Tag Archives: Difference between estate sale and auction

Estate Sales, Auctions, What Is The Difference

gavelEstate Sale sign


Estate Sales News in the course of doing it’s daily research on the Internet discovered that one of the internet sites it came across that offered information said that estate sales are a form of auction.

Your Estate Sales News Editor was a licensed Auctioneer for several years and estate sales are not auctions. You can sell an estate at auction, but an estate sale is not an auction.

An auction is where customers “bid” on the items for sale. Sometimes with a reserve (a minimum price that will be accepted). Most auctions (not all) charge the seller a commission and a buyer’s premium (a percentage of the selling price). Most auctions have a two hour to several day preview session and then the auction date and time is set. The auction most likely will have a printed catalogue with the lot number and brief description of the items for sale.

An estate sale will usually take place over 2 or 3 days within a specified time. With an estate sale the seller pays the commission. There are no buyer premiums. The items are staged, set out,  and priced. There usually isn’t a preview and you will not be given a catalogue. Although bids may be accepted, it will be in writing and left with the estate liquidator and if the item is unsold toward the end of the sale, the liquidator will usually call the person that left the highest bid. You may never know what that bid was.

An estate sale is usually a local event or within 50 miles although some sales have attracted buyers from 100’s of miles away. An auction can be local, but it can also draw buyers from almost anywhere if they use the internet to have phone in bidders. Some estate sales with very high priced items will accept phone orders and send the items.

In either event, the liquidator or the auctioneer is usually the professional setting the price or pace for the items for sale. Auctioneers should be knowledgeable and may also use appraisers on some items just as estate liquidators do on occasion.