An estate sale is a difficult diy project. Before attempting it consider your options and investigate the cost of alternatives such as a professional estate seller, or auctioneer. Rare antiques should be appraised. With particularly valuable item(s), you may want to contact an auction house such as Sothebys, Christies or Bonhams and Butterfields to auction the item(s) since they have a specialized clientele.
PERSONNEL. If you still want to go ahead with your own sale, know that you will have to enlist the help of family and friends if the estate is particularly large. You will need at least a couple of people on each floor to answer questions on prices and to prevent stealing or switching price tags. Optimally, it is good to have two people at the check-out table, one to wrap the article and one to record the sale items and produce a receipt. If you have a separate entry, you will need a person manning that. If the sale includes items housed in a garage, you will need 1 to 2 people for that area alone. Additionally, just to be on the safe side, if you have a couple of able-bodied men, enlist them to help carry-out and load large pieces of furniture.
LOGISTICS. Usually estate sales are held in the home of the decedent or owner of the items to be sold. Sometimes large estates with many valuable pieces are held in rented halls. There should be a separate entry and exit if possible. This prevents confusion and makes the sale more manageable. Therefore, you will need someone giving out numbers early in the morning and when the sale opens, calling out the numbers and collecting the tickets. Be sure to block off rooms that won’t be used for the sale. If you have keepsakes that are not removed prior to the sale, locate them in a separate room, preferably under lock and key with a "do not enter" sign posted. If you are unable to secure the room by locking it, then in addition to posting the do not enter sign, crisscross the door with large yellow tape. Locate a table near the exit door for checkout. You should have a table large enough to hold an adding machine, a cash box, and store bags, boxes, and newspaper or bubble wrap under it.
Tags. You will need tags for marking the merchandise, and large signs to be posted if you are grouping items together rather than itemizing each such as books and apparel, etc. I usually use colored self-sticking tags and I code the color to a particular item, e.g. red for furniture, yellow for linens, white for household, etc. This will cut down on switching prices. Numbers. Some people buy a roll of tickets, others use colored paper and make their own. Estimated traffic and price probably will determine what you use.
Tables. Furniture to be sold can serve for display of glassware, antiques, and other valuables. Cupboards can house kitchenware, be sure to keep cupboards open for access. Locate any extra folding tables since you can always use them. Be sure to cover them with a tablecloth since it enhances presentation, and eye appeal is a necessary component of any sale. You can use dish racks to display decorative plates in an upright position. Runners. If you want to protect carpets or flooring be sure to lay down runners, but tape them down so that buyers will not trip on them.
Signage. You will need Enter and Exit signs. Optional signs are a Checkout sign and if you are accepting checks be sure to write out how or to whom the check should be made out to, for stairways you may want to post Watch Your Step signs or Please Use Handrail, or for low ceiling basement stairways, a Watch Your Head sign. Include any sale signs. There may be items in the sale that are not priceworthy, you can offer these items outside in a box with a Free sign.
Cash box. Be sure to have an initial minimum cash box of $100.00 which should include $1, $5, $10, $20 and coinage. A cash box with a removable tray allows checks to be housed under the tray and out-of-sight.
Bid Box and Bid forms. On large pricey items, a bid box allows a seller an insurance policy that these items will be sold. Be sure to have slips ready with item description, bid, and the name and phone number of the bidder. Be sure to make clear when the bids will be read and the buyer contacted to pay for and remove the item.
Boxes, Bags, Newspaper. You will need these to pack the sold items. Check out the local grocery stores for boxes, and check all family members and friends for plastic and paper bags and newspapers. You will be surprised how these supplies are quickly depleted.
Markers, pens, and extra paper are items to have on hand to mark sold or to put the buyer’s name on a box. Adding machine rolls and/or receipt pads are necessary to keep track of sales.
Tape measure is a good thing to have on hand especially if a buyer wants to measure a particular piece of furniture before buying it. Be sure to put your name on it so that you get it back.
SAFETY AND OTHER CONSIDERATIONS. It is a good idea to check to see if the insurance policy on the site of the sale, e.g. homeowners policy is current and has enough coverage in case a buyer would fall or injure themselves. Keep a keen eye for any hazards and mark them with a sign, precaution and prevention are key words in any sale.
ADVERTISING. You will find that advertising in the local paper under Estate Sales is about double in comparison to other sales such as garage or rummage sales. A cost cutting measure is to advertise in the regular rummage sale section but be sure to add in bold or capital letters "EVERYTHING MUST GO" or "SELLING OUT TO THE BARE WALLS." These are clues that this is indeed an estate sale. Be sure to mention popular items with name brands, e.g. antiques, McCoy, Roseville, etc. Add other items such as vintage clothing, linens, antique furniture, collectibles, household, and any unique items e.g. Laurel and Hardy large plaster figurines. Large machinery such as snowblowers, and tools should be mentioned and if possible you can have an earlier, separate time set for viewing sale items in the garage. If it is a two day sale, run the ad both days and if possible remove number information on the second day and replace it with a markdown notification, e.g. 50% off items under $50.
Estate Sale Signs. You can post these signs on telephone polls. Post these signs at the busiest traffic intersections, etc. nearest to the sale. It is especially helpful if these sections have traffic jams during rush hour since the driver and passengers will get a better look at the information. Give date, time and location. These signs can be purchased at building supply and hardware stores and a few should be given to you free from the newspaper when you place the ad, they may not say estate sale, but you can add those words. Be sure to post these signs a couple of days before the sale. If the sale is on Saturday, be sure to post on Thursday, or no later than Friday at rush hour. Check on your signs and replace any that are taken or destroyed.
Post Large Estate Sale Sign in window of residence and one near the boulevard with an arrow, this one should be printed on both sides so that both lanes of traffic can see it.