14 Tips for Hosting a Successful Estate Sale

Estate sales can be great for making some extra money and clearing out unwanted items. But they can also be complicated and difficult to run if you don’t have the right understanding of how estate sales work and what makes them successful. Here are some practical tips for estate sale success that you can use to make sure you get as many sales as possible.

Estate Sale Success

Do Advance Research on Items

You don’t want to list an item for sale for a low price based on your first instinct only to find out later that it was actually worth a large sum of money. So before opening the doors to your estate sale, go through any items you aren’t familiar with and do some research on value. You can use eBay’s “advanced” search to filter items that have already sold. If you sort by “highest priced” first, you can see what’s highly valued and what’s not.

Clearly Mark Prices

Bargaining is often a big part of estate sales. But you still have to make it as easy as possible for customers to make decisions about different items. If you don’t mark anything, you’re basically forcing people to hunt you or your family members down to ask the price. And then crowds and chaos may force them to give up even trying and walk away from a potential purchase.

Make Sure the Entire House is Properly Staffed

It’s not enough to just have one person available to collect money from buyers. You should have family members or others covering each room of the house so that they can answer questions from customers and cut down on theft.

Set Up a Table for Purchases

You’ll need a decent space near the entrance of the home so that shoppers have enough room to set down the items they’re purchasing and you have enough space to collect their money and complete each sale. You might also keep any small but valuable items at or near that front table to cut down on theft.

Get a Cash Box and Make Sure You Have Change

If you don’t have enough small bills to make change, you may lose sales. Folks come to estate sales prepared to buy, so you can expect hundred dollar bills to be handed to you that you’ll need to make change for. So get yourself a proper cash box so you can keep all of your change and the money from sales safe and organized.

Clearly Mark Parking Areas

If you want people to come to your sale, they’ll need a place to park. Use yellow tape or orange cones if possible to clearly mark the areas where you want customers to park. If they don’t see any designated spaces, they might just park on the property itself, which could cause damage. Or they might even leave altogether.

Be Prepared for Large Crowds Early

Shoppers head out to estate sales as soon as the sun comes up. If you’re still inside setting up and people start wandering in, it could lead to a loss of sales or even theft. Estate sales can start as early as 6 or 7 AM, so it’s usually good practice to get everything set up the night before.

Provide Beverages for Sale

If the house is hot and crowded and the air conditioning is turned off because the doors are all open, people are likely to get thirsty. If they can easily purchase bottled water for a dollar or two, you can not only increase your sales totals, but you can also ensure that they stay longer to shop around.

Keep Items for Sale in Areas of the House Where They Belong

Estate sale shoppers are accustomed to seeing certain types of items in certain places. And if they’re looking for something in particular, they’re likely to go directly to that part of the house to look for it. So if someone is looking for kitchen appliances, they’ll probably head right to the kitchen. If they don’t see any there, they might just leave without looking through the rest of the house. So keep tools in the basement, keep linens in the bedrooms, keep kitchen appliances and dishware in the kitchen, keep dining items in the dining room, and keep household decor in the living room. This can cut down on chaos and streamline things for shoppers and collectors.

Keep Children Out of the Fray

Estate sales are chaotic enough without you adding any of your own family’s confusion. If family members or your own children are running around underfoot and grabbing items, playing with them and moving them from room to room – shoppers may become frustrated and leave.

Keep Pets off the Premises

Estate sales can be stressful for dogs and other animals. The large crowds and chaotic atmosphere could cause animals to become fearful and potentially react in a dangerous or aggressive manner, even if that’s not their normal tendency. In addition, you don’t know how all of the different shoppers are going to react to or treat your animals. You don’t want Sparky biting anyone because his tail was stepped on, or because some stranger attempted to touch him and he was afraid.

Advertise – EVERYWHERE!

You can advertise your estate sale in local newspapers, mobile apps, on bulletin boards at the local grocery store, and by blasting out messages to your social media followers.

Use Signage to Provide Directions to the Location

In addition, many shoppers stop by estate sales just because they saw some signage while they were already out and about. Start with funneling passers by in from major roadways and then guide them right to the front door by providing clear, legible, signs that have large font and are easy to read when breezing by in a vehicle. So keep it simple with an arrow and an address.

Hire a Professional

There are also some professionals and companies that focus specifically on helping people set up and run estate sales. So if you feel like you are out of your element or don’t have the time to run a successful estate sale, consider getting in touch with one of those companies.


ResearchDo Advance Research on ItemsResearch the value of unfamiliar items using eBay’s “advanced” search to determine their worth.

PricingClearly Mark PricesPrice all items to make it easy for customers to decide on purchases and avoid confusion.

StaffingProperly Staff the Entire HouseHave family members or staff in each room to answer customer questions and deter theft.

SetupSet Up a Table for PurchasesCreate a designated space near the entrance for customers to set down items and complete sales.

Cash FlowGet a Cash Box and Prepare ChangeEnsure you have enough small bills and a proper cash box to provide change for customers.

ParkingMark Parking Areas ClearlyUse markings to designate parking areas to prevent property damage or confusion.

PreparationBe Prepared for Large Crowds EarlyStart setting up the sale the night before to accommodate early shoppers and prevent theft.

RefreshmentProvide Beverages for SaleOffer beverages for sale to keep customers hydrated and encourage longer shopping periods.

OrganizationKeep Items in Their Respective AreasOrganize items by room to help customers find what they’re looking for and reduce chaos.

ControlKeep Children Out of the FrayEnsure family members and children do not disrupt the sale to prevent frustration among shoppers.

Pet SafetyKeep Pets off the PremisesAvoid having pets on the premises due to potential stress and safety concerns for shoppers.

PromotionAdvertise EverywherePromote the estate sale through various channels such as local newspapers, mobile apps, etc.

SignageUse Signage for DirectionsUse clear signage to guide potential buyers to the sale location, especially from major roads.

ProfessionalConsider Hiring a ProfessionalSeek assistance from professionals or companies specializing in estate sale management if needed.

Additional Tips for Estate Sale Success

Running a successful estate sale involves more than just pricing items and opening your doors. To maximize your sales and create a seamless experience, consider these additional tips:

Organize Discounts: As the sale progresses, consider implementing discounts or special deals on remaining items to encourage sales.
Accept Various Payment Methods: Be prepared to accept different payment methods, including cash, credit cards, and digital payments, to cater to a wider range of customers.
Provide Bags and Packaging: Offer shoppers bags or boxes to carry their purchases conveniently, reducing the risk of damage to items.
Offer Assistance for Heavy Items: If you have large or heavy items for sale, have staff available to help customers load them into their vehicles.
Arrange for Security: Consider hiring security personnel or having a trusted individual present to deter theft and ensure a safe shopping environment.
Display High-Value Items Securely: If you have particularly valuable items, consider showcasing them in a locked display cabinet or case for added security.
Stay Informed About Local Regulations: Check local regulations regarding permits, taxes, and operating hours for estate sales, and ensure compliance to avoid any legal issues.
Maintain a Clean and Organized Environment: Regularly tidy up and reorganize items as they sell to keep the shopping area clean and inviting.
Offer Restroom Facilities: If possible, provide restroom facilities for shoppers’ convenience, especially for longer-duration sales.
Keep Emergency Contacts Handy: Have a list of emergency contacts and relevant information readily available in case of unforeseen situations.
Consider Online Sales: Supplement your in-person estate sale with online listings for valuable or unique items to reach a broader audience.
Create a Warm and Welcoming Atmosphere: Play soft background music and consider offering light refreshments to create a pleasant shopping atmosphere.
Practice Effective Communication: Ensure clear communication with shoppers about sale details, such as closing times and any unique policies.


Organize DiscountsImplement discounts or special deals on remaining items as the sale progresses.

Accept Various Payment MethodsBe prepared to accept cash, credit cards, and digital payments to cater to a wider range of customers.

Provide Bags and PackagingOffer shoppers bags or boxes for convenient item transportation and to reduce the risk of damage.

Offer Assistance for Heavy ItemsHave staff available to assist customers with loading large or heavy items into their vehicles.

Arrange for SecurityConsider hiring security personnel or having a trusted individual present to deter theft and ensure safety.

Display High-Value Items SecurelyShowcase valuable items in locked display cabinets or cases for added security.

Stay Informed About Local RegulationsCheck local regulations for permits, taxes, and operating hours to ensure legal compliance.

Maintain a Clean and Organized EnvironmentRegularly tidy up and reorganize items as they sell to keep the shopping area clean and inviting.

Offer Restroom FacilitiesProvide restroom facilities for shoppers’ convenience, especially for longer-duration sales.

Keep Emergency Contacts HandyHave a list of emergency contacts and relevant information readily available for unforeseen situations.

Consider Online SalesSupplement in-person sales with online listings for valuable or unique items to reach a broader audience.

Create a Warm and Welcoming AtmospherePlay soft background music and offer light refreshments to create a pleasant shopping atmosphere.

Practice Effective CommunicationClearly communicate sale details, closing times, and policies to shoppers for a smoother experience.

Post-Estate Sale Cleanup and Closure

The work doesn’t end when the last customer leaves your estate sale. Properly closing and cleaning up after the event is essential for a successful and stress-free conclusion. Here are some valuable tips for the post-estate sale phase:

Account for All Sales: Ensure all transactions are accurately recorded, and sales are accounted for to reconcile your finances effectively.
Secure Valuables: Safely store any remaining valuable or unsold items, especially if you plan to host future sales or auctions.
Dispose of Unsellable Items: Responsibly dispose of items that didn’t sell or are damaged beyond repair. Consider donating usable but unsold items to local charities.
Remove All Signs and Markings: Take down any signage used for directions and advertisement to maintain a clean and tidy neighborhood.
Assess and Document Any Damage: Check for any damage to your property or items during the sale, and document it for insurance purposes.
Thank Your Staff: Show appreciation to any family members or hired help who assisted during the sale. A simple thank-you gesture can go a long way.
Evaluate the Sale: Reflect on the success of the estate sale. Consider what worked well and where improvements could be made for future sales.
Plan for Donations: Arrange for donations to be picked up promptly if you’ve promised items to charitable organizations.
Properly Dispose of Hazardous Materials: If your estate sale involved items like chemicals or electronics, ensure they are disposed of following local regulations.
Clean and Restore the Property: Tidy up the entire property, restoring it to its pre-sale condition. This includes cleaning, mowing the lawn, and addressing any wear and tear.
Address Any Remaining Debts: Settle any outstanding debts or payments related to the estate sale, such as vendor fees or advertising expenses.
Promote Future Sales: If you plan to host more estate sales in the future, use this opportunity to promote them or gather contact information from interested buyers.
Thank Your Customers: Consider sending thank-you notes or emails to your customers to express your gratitude for their participation.

Estate Sale Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “14 Tips for Hosting a Successful Estate Sale” was first published on Small Business Trends