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6 Simple Ways to Maximize Your Estate Sale Profits

A Guest Post from Shawna Davies –

Estate sales can be intimidating, and they tend to happen in the midst of challenging circumstances; but whatever the reason, planning an estate sale can provide much-needed financial help at a difficult time. If you need to plan an estate sale, have a look at these tips to make it as painless and effective as possible.

1. Don’t assume everyone shares your taste

If you’re preparing to move a parent into a retirement community, there may be quite a few things around their home that you think are tacky or undesirable, that you may be tempted to throw away; but as long as the item is functional, resist the temptation! Many people shop estate sales in search of retro furnishings and curios, and if your crowd is large enough, you’re virtually guaranteed a few surprises.

Get the estate clean and presentable, of course—but the time to haul working items off to the thrift store or junkyard is after your sale is finished.

2. Have a careful discussion with any involved parties

Discussing beforehand what you will sell, and at what price, is an important step to avoid hurt feelings or disagreements in the course of your estate sale. It will also provide a stronger bargaining position—antique dealers and collectors can be highly-motivated and will often haggle aggressively, so it’s important to present a united front when the time comes to discuss price.

3. Provide food

A couple boxes of donuts and a pot of coffee will draw traffic and keep customers browsing, as well as contributing to an open, friendly atmosphere in which more people will feel comfortable buying. If you have kids, encourage them to set up a little concession stand with candy bars and drinks. These little investments will be well worth the cost, and you’ll clear out a lot more of your inventory.

4. Get a mobile credit card reader

Hardly anyone regularly carries cash anymore, and you’d be amazed at how many people will pass over your sale rather than make an extra trip to an ATM. Taking checks is more risk than it’s worth, of course—and most people don’t carry their checkbooks around anyway—but Square, PayPal, and Intuit all offer a free card reader and mobile app that allow you to start taking credit cards face-to-face at your estate sale. You pay a small percentage on each swipe (around 2.75%), but your sale will be far more successful.

5. Display items attractively

Any item that you expect to bring in more than $5 or $10 should be dusted and cleaned off before your sale, and displayed at eye level. If you have items that you think are worth a little more, consider printing out positive reviews from Amazon. For TVs or other consumer electronics, have them running so that people can get an idea of display quality, etc.

6. Determine the reason for your sale

Estate sales can be an excellent way to raise money or clear out clutter, but if you know which one is your primary goal, you’ll be more successful. If your main concern is clearing out the estate as quickly as possible, price accordingly. If you need to turn a significant profit from the sale, you can set prices higher—but be prepared to defend those prices by talking up your items, interacting assertively with customers, and putting on a bit of a show.


Shawna Davies is a staff writer for Going Cellular. She has a talent for organization and helping people navigate new technology. She’s a confessed gadget freak—her latest toy is an iPhone credit card reader for her Etsy home business—but when she gets out of the house, she loves spending time at the lake with her husband and young son. They live in Beaumont, Texas.

  • Roger @ The Chicago Financial Planner October 20, 2012, 11:14 am

    Good article and two comments. We had an estate sale in 1986 when my Dad died. On the advice of our attorney we hired a women who specialized in doing this and it was the best decision we ever made. My Dad had lived in a Condo in the Near North area of Chicago and this women was a real pro. What we might have sacrificed in terms of her fees was well worth what we likely made in terms of her ability to draw people to the sale and the hassle of not doing this ourselves.

    A few years later we had a yard sale at our home (not an estate sale). After almost physically throwing some idiot off of our property for trying to haggle with me over an item priced at $0.50 we decided that in the future we would donate old items to charity. Dealing with the public in this type of setting is just not for us.

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