An estate sale or estate liquidation is a sale or
auction An auction is usually a process of buying and selling goods or services by offering them up for bid, taking bids, and then selling the item to the highest bidder or buying the item from the lowest bidder. Some exceptions to this definition exist a ...

to dispose of a substantial portion of the materials owned by a person who is recently deceased or who must dispose of their personal property to facilitate a move.

Reasons for an estate sale

The most common reasons for an estate sale is the death of the property owner, and the consequent need to quickly liquidate the deceased's belongings for any number of reasons: *The survivors/heirs may have no interest in the bulk of the personal belongings left by the deceased *The survivors/heirs may simply lack space to keep the belongings *The survivors/heirs cannot agree to the disposition of
tangible property In law, tangible property is literally anything that can be touched, and includes both real property and personal property (or moveable property), and stands in distinction to intangible property. In English law and some Commonwealth legal system ...
, and thus a
court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance wi ...
has ordered the goods to be sold, with the proceeds to be divided among the survivors (after payment of the estate's debts) *The
will Will may refer to: Common meanings * Will and testament, instructions for the disposition of one's property after death * Will (philosophy), or willpower * Will (sociology) * Will, volition (psychology) * Will, a modal verb - see Shall and will P ...
of the deceased may have mandated a sale of assets, or the assets may have to be sold in order to pay all or part of the estate's debts An estate sale may also occur because the property owner will be moving or has moved into a new residence where they will be unable to keep their property, such as an
assisted living An assisted living residence or assisted living facility (ALF) is a housing facility for people with disabilities or for adults who cannot or who choose not to live independently. The term is popular in the United States, but the setting is simila ...
facility, a
retirement community A retirement community is a residential community or housing complex designed for older adults who are generally able to care for themselves; however, assistance from home care agencies is allowed in some communities, and activities and socializa ...
, a
rest home A nursing home is a facility for the residential care of elderly or disabled people. Nursing homes may also be referred to as skilled nursing facility (SNF), long-term care facilities, old people's homes, care homes, rest homes, convalescent hom ...
, or the home of a family member, or in the event of divorce, foreclosure, or relocation.


Estate sales are usually conducted by a professional, for a percentage of the revenues. The liquidator may also charge the estate for the costs to give the sale, including advertising, marketing, research, labor, security, refreshments and other fees incurred in giving a successful sale. Depending on the jurisdiction, estate sales run by professional firms may be required to obtain a permit for the sale (as may also be required to conduct a garage sale) and to collect
sales tax A sales tax is a tax paid to a governing body for the sales of certain goods and services. Usually laws allow the seller to collect funds for the tax from the consumer at the point of purchase. When a tax on goods or services is paid to a govern ...
on the items sold (or otherwise determine the tax-exempt status of a buyer), and may also be limited as to advertising (for example, on the number and placement of signs along streets). The presence of a professional liquidator may be necessary because the scope of the process is likely to be overwhelming to the survivors. The liquidator has knowledge and experience with pricing items, and general value knowledge of all types of household goods and personal property value, and the specialist's experience in disposing of unsold goods in an unsentimental manner after the sale. These professionals often take a percentage of the net proceeds, anywhere from 25% to 50%.http://www.jilljudy.com/estate_sale_101" - Estate Sale 101

Admittance procedure

Since many people may attend, not all people may be able to fit into the confines of the house at the same time. The crowd thus may be controlled by a numbered sign-up sheet by the door or the issuance of 'numbers.' Typically the estate sale company will hand out numbered pieces of paper early on the first day to the people waiting in line. This is both a courtesy so that people may wait in their vehicles during inclement weather until the posted start time, and a way to prevent a 'mad rush' for the door when the sale begins. The holder of the sale will then call for the first 10 or 20 numbers. These people are admitted and they get first choice at the items. As they eventually leave, the next numbers are called and admitted. This way the company can control the number of people inside what is typically a cramped house.

Street numbers

Typically one will see in an advertisement of an estate sale, "street numbers honored" or "street numbers not honored." Street numbers are slips of paper that are generated by customers, usually dealers. These "street" numbers are then exchanged for the real, official numbered slips of paper handed out by the estate sale company. Liquidators can also choose to not honor any street numbers handed out by customers. In cases such as this, the liquidator will have wording in their ad such as "street numbers not honored" or "only our numbers honored". Liquidators will typically do this in order to avoid any customer problems or issues that arise since the street number system is open to abuse.

Sign-up sheet

Another method to control entry to the sale is a sign-up sheet, which can be as simple as a blank piece of paper taped to the front door of the estate. On this paper, customers write their names on the sheet, and when the sale begins, customers are called in to enter the sale, starting with the first name on the sheet. Like street numbers, this is also open to abuse.

See also

Estate liquidation An estate liquidation is similar to an estate sale in that the main concern or goal is to liquidate the estate (home, garage, sheds and yard) with an estate sale organization. There is no government regulation of the industry. There is also no form ...
*Garage sale


External links

*{{dmoz, Business/Retail_Trade/Retailers/Informal_Selling/, Garage and Estate Sales Contexts for auctions fr:Vide-greniers nl:Vrijmarkt