How Much Do Estate Sale Companies Charge?

How much estate sale companies charge depends on a number of factors, but one thing is certain: setting up and running an estate sale isn’t as easy as it seems. Instead of getting sticker shock at an estate sale company’s 25-45% commission rate, knowing what goes on behind the scenes can help put the price in context.

clerk adds cost of items for a customer at an estate sale

Most estate sale companies charge a percentage of the total sales. While this might seem strange, considering they don’t own the family heirlooms, keep in mind this percentage pays for all the services they provide - much more than just the day-of operations. Estate sale company commission rates vary and may depend on a number of factors, including:

  • How experienced the estate sale company is. The more experienced the estate sale company is, the more they can charge for their expertise. It’s also a matter of trust and preference. Who do you want handling your sale? The novice estate sale company at a discount or a company with twenty years of references that charges a bit more?
  • Size of the estate. Bigger properties usually require more time cleaning setting up, itemizing and clearing out. This requires more time and human power.
  • Necessary turnaround time. Ever heard the phrase - Good, Fast, Cheap. Pick 2. It works with estate sales, too. If you want an estate sale to be done quickly, it’s not going to be at a discount.
  • Regional differences. What one pays in Chicago will probably differ from a rural Oklahoma estate sale. Research rates in your area to get an idea of how much estate sale companies charge.

Estate sale companies charge money for their time, expertise, and service. Knowing how to set up your estate sale requires much more time and effort than holding a garage sale or yard sale. This is why people hire professional estate sale companies in the first place. A good estate sale company has expertise in pricing and appraisal. This means they have knack for pricing items at the sweet spot between getting the most for its value and encouraging estate sale shoppers to actually buy it. Sometimes emotional attachment to items can cloud judgment. An objective professional can help guide the process. Proper appraising skills come with years of experience and are best handled by a professional, rather than trying to look it up on eBay, pricing it at sticker value, or worse -- winging it.

There are a battalion of checks that need to be marked; accompanied by even more hats that need to be worn by the end of the estate sale. In fact, in my experience - very few individual people have the complete, unabridged scope and necessary skills to pull it all off (especially in today’s technologically & digital-driven world).
- Douglas Terry, EMPOWERED Estate and Vehicle Sales

After appraising and pricing estate sale items, an estate sale company sets up and organizes the estate to get in good shape for shoppers. Depending on the condition of the estate, the initial clean up and set up may take several days and a few staff members. This is also something someone might not have time for, especially if in the middle of moving, handling last-minute affairs, or working a full-time job.

Estate Sales By The Numbers Infographic
The most common commission rate charged by a company according to an poll is 45%.

From Estate Sales By The Numbers infographic.

Another service estate sale companies charge for is advertising and marketing your sale. It’s one thing to have a great estate full of valuable items. It’s another to get shoppers in the door. Estate sale companies take care of blasting the sale out to their established email lists, post the sale on estate sale listing the Internet, and share it all over social media. This is either factored into the commission price or tacked on as an extra fee.

Managing the estate sale and making sure everything runs smoothly, including devising a system of operations and handling cashier duties, is probably the most important aspect of the sale. It may also be the most difficult. It can be emotional selling off personal items. Having an estate sale company to handle everything can really help. Instead of having to worry about items sold or putting on a pleasant face under stress, pay an estate sale company to run the show.

After the sale ends, there are still more tasks to take care of. A good estate sale company keeps detailed records for tax-purposes and a copy of this should be included in their services. Figuring out how to handle the remainders or leftover items may also be an extra charge. Some estate sale companies will charge more to handle clean out and charity pickups and donations. These services involve more time and more staff.

In addition to a percentage of the proceeds for commission, some estate sale companies may charge extra fees. Fees could be for staff, end-of-sale clean outs, charity pickups or donations, or any other reason that should be explained up front and outlined in the estate sale contract. Never be afraid to ask a prospective company for the breakdown of charges ahead of time. And never pay up front.

Estate sale companies stay competitive with each other. Research what estate sale companies charge in your area to get a good estimate of the average. Then decide whether you want to pay more or less. While estate sale companies aren’t officially regulated, professional organizations like ASEL and NESA help provide industry accreditation for people looking for references. While estate sale companies charge whatever they want, ultimately, the price you’re willing to pay is up to you.

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