Family Estate Sales vs. Estate Sale Companies

People have the best of intentions.  When families are faced with the passing of a parent, they seek options for how to sell the items that remain after the family has made their selections.  Often many possessions remain and they may not know of a reputable estate sale company in their area. They may feel they can do it themselves and save money paid out in commission to a professional by having a family estate sale.  Although there can be well-run family estate sales, they can be rare.

There are many things that we are capable of doing on our own, but an on-site estate sale is an endeavor that truly does require a professional to handle. Here’s why a family estate sale can disappoint and why it is important to consider hiring a professional:

  1. Most family members do not understand the massive undertaking of arranging, organizing, sorting, discarding, setting-up, advertising, etc.
  2. They do not understand how to maximize proceeds by identifying value, grouping, finding the right buyers, etc.
  3. Handling the public in a family estate sale is no easy task.
  4. Professional estate sale companies have a ‘following’ and a database of buyers.
  5. Family can be taken advantage of in many ways, for example, if they don’t know the values, attendees might.
  6. They will not know the proper way to set up and control the crowd of buyers.
  7. Often, they will sell something for $10.00 that is worth much more, or price so high the items don’t sell.
  8. They may not know the difference between costume and genuine jewelry to be sold (this is common).
  9. What you paid for an item and what it will sell for are two totally different things.
  10. They may throw away/give away something of significant value.
  11. Seller beware. If you don’t know values, someone else will.
  12. The delicate balance of pricing:  too cheap is bad, too high is equally bad.
  13. The family selling has a tendency to share stories/details of former owner with buyers.
  14. Do they know how to set up properly to avoid liability issues which can be quite serious?
  15. Family attachment = sentiment = lack of objectivity.  A professional has no attachment and offers objectivity.
  16. They may be ‘penny-wise and pound foolish’ to avoid paying the professional’s commission. The professional will bring in more proceeds than someone who has no experience; they know how to squeeze every last bit out of the estate. Even with a commission, the professional can bring in more proceeds.
  17. From a time perspective, the family will take weeks or months to prepare for a sale where the proceeds are often slim.  A professional can do it all in a short period of time.
  18. Those who conduct a family estate sale may not understand the secondary market for these items.
  19. Family generally does not possess the knowledge to identify a high dollar item or know the most relevant market/resource to sell it.
  20. Professionals often pull things that have value out of trash bags and dumpsters which the family discarded.
  21. Family does not usually possess the knowledge to price all items.
  22. It is emotionally draining to witness family possessions being criticized, handled, and walked out the door.
  23. Eager family and friends often expect a discount and pre-sale, which can be awkward to deal with.
  24. Family will encounter staffing issues for the sale.
  25. Family needs physical stamina for moving/removing, set-up. and lengthy sale day(s).
  26. Family lacks the name recognition of a professional conducting a sale.
  27. If sale is unsuccessful, you still have a house full of stuff and now have another problem to solve.
  28. Family lacks experience with negotiating and haggling of prices.
  29. Estate sale companies have the knowledge to know what items sell and what items don’t.
  30. Family may not be aware of issues like pets, odors, resident still on premises, unattended children, etc.

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