Why an Estate Sale Might Not Be Your Best Downsizing Disposal Option

An estate sale may not be your best disposal option.

If you’re downsizing, or helping someone who is, pay close attention to what I’m about to share: an estate sale might not be your best downsizing disposal option.

Most downsizers have heard of estate sales and their luring appeal. They’ve probably been told it’s one of the easiest ways to dispose of a large volume of household items, furniture, art, garage items, etc., rather than trying to sell individual items on their own.  It has been an excellent resource I’ve recommended to my clients many times.

But if a person isn’t using a Downsizing Specialist, Home Organizer, or other transition professional, who is knowledgeable about estate sales, they may not be aware that it has its limitations.  This can lead to some ugly and unwanted surprises as your move fast approaches.

Here are 5 of the ways it might not be a good fit.

Have what it takes to meet an estate sale volume minimum?

Do you meet the minimum sales volume an estate sale requires?

Each estate sale company has a minimum sale volume target they go by to gauge whether it’s worth their time, staff resources, and the marketing dollars required to draw buyers in. In general, most estate sale companies will not accept a client with items that would generate less than $5,000 to $10,000 in gross sales.

Depending on the company, you’ll pay between 40-60% of the proceeds in compensation to the estate sale company. This pays for planning time, onsite staff, traffic control, advertising, and other business costs.

Many HOA’s have restrictions on estate sales

Homeowner Associations May Not Allow Them

Many home communities that operate under an HOA have rules and regulations about onsite estate sales. Some prohibit them entirely because of previous resident complaints of traffic, parking limitations, or security concerns.

If you’re considering an estate sale in your downsizing planning, be sure to check with your HOA representative to ensure this is allowed or if there are special requirements you will be required to follow.

Some HOAs require permission requests at least 2-weeks in advance before an event takes place. Others require full-time staff at all access points into the community for traffic control while the event is happening. This would also be something that the estate salesperson needs to know.

Elaborately styled or high-priced antiques may not be appropriate for an estate sale.

Your Items May Be Too Valuable or Not Valuable Enough.

A successful estate sale depends on offering a wide variety of items. These include a mix of higher-value items and ‘bargain’ prices to entice a wider range of buyers.

If you are primarily selling very high-end items, you may be in for a shock. Estate companies want to get top dollar, but they also need a high sales volume in a very short sales period. If buyers balk because of high pricing, the estate sale company may not meet their minimum sales goal.

So, it’s crucial to have an open, honest conversation with an estate agent about your expectations on pricing. They reserve the right to price items so that they’ll sell quickly. If you both have different expectations as to what those prices are, and you aren’t flexible, then the estate company will probably pass.

An estate company may also pass if your items have significant wear or are significantly outdated. This can be sticky for people who are unrealistic about the market value of their couch from 1972. It may be rarely used and in pristine condition, but younger demographics have different style preferences today.

30-day escrows can be difficult to navigate and plan an estate sale.

A Quick Escrow Close May Be Problematic.

Let’s say you’ve just sold your home and accepted less than a 30-day close of escrow. You probably won’t have time to put an estate sale process in motion. Estate sale companies require that the owner move out of their homes before they start preparing for the event.

It can be difficult to adequately display items when the client still has the items they are taking in the home. It’s also a security risk. The estate sale company doesn’t want the liability of items not included in the sale.

Once they have full access to the home, it then takes between 2-3 weeks to price your items, set up the displays, and market the event. For this reason, it’s highly unlikely that a person would be able to pack, move, and meet the sale event timeline in such a short escrow period.

Not all smaller or rural communities have estate sale services.

Estate Sale Companies May Not Serve Your Area.

Estate sale companies may not serve certain communities that they deem outside their service area. So, if you, or a client, live in a rural area or a small town without a local estate sale company, you may not be able to convince a business in the next town to provide service. With gas prices at such high levels, businesses are having to make hard decisions about how far they’ll go geographically.

Meet with an Estate Sale Professional Early in the Process.

The Takeaway

For all the reasons listed above, it’s crucial to do your homework. Contact an estate sale company as early as possible in your planning process. That’s often before you know the exact date that you’ll be moving.

Ask the representative if they’ll do a preliminary visit to your home. They can give you an idea of whether you are a good candidate for an estate sale. If you aren’t, it gives you time to research other options.

Get clear on any limitations this disposal option has for your unique situation and plan accordingly. You’ll feel less stress and move day will be a much more pleasant experience if you do.


P.S. If you’re moving into a retirement community, it’s important to know the unique guidelines and restrictions you’ll be working with on move day. Try my quick Tips & Strategies for a Stress-Free Retirement Community Move video guide/class! Available now as part of my Downsizing Made Simpler Series at The Downsizing Institute.