TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL ESTATE OR YARD SALE

 by Michelle J. Lane, Realtor

It is that time of year again – ideal time for spring cleaning and yard sales.  As many of you know, my area of expertise is estate sales – not hosting the sale of personal possessions, but selling estate homes when a family member has passed.  In that role, I have helped many a client clear out the home of a lifetime of possessions.  So I would like to share my tips with you here.  If you are selling an estate home, my team helps you arrange all this, so contact me if you would like to chat about that.

CONSIDER HIRING PROFESSIONALS

I can’t stress enough that if  you are clearing out an estate that has a lot of valuable items, consider hiring a professional company who is licensed, bonded, insured, collects and pays required sales tax, are experts in market values, appraising, pricing that generates maximum value, knows how to prep, staff, advertise, run a professional sale, and assist with after sale clean out.

 Also, it is difficult for a family to watch cherished items being sold off. Usually a professional will be able to sell quite a bit more than a family doing their own sale.

Professional estate sales companies do charge a commission, but it is a small price to pay to have a safe, legal and successful sale.   If you need names of reputable estate sale companies, we can provide that info.

However, if you feel you do not have enough valuable items to warrant a professional or just feel brave enough to go it on your own, below are tips to help you have a successful event.

PLANNING

  1. Line up a lot of Help – It takes a lot of people to pull off an estate or yard sale. The day will involve answering questions, taking money, making change, bagging up items, etc.  It is easy to get frazzled if someone is talking to you while another person is trying to buy something, and you are trying to bag up purchased items.  Imagine that multiplied by lots of questions / transactions going on at the same time.  You will also need to have people in all the rooms where there is stuff for sale.
  2. Give yourself enough time to get ready. For an estate sale, this could be weeks in advance.  You will need to inventory what you have, create a database for that inventory, write up price tags, get bagging supplies and plenty of change ready and more.
  3. Have plenty of Bags, newspaper, bubble wrap, tape, whatever you need to bag up purchased items. Start stockpiling or asking neighbors for their extras in advance.
  4. Call a Charity in advance to see if you can drop off whatever is leftover or have them pick up when the sale is over.
  5. Make special and unique SOLD or PAID tags so they cannot be duplicated. See the section on minimizing theft for more details on this.
  6. Put price tags on everything, with descriptions of the items if possible.
  7. If you have a lot to sell, create a database of the item and its price.

TO MAXIMIZE YOUR INCOME

  1. Check items that could be valuable online or pay a professional to come through and tell you what is valuable and what is a fair price. You don’t want to see your items on Antique Roadshow as the find of a lifetime for someone else. If you find valuable items in the mix, it may be better to sell on eBay, Facebook, Craigslist, at an auction or sell to an antique dealer to get top dollar.  People who come to estate and yard sales are looking for bargains.   
  2. Advertise on Estate Sale sites, Facebook, and other sites that make sense – well in advance.
  3. Last day is 50% off. Don’t give discounts before then.  If there is still a lot left halfway through the last day, consider lowering prices even more.  If you have a lot of small, low value items, consider $5 or $10 bags in the last hours.
  4. For Yard Sales, make signs that say prices are as marked until a certain time at the end of the sale so you don’t get into haggling – unless you like haggling.  But remember that takes your attention off watching your inventory.
  5. Price to sell. Don’t put the top price you see online.  Those are retail prices for people who don’t need to sell right away.
  6. Have items marked with some details such as what the jewelry is made of, dimensions and brands of furniture, provenance of art so that people know what they are buying and why it is priced where it is.
  7. Clean the higher priced items and show them in their best light.
  8. Just because it is old does not mean it is valuable. Let go emotionally of what your family paid for an item or the notion that because it belonged to grandma it is valuable.  Otherwise, you will overprice items and they will not sell.  Many things you think are valuable are not of interest to young buyers – things like China, Crystal, figurines are not of interest to the younger generation. 
  9. People will show up early and start lining up – sometimes an hour or two in advance if it is a big estate sale.  Get some enterprising person to sell coffee and snacks outside during this time!

TO PREVENT THEFT

It is a shame to have to say this, but there are professional Yard and Estate sale thieves.  They employ many tactics from swapping price tags, having one person distract staff by asking lots of questions or asking to see something while their partner(s) pocket small items, walking out the door with the items without paying, etc.  If you are not prepared for this, you will lose valuable items and you will be frazzled.  An once of prevention, as they say……

  1. Do not allow large bags or purses or even bulky coats. Advertise this in advance.  Should people show up with bags, ask them to lock in their car or have someone who can check bags.
  2. Do not leave any entrance or exit unattended – staff every door. If it is a Yard sale, have the ‘register’ at the end of the driveway or exit so no one passes without paying.
  3. Have one person in every room. Also have a person at every exit. 
  4. Keep Jewelry under lock and key or have staff wear the pieces!
  5. Don’t let people walk around with items in their hand. If they will be doing a lot of shopping, they should pay for each piece as they decide on it and one of the helpers can then bag up and hold for them.  You can have a table dedicated to this process.
  6. Make sure people do not roll things up in rugs – yes that has happened.
  7. Price switching is big at Yard and Estate sales. So, if possible, write both the item description and price on the tags to make them harder to switch.
  8. Special colored paper or tags to mark SOLD items… you’ll be amazed at how many try to say they paid for an item by putting their own “sold and paid” sign on it. People using their own post its to say SOLD on items they can’t physically move, iscommon. You’ll need specific PAID receipts that are not easy to fake.
  9. Don’t let people corner you or point to items to get you to turn your head or distract you. If everything is marked, you should be able to say the information / price is on it.  Professional thieves are experts at distracting you by pointing at items and asking questions while they or their partner pocket items.  Don’t let people look at more than one piece of jewelry at a time. And don’t think you know who will or will not do this.  Where I live, there is a band of sweet looking old ladies who have been doing this at yard sales for years.  Probably still at it now.

TO BE COURTEOUS TO BUYERS

  1. No early birds. Don’t let people in early or sell to them early.  For one, it will throw you off your game if you are busy trying to get ready.   It also angers the people who show up at the right time only to find that a lot of the good stuff is already sold.
  2. Have a lot of change available – you don’t want to be running around through the mayhem looking for small bills and change.
  3. Do not allow people to make piles of things they want to buy. They see something they want they should bring it to the check out table, pay for it and have it held for them.
  4. Make sure staff are easy to identify and find.

LOGISTICS

  1. Name tags for people working the sale. Identical T-shirts would be even better.  People working the sale should be easy to spot.
  2. Post notes on doors or cabinets that are not to be opened. Lock them if you can.
  3. Whenever possible, line items up around the perimeter of the rooms so you do not create bottlenecks.
  4. If someone buys something large and says they will come back with help to pick it up, get their contact info.
  5. Have checkout lines. That way you can equip those people with change and bags and it will keep things orderly.  Have ‘This Way to Checkout’ signs posted everywhere.  Have those lines at the exit, which ideally, is not the same as the entrance.
  6. Price tags!! People hate having to find someone to ask the price.  Worse is when they ask and the seller looks at it like they have never considered what they would sell it for and take up time trying to figure that out.
  7. If you are overwhelmed, give people numbers, like a deli counter, and only let in a limited number of people at a time. When one leaves and turns in their number, give it to the next in line.
  8. Consider using payment methods other than cash – Square Reader for credit cards, Venmo for phone to phone payments, etc. Less time counting change!
  9. Consider partnering with professional movers. Have them outside with a truck.  That way, anyone who buys big furniture pieces can immediately pay them to move them to their house rather than needing to come back with help and a truck.
  10. Have a plan for leftovers – call area donation centers ahead of time to find out what their policies are on large donations. If you have a lot of unsold items, you may be able to arrange a truck to come pick them up at the end of the sale, or you can assign someone to take them to a drop-off location.  You may also have to hire a dumpster or a junk removal company for the last of the stuff that a charity won’t take.

Again, if you need help or recommendations on any professionals, just contact me. Information is below.

 

Michelle J. Lane
MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904
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