You have the big day circled on your calendar and you’re in the home stretch — moving day is right around the corner. As you look around your house you realize some items, like that couch you bought in college or that bookshelf that takes a small army to move, just that aren’t worth lugging across state lines — or even just a few zip codes.
Whether you’re downsizing, moving to the other side of the country or are ready for a fresh start with updated furniture for your new place, you have a lot of options for getting rid of your old furniture. You can donate your couches, beds, tables and chairs to thrift stores, some of which will even come to your house and pick up your items. However, if you also want to get rid of smaller items, too, consider holding an estate sale to purge all the large items too bulky, too old or too unwanted to take with you. New to estate sales? No problem! Here are four questions to ask to decide the fate of your furniture.
What is an estate sale?
Don’t let the lofty word “estate” fool you. You don’t have to have a sprawling mansion to host an estate sale. Think of it more like a turbo-charged yard sale or garage sale. Since you’re planning on purging large, bulky items, hauling them into your front yard or driveway doesn’t make much sense. Inviting people in your house to make an offer on your belongings is the hallmark of an estate sale.
An estate sale is a useful tool for anyone who looks around their house and realizes they have accumulated more stuff than you need for your next chapter. Maybe you have a desire to live more simply, or want to pay to move only sentimental and personal items; during an estate sale, you open your doors to bargain hunters looking for good deals on larger, big-ticket items like furniture, appliances and electronics. Many people find holding an estate sale liberating — not to mention the added pocket cash can help with moving expenses, buying new furniture or starting a nest egg.
How can you advertise an estate sale?
Selling your housewares won’t happen easily if you don’t advertise. If people aren’t aware of what you’re selling, as well as when and where, then don’t be surprised if no one walks through your front door. If the idea of doing all the work yourself seems too tiring, you could consider hiring estate sale professionals. They’ll not only handle the sale itself, but also the leading-up-to tactics like pricing and advertising. But if you’re the DIY type, get ready to roll up your sleeves and get the word out. There are many ways to advertise an estate sale. Some of the most effective ways include:
- Social Media: Post to your social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, and ask your friends and family to share. Many cities and communities also have special garage sale pages that you can join and share the details there. Social media is a great hook as you can post a few pictures of the nicest items up for grabs, really enticing those bargain hunters to come knocking.
- Local Ads: You can take an ad out in your local papers, both the major newspaper and alternative weeklies. However, posting signs at coffee shops, gyms, community centers and grocery stores located near your neighborhood can also be an effective way to get the word out. Be sure to keep the wording simple and minimal; use pictures and make the address clear and bold.
- Signs: Most people drive around town hunting for garage and estate sales. Most of your foot traffic will be drawn in by these people who are out for the day on an estate sale adventure. Sometimes these are folks looking for a specific piece of furniture or item, or it can be the proprietors of antique shops searching for a rare find. Regardless, posting signs at near by major intersections is one of the top ways to bring in customers.
How can you deal with hagglers?
Pricing is one of the most stressful parts of planning an estate sale. You’ve got to find a balance between ticketing items to move and also getting a fair price. First, decide on your priorities. Do you just want to be rid of everything by the end of the day? Or do you have one-of-a-kind heirlooms that could fetch a pretty penny from the right person?
First, do some research. eBay is a great place to start. Look at similar items that are up for bidding and see how high the price goes. Consider the “buy-it-now” prices, too. Be sure to look up the same brand and year as your items, and also look to see how much the seller takes off for small damages like a pulled fiber or a small stain.
Different factors can impact pricing. The time of year you’re selling your goods can affect the prices you choose. For example, if your sale is in the fall or winter, patio furniture might be a lower ticket item. But if you’re unloading in the spring or summer, outdoor furniture and items like grills or gardening tools can be a hot commodity. However, spring is not the best time to mark up your 10-foot artificial Christmas tree, regardless of its condition.
How long should the sale last?
This is another big question many estate sellers ask, especially first-timers. The answer here depends on how much stuff you have to unload and how much time you have before you move. It’s not uncommon for garage sales, yard sales and estate sales to last an entire weekend. Many people feel that a Friday sale is like getting a head start against the competition, so if you have some high-dollar items, opening up at noon or 1 on a Friday for an advertised “pre-sale” could really move your belongings.
Determining duration is really a play-it-by-ear decision. If Sunday rolls around and your Grandma’s couch is still sitting in your living room, you might want to redraw your battle plan. Lower your prices and add another weekend, or maybe consider other options besides sales. You can post pictures of your remaining items on Craigslist and try to get them out the door that way. You can also reach out to consignment shops and see if they’re willing to move your items for you. That way, you can purge the items immediately, but you’ll have some delay on reaping the financial rewards.
Moving takes an unbelievable amount of planning and time-management. From finding your new home to deciding how to make the leap, you have plenty to do and what seems like not enough time to accomplish it all. Purging your large items before a long move can be a way to really reduce the stress of hiring movers (or bribing friends), determining the moving truck’s square footage, or finding a new home that fits your current belongings exactly. An estate sale can be the breath of fresh air you need to feel really good about this exciting time of change.