Estate Sales or Auctions?

To have an Estate Sale or to consign to an Auction House…?

This is the question many people have to answer when dealing with the personal property of a decedent…

Let’s take a look at these two options:

Estate Sale

Estate Sales are a fairly new societal phenomenon. True, in some areas they have been going on for years, but overall, in many communities of the country, estate sales are a relatively new option for selling a households contents.

Good news about Estate Sales:

Estate Liquidation has become an industry, and the conducting of estate sales as a liquidation tool, has become professionalized. In every major city, estate sale signs can be seen on street corners, or hanging from utility poles.

This is a growing industry, fresher and educationally more savvy people are taking up the reins of existing estate liquidation companies, or are starting new ones.

To find an Estate Liquidator:

Look in your local phone book under Estate Liquidation, or go on line, and enter either of these keywords, Estate Sales, or Estate Liquidation. Also make sure to include the name of your city in your keyword search e.g. Estate Sales San Francisco, Estate Liquidation Los Angeles.

Estate Sales Pro’s and Con’s.


  1. Everything can take place in one central location.
  2. There are no moving charges.
  3. All items can be individually priced, which creates larger incomes.
  4. Professionals are there to do this for you.
  5. Commissions and other fees are usually lower.
  6. Estate Sales take place over a 2 or 3 day period so more buyers can attend.
  7. Prices are set, all items are marked.
  8. Better and more highly effective advertising strategies are used.


  1. There will be strangers in the decedent’s house.
  2. Potential liabilities: Ask your estate sales company for a copy of their insurance policy.

Auction House Sales

Auctions have been taking place for centuries. You can find Auction Houses all over the country; from out of the way farm auctions, to high end big city antiques auctions. In many parts of the country, there is simply no other way to liquidate personal property than an auction.

Auction House Pro’s and Con’s.


  1. High value items will realize higher prices.
  2. Household contents are immediately removed from the house, so that the house can be listed for sale.
  3. When valuable surprises are found, the right auction house can better market those items.
  4. Many auction houses put their entire auction catalogs on line, this can have a high income impact; especially for collectibles.
  5. Competitive bidding acts as an imperative.
  6. High level auction houses have in-house research staffs with access to important “Price Realized” data bases.
  7. Property can be consigned with a sale price reserve.
  8. Auction houses are located all over the country, even in rural areas.


  1. Because auctions have to sell all items found in a home during a one day sale they use “Box Lots” in order to move large volumes of personal property. This tends to dilute the prices your items will sell for.
  2. Auction House processes can drag on for many months.

My analysis of the Estate Sale or Auction Placement question is that both have positive strengths…

To successfully liquidate an estates personal property, my recommendation is to adopt a two tier approach.

  1. Consign your highest value items to the largest auction house in your area.
  2. Engage the services of a local estate liquidation company to stage an estate sale.

Many estate liquidation companies are starting to adopt this two tier approach.

Call an Estate Sales Professional in your area, and ask them if they already adopt this two tire approach, or if they are able to do so.

If you are able to find one that does, it will generally be to your advantage to engage the services of that estate liquidation company to handle all of your estate sales, and auction needs.

My name is Martin Codina and I am an Estate Liquidator who loves his job.

Where to Purchase Our Book "Liquidating an Estate"

5 thoughts on “Estate Sales or Auctions?

  1. I am moving and need to get rid of some of my stuff. However, my furniture is only 2 years old and those items are still being sold at the stores where they came from. What should I do? How do I price them?

  2. Carmen

    Your situation is darn difficult…most contemporary furniture dose not sell well at auction…only kind of well at an estate sale (Depends on the price you set).

    Often times Craigslist is a good alternative…but only if you have the time…

    To price your furniture, a good rule of thumb, is to price it somewhere between 10% and 20% of what you paid….

    All The Best…and Good Luck


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