Tips for Effectively Staging an Estate Sale

By Pascale Saliba

There are many factors that contribute to the success of a sale. Properly staging an estate sale for potential shoppers is one of those factors that can be quite labor intensive.

Impulse purchases with shoppers account for a big chunk of consumer spending.  According to a study by Marketing Support, Inc. about one-third of all consumers make a sizable impulse buy every week.

Donald R. Lichetenstein, a professor of marketing and associate dean at the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business said in a recent publication “getting customers to see your product is the first and most important step in impulse buying”.

If I’m a buyer and I go to a clothing store, I may make an impulse purchase by buying an extra pair of pants or top.

While many shoppers frequent estate sales looking for a specific item, many shoppers come to purchase a variety of items, their goal may be reselling, up-cycling, or simply saving money by not paying the high retail prices.

Since “Seeing is Buying” estate sales have an edge, impulse buying is further increased because there are a variety of items available for potential buyers in one spot.  More choices, more impulse buys.

What can you do to increase the visibility and make the products available in the home eye-catching?

Here are some to tips from our network of estate sale companies that will help you efficiently and effectively stage an estate sale while cutting cost and increasing the selling potential.

“After 12 years of experience in conducting professional estate sales, properly staging a home makes everything more attractive and worth its value” said Kristy and Robyn from Caronna Collections, located in Oxford Maryland.

There is no denying that a properly staged home can minimize on-site injuries, and make the personal items throughout the home more attractive to potential buyers. It directly affects the bottom line, so we wanted to know more from our network of estate sale professionals.

Everyone agrees, there is no “one-size fits all” staging process. The process will change depending on the home size, amount and type of items available at the sale.

Some sales may have smaller items, while others may have more clothing or a lot of larger furniture pieces. An estate sale company must be properly equipped to handle the variations.

Prepare a Staging Action Plan

Once you’re ready to stage a home for an estate sale, an action plan must be taken into consideration.

Controlling the flow of the crowd, where to place your checkout area, and based on various geographical locations, properties can be extremely large.

In these situations, try to bring all far away outdoor items closer to the home and sale location.  This will avoid buyers from running around the property and not following your sale flow protocol.

The action plan should also include how many team members you will need and what each one of their responsibilities will be.

Some companies will assign responsibilities to different members of their team. Member A gets the garage, member B gets the kitchen, etc…

The entire team must be in constant communication to properly coordinate the staging effort and strategically combine items in their respective areas.

If team member a is responsible for the garage, and tools are found in the hallway closet by team member B, it should be moved to the garage area if that’s where all the tools will be displayed.

Estate Sale Staging Equipment & Accessories

Many estate sale companies will use what is available in the home, but almost all estate professionals own a decent supply of equipment and pieces of furniture such as tables, table covers, shelving units, jewelry showcases, and clothes racks.

“We even bring in plate racks for the kitchen, but if there’s a set of fine china in the kitchen, we keep it together and move it to a more desirable location like the dining room area. We’ve gone as far as setting up an entire dining room as if we’re expecting guests including fresh flowers we bring in if needed for final touches.” Said Kristy with Caronna Estate Sales.

Making use of existing furniture pieces in the home will showcase the smaller items being displayed, and the furniture piece itself, killing two birds with one stone as they say.

A well displayed dining room with fine china, crystal, and vases, will make the dining room furniture piece and the items desirable to potential buyers.

Estate Sale Staging in Kitchen
Using two oak hutches in the home to display the kitchen items by Ojai Estate Sales

Sell or Toss When Estate Sale Planning

“We tell our clients never to toss anything away during our initial meeting, there are specific buyers for certain items” Said Diana Tate with Tate Estate Sales located in Sonoma County, CA.

During the estate sale planning process however, some decisions must be made that protect the company and the client from any potential dangers and liabilities. Perishable items and medication as an example are not included in the sale.

Additional measures must be taken to protect sharp items, and items of high value.  Placing them closer to the checkout area for better protection and supervision is a good idea.

Personal & Sentimental Items Found

While staging an estate sale, the crew may come across personal photographs, documents, and other sentimental items such as war pins, and awards.

The estate sale companies will separate these and allow the client to make a final decision. Some clients may decide to keep the photos and include military pins in the sale. “As a courtesy, we always give our clients the option” Said Robyn with Caronna Estate Sales.

The staging team may also find items not originally accounted for as part of the sale such as jewelry or cash. The client is notified about the findings and the situation is handled in accordance with the estate sale contract agreement.

What Happens to Broken Items?

“It all depends on the items and the quantity” said Tate Estate Sales “We have many artisans in our area, if they’re looking for broken glass for artistry mosaic purposes, and we have a lot of it, we may place all the broken glass in a protective bag and include it in the sale”.

Other estate sale companies may toss items that are broken and not include them in the sale. There’s a fine line between selling or tossing away, this is something that comes with experience.

The goal is to get the best value for the client, if there’s a set of 8 dishes and one plate is broken and a second one is chipped, it may be more desirable for an estate sale buyer to purchase a set of 6 at full price instead of 7 which gives the impression of an incomplete set even though it’s an extra piece.  That one chipped plate may lower the value of all the plates and it may be better to get rid of it all together.

Experienced estate sale professionals understand their frequent shoppers and know what they desire, this has a big impact on the decisions they make when planning an estate sale.

Shiny Things Sell Better

Using Crystal when staging an estate sale
Photo Credit: Tate Estate Sales

Yes, you heard that right! Many companies will do whatever it takes to showcase and highlight valuable items. Whether a rug requires vacuuming, a furniture piece needs dusting, or crystal set of glasses needs to be washed and shined up. They get it done.

“We shine all the crystal, it helps us identify the marks when researching, we also strategically place crystal items near a window or a well-lit area to make it more attractive to potential buyers.”

Victor Burke, owner of Grasons Co. Beach Cities, a Huntington Beach estate sale company with over 8 years of experience said “Our job is to sell items at their highest value, so if there’s a TV for sale, we turn it on and buyers are attracted when they walk by and see the picture on the television.”.

Small tips such as these make a difference. When staging, it’s important to walk through the house as if you’re an estate sale shopper and see the items in their natural environment.

Items placed where they belong are always more attractive to potential estate sale shoppers, and will fetch a good price during the sale.

Lighting When Staging an Estate Sale

Before estate sale staging a living room
Living Room Before Staging and Low Lighting ~ Ojail Estate Sales
Staging a living room with proper lighting
After the staging process and the addition of lighting ~ Ojai Estate Sales

The elements that come together when the right lighting is achieved transform a room into a seamless combination of functionality and style. The lighting in a home can also change the mood.

The red couches shown in the photograph above really stand out, and look much more desirable with the proper lighting in the room.

Having proper lighting in the home will highlight the items staged, make the pricing clearly visible to potential buyers, and transform the mood during an estate sale to a more bright, positive one.

If you’re staging a home for an estate sale, and proper lighting is not available, consider bringing lighting in. You can always mark the lights you bring in as “NOT FOR SALE” and achieve a properly lit estate sale.

Remember “Seeing is Buying”!.

Organize and Group

staging holiday items for an estate sale
Photo Credit: Tate Estate Sales

Many shoppers that frequent estate sales have a particular interest, it’s important to organize the items and keep them grouped together.

Example: If there are Christmas decorations in the hallway closet, and other Christmas decorations in the garage, it’s best to group them together in one area.

“We’ve gone as far as setting up an entire Christmas Tree with the decorations at one of our sales because we had so many valuable ornaments we wanted to showcase” Said Kristy with Caronna Estate Sales.

When a buyer is specifically looking for a bedroom dresser, they wouldn’t obviously expect to see one in the living room. Placing the items in its natural environment will increase the chances of selling it faster and at a higher value.

Clear the clutter, move furniture around to make it more visually attractive and appealing to a buyer.

Staging an Estate Sale Kitchen
Kitchen Staging Before Staging ~ Ojai Estate Sales
Kitchen Staging After Staging ~ Ojai Estate Sales

How Long Does It Take to Stage an Estate Sale?

Estate sale professionals agree it takes between 2 to 5 days to stage a home, this will vary depending on the size of the home and number of items available for the estate sale.

Some estate sales may have off-site storage units that must be brought in, strategical planning, and moving these items on-site to include will obviously take a bit longer.

It’s important to recognize that the quicker it gets done, the less the labor, the more the profit for the company and the client.

There’s a fine balance between how quickly a home gets staged and how well it gets staged. Experienced estate sale professionals have mastered the balance of efficiency and quality.

Pricing while Staging a Sale

The majority of experienced estate sale professionals already know and identify the valuable items to be included in the sale, but will wait until all the items are staged before starting the research and pricing process.

If staged properly and everything is nice and clean, it’s easier to identify the marks, and should make the pricing process much more efficient.

When researching, it’s easier to research the same category of items in a row instead of jumping around from one of type of item to the other.

If you properly organized and grouped items together, not only is your staging process effective, but it will make the entire process efficient.

Staging an Estate Sale Continuously

What? Yup, you heard that right! Once the estate sale starts and items begin selling, moving things around and re-displaying them will make them more desirable to potential buyers for the remaining sale dates.

The estate sale team is constantly moving things around during the sale, once a room is somewhat empty, the contents may be moved to another area all together, and the room is closed off.

Empty tables, and missing gaps will give potential buyers the impression that all good things have sold and anything that’s left isn’t worth buying otherwise they would already be sold.

Re-stage your staging throughout the day and at the end of each day if necessary.

Crowd Control, Safety & Security Concerns

During an estate sale, many individuals will be walking into the home. Crowd control, safety, and security concerns are a big factor to consider early the staging process.

“Even if a home is perfectly staged for the real estate market or for you to live in, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect for an estate sale. You must change it entirely to accommodate large crowds & also for security and safety reasons,” said Stacie Boerger, owner of Best Sales by Boerger.

“When I book a sale, the first thing I do in my head is figure out where the checkout will be, where the exits and entrance will be and how that will be best for crowd control. You also have to consider parking, loading, unloading, as well as what areas you will allow the crowds to go and not go. Crowd control is huge.” Boerger continued.

Consider utilizing some of the following tactics at your estate sale to help with safety and crowd control:

  • Yellow caution tape identifying stairs and steps in and around the house to avoid falling.
  • “DO NOT ENTER” signs and tape off areas where you do not want buyers to wonder about.
  • Directional signs to help control the crowd and direct them to the checkout line.
  • “NOT FOR SALE” signs on large furniture items that could not be moved but not included in the sale to avoid any misunderstandings.
  • Signs clearly identifying your company policies. (Payment methods, returns, exchanges, delivery options, etc.)

While there may be variations in the process and procedures of staging an estate sale, everyone agrees that well-staged items in the home have a direct impact to the bottom line for both the client and the estate sale liquidator.

Managing an Estate Sale Staging

  • Have a team of well-trained employees that are diligent and dependable.
  • Assign individual responsibilities to each staging team member.
  • Cross train team members on different areas of the home.
  • Create an action plan tailored to the estate sale property.
  • Come prepared with equipment, moving tools, and furniture needed to stage.
  • Insure that items with the highest value are prominently displayed.
  • Secure small jewelry and valuable items near the register for proper supervision.
  • Eliminate liability items from the sale such as perishable food items, needles, medications etc..
  • Highlight and showcase all items in the home by grouping similar items together.
  • Proper lighting is extremely important, bring lighting in if necessary.
  • Security and safety should be a top priority to avoid dangers and liabilities.
  • Consider crowd control when arranging your sale and have well-placed entrances and exits.
  • Prepare estate sale specific caution and notification signs when necessary.

Holding a successful estate sale is extremely involved, the level of difficulty will vary between each sale.

Staging an estate sale in a hoarder home may be quite more involved than staging an average home. Time, equipment, and the number of employees needed will vary.

Whether you choose to apply all or some of the tips provided to manage an estate sale, it’s important to do what is best suited for your company, and your clients’ best interest.

If you’ve landed here because you’re interested in learning about estate sales, we invite you to ready many other articles that will help you on your journey to becoming a professional estate sale company.

If you’re a veteran estate sale professional, we’d love to hear from you and highlight your expertise in our blog.  Have you used any of these tips during your staging process?  Do you use any other methods or tips when staging or managing an estate sale?  Leave us your comments below, or send us a quick email to revise and add your professional tips to this or any future articles.