Estate Sales vs Estate Auctions (Pros and Cons)
Paul Williamson – October 1st, 2020
Paul Williamson – October 1st, 2020
Estate sales or liquidating your loved one’s possessions is often a challenge. For several reasons, you may want to hire a professional for this complex undertaking. But then begs the question: Should you host an estate sale or an estate auction?
When it comes to estate sales vs estate auctions, it’s best to learn about both to determine which would best accomplish your objective. Learn about the pros and cons of each estate liquidation option so you can make an informed decision.
Maybe your loved one recently passed away. Now, you must liquidate their personal property, household items, and collectibles, such as costume jewelry, fine art, or a mid-century modern living room suite. Or, you may need to hold an estate liquidation event to comply with their will or trust requirements.
Alternative scenarios may include the homeowner retiring, downsizing to a more maintenance-friendly property, or moving to an assisted living facility. Job relocations, divorce resolution requirements, and bankruptcy issues may also dictate an estate liquidation.
In an estate sale vs auction comparison, the desired outcome is the same: estate liquidation. However, each event uses different methods to accomplish that goal.
Estate sales, often called “estate sales auctions,” are multi-day sale events that are often held at the loved one’s house. Estate sale companies coordinate each event, and they typically occur shortly before a real estate agent lists the property.
Besides hosting traditional estate sales, some estate sale companies hold several-day online estate sales. The estate sale company displays items’ photos online to draw interested buyers. After the sale ends, buyers pay for their items, and associates handle the shipment details.
An auction company (or auction service) may host an estate auction at the loved one’s home. Alternatively, the estate auction may take place at the company’s auction house (or auction gallery).
After attendees have inspected the auction items, an auctioneer invites bids for each item or lot of items. Some auction houses supplement their live auction with online auction bids for the same items. Other auction services accept online-only bids for certain items.
Every weekend, estate liquidators host estate sales in every state across the country, from northern New York to Southern California.
These events are often called “tag sales” because items have individual price tags.
Estate sales differ from garage sales because, at an estate sale, everything in the home and across the property is for sale. Although you may not agree with every price tag, a reputable estate sale company endeavors to price items near market value.
Before the sale begins, the estate liquidator sorts, prices, and displays estate sale items and memorabilia throughout the house. They may ask appraisers to evaluate higher-end pieces. The liquidator advertises the sale in print and online media, and they send email notifications to their mailing list. The liquidator may also use street signs to attract enthusiastic shoppers.
On the day of the sale, the estate liquidator oversees crowd control and ensures that everything runs smoothly. A professional estate sale company provides shoppers with customer assistance and checkout services. If COVID-19 is a concern, the associates will take appropriate precautions.
After the sale ends, the estate liquidator removes unsold items from the house. The estate sale company may take items to upcoming estate sales, donate them to charity, or throw them into a dumpster.
Some companies allow customers to purchase large items during the sale and pick them up after the sale. The estate sale contract may also allow for paid-for items to be shipped to purchasers. Finally, a house cleanout is included in some estate sale company service fees, while other companies charge extra for this estate service.
Now that we’ve covered estate sales, let’s discuss how estate auctions work. Similar to an estate sale, an estate auction liquidates the contents of a loved one’s home.
In this instance, however, unlike a multi-day estate sale, an auction company establishes the date and time for a one-day auction. The company also determines whether to hold the event at the home or at the company’s auction house. Rather than buying items outright, attendees purchase items (or lots) by placing the highest bids on them.
The auction company’s pre-auction tasks depend on where the auction will take place. If the event will be held at the home, the company evaluates and organizes the auction items there. If the auction will take place at the auction house, the seller pays for the transport of all items to that location.
Preparing for an onsite auction can take several weeks. During this period, auction company personnel sort and catalog the for-sale items. Then, the company allows potential buyers to preview the items.
To maximize buyer interest, the auction company markets the event in local and national venues. Besides listing the auction on the company’s website, the event appears on national auction locator sites as well. The company sends event information to its own mailing list and can add more potential buyers from purchased mailing lists, too.
On the auction day, attendees preview auction items before the auctioneer steps to the podium. Potential buyers must first obtain a bidder’s number, which they use to bid on auction items. If they win a bid, the auctioneer calls out their bidder number. Absentee buyers may submit virtual bids for items they’ve previewed online.
Once the auction begins, it typically proceeds at a fast pace for several hours. The auctioneer introduces each item or lot, and attendees bid by holding up their paddle or bidder number. After attendees submit their successful bid(s), they head to the auction office to pay for their purchase(s).
After the auction closes, purchasers pay for each item they won. The purchaser also pays a buyer’s premium, or surcharge, on each purchased item. Each premium represents a percentage of the item’s “sold” price.
Each buyer must immediately remove their paid-for items from the premises. Buyers who cannot haul very large items may be allowed to pick them up by arrangement.
Choosing between hosting an estate sale and an estate auction can be tricky. If you can’t decide between an estate sale or estate auction, view the pros and cons of each estate liquidation method below. It’s easier to make an informed decision when you have all the details at your fingertips.
|Central Location: No Need to Move Items Elsewhere
|No Need for Strangers to Enter Home (if Held at Auction House)
|Extended Duration: More Potential Buyers
|Buyers Can Preview Items Before Auction Starts
|Individually Priced Items
|Online and Absentee Bidding Means More Buyers
|Many Marketing Vehicles Increase Sale Exposure
|Bidding Often Means Higher Selling Prices
|Offers May Be Accepted on More Valuable Items
|Seller Quickly Receives Sale Proceeds
|Strangers Haggling Over Loved One’s Possessions
|One-Day Event May Limit Buyers’ Attendance
|Drastic Price Reductions Diminish Sales Proceeds
|Offsite Auctions Incur Items’ Transport Costs
|Potential Liability Issues if Accidents Occur
|Long Lead Times to Set Up Auction and Get Online Bids
|Buyers Must Quickly Remove Purchased Items
After you’ve reviewed the estate sale and estate auction details, it’s time to select the best option for your needs.
To find an estate liquidator or estate auction company, perform your research, ask for references, and attend one of their events. Make your decision, and prepare to wrap up the estate liquidation in the near future.
Attending nearby estate sales and auctions will help you learn more about the industry and give you an idea of what to expect at your estate liquidation event. Every weekend, you’ll likely find estate sales within easy driving distance (and perhaps within walking distance). In Southern California, this estate sale finder is your go-to guide for finding estate sales near you this weekend.
In other parts of the country, EstateSales.net and EstateSales.org have searchable databases that contain updated estate sale and auction information for many cities and towns. Both databases also allow you to sign up for estate sale and estate auction email notifications.
Finally, get insider tips on finding estate sales in virtually every corner of the country. Once you become an estate sale and auction goer, you’ll know which one you’d prefer to liquidate your loved one’s possessions.