than any garage sale that I’ve ever done. It’s your entire home that is prepared. And, with the work of also arranging a move, it’s a lot to handle. But, it’s definitely the right decision in many cases.
The first day was the most chaotic, but we still had a lot of traffic the second day and sold quite a bit then as well.
I did learn a few things though:
– I had the inventory list organized by room and in alphabetical order by item description. However, since customers were writing down item numbers which started with the first letter of the room and then were followed by a three digit number, it was hard to find that number at times. The numbers weren’t in perfect order on my spreadsheet since I added things here and there. So, next time, I’d organize the inventory list by item number not by description. That would have sped things up.
– I would have two people at the checkout line. One marking down inventory and the other working on the receipt and taking money.
– I would also take photos of the event! That was my biggest regret. Nothing to document the actual sale.
– Though every person who entered our home was told that if the door is shut, that room is not part of the sale, they still opened closed doors. One lady took several of my personal items to the checkout counter to buy. So, I’d actually put a sign on every closed door as do not open.
– I used Easy Peel stickers that are supposed to be able to be pulled off easily and re-stuck. They worked great on some things, but stuck more to others leaving residue. Next time, I’d try to use tags any time I could.
So glad to have the estate sale (and the separate garage sale) finished. But for us, the moving isn’t over. We are currently in a vacation rental in Austin with stuff in storage, soon to move to a vacation rental in Phoenix. And, then we will set out to find the right home to buy. I expect that to take a while!
Have you ever done an estate sale? Have you been to one? What are your lessons learned?
Did you have any crazy experiences? All of our customers were great, but we did hear about stories where customers cut dryer lines and scratched furniture…
By the way, the new buyers of our home purchased a good amount of the family room furniture and all of the appliances. So, that’s pretty cool that that got to stay with the house!!
Would you ever sell most all of your furniture like this?