Estate Sale Or Auction – What Works For You

gavelEstate Sale signTwenty plus years ago most rural areas in the United States used the auction method of selling off the contents of a deceased persons’ estate. It was held on site and would last one or two days. Most auctioneers back then did not charge a buyer premium (only the seller paid a commission to the auctioneer) and most had no reserve. Only the large exclusive auction houses like Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Bonham, and Skinner held high end and speciality auctions.

Today let’s look at the small auction companies and estate sale companies.

Many estate sale companies have branched out into the auction business as well. They have done this for several reasons, particularly when an onsite estate sale cannot be held, there is too little in the estate to sell at an estate sale, and they can combine multiple small estates into a one day or evening event. In many cases this also provides them the ability to charge not only the seller a commission, but a buyer premium as well (a set percentage of the gross sale of the item purchased). The opportunity to possibly attract a larger audience is another factor.

There are estate sale companies that have also branched out to conduct online auctions. They do not require a brick and mortar building to conduct the auction, merely the space to store the items for sale and eventual shipment. This has become an alternative when some items fail to sell at an estate sale for various reasons and they are looking for a broader audience.

There are still more estate sale companies than auction companies and online auctions. With the rise in unemployment several years ago and the internet presence of estate sale listing sites this has greatly increased the number of estate sale liquidators. Many estate sale listing sites started off listing only estate sales and now include auctions and online auctions as all these businesses increase.

With the estate sale process one of the prime differences is that almost all take place at the property and no commission is charged to the buyer. The estate sale company has a fiduciary relationship with the seller. They work solely for them. When hired they are given access to the property to stage and price the items to be sold, and conduct a two, three or four day sale. Pricing is done before the sale. Although bids may be excepted on some items the majority of what is at the estate sale is sold based on prices determined by the estate sale company. The seller and estate sale company will have a contract that details the work to be done by the liquidator and requirements of the seller including whether the estate sale liquidator will leave the property “broom cleaned” (all unsold items removed). In most cases the only items for sale are those of the “seller(s)”. Like an auction company they have staff to assist before and during the sale.

Some hold to the concept that expensive items cannot be sold at an estate sale, however, your editor knows of several estate sale companies from the east coast to the west coast that have had sales into 6 figures and sold items in 6 figures. Many factors are involved including the area and advertising. Both estate sale companies and auctions market extensively.

The choice becomes what will work best in your region. Both methods can provide successful financial results, however, it is important to review the auction or estate sale companies you are considering, do your due diligence and choose the company that you feel will work best “with” you.