What Is a Picker Sale? Estate Sales Vs. Picker Sales

By Pascale Saliba

Estate sales, tag sales, picker sales, digger sales, and downsizing sales all serve the same purpose. They are sales that occur over a period of time to liquidate the personal assets inside a home.

What Is a Picker Sale?

Estate sale companies organize picker sales. The quantity of items, type of items, location of the items or the home itself will dictate whether it’s a traditional estate sale or picker sale.

Picker sales are just another form of holding an estate sale where none of the items are inventoried or tagged with a price. Attendees at a picker sale can dig through any room, box, closet or drawer.

Shoppers ask for a price on the spot for the items they’ve selected and you negotiate a final purchase price.

Estate Sales Vs. Picker Sales

There are many things that make a picker sale similar to an estate sale, yet quite different.

These differences are evident in the process of the sale itself. In an unregulated industry such as estate sales, companies set their own estate sale procedures, policies, and estate sale rules.

It’s the company’s job to get the most value possible for their client by relying on their experience, shoppers that attend their sales, and the best methods they can apply to have a successful sale.

Since most companies earn their estate sale commissions based on the amount they generate at each sale, it’s in their best interest to sell as much as possible and earn their clients as much as they possibly can.

How Popular Are Picker Sales?

Estate sale shoppers love the excitement of hunting for that next unique find.

A picker sale is exciting for many shoppers because they are literally hunting for items in closets, drawers, boxes, and making a pile of items they’re interested in buying.

That excitement creates a buzz around picker sales that shoppers find quite appealing.

Not every sale can be treated as a picker sale, and there are many differentiators that a company takes into consideration.

Picker estate sale in a barn
Picker sale in a barn. Photo credit: Erin at Betton Place Antiques Estate Sale Service

When and Why a Picker Sale?

We reached out to Erin Fredric-Barnett, owner of Betton Place Antiques Estate Sale Service in Florida and South Georgia.

Erin has a lot of experience in the estate sale industry and holds many picker sales, we wanted to know more.

Erin said “There are many reasons we hold a picker sale. There are many families that are in desperate situations, and they want to get as much as they can for the items they have, the geographical location also plays its part. After a hurricane, for example, the home is not in perfect condition to inventory, stage, and hold a traditional estate sale. We don’t turn those clients away; we do the best we can to help them because they need us.”

Erin summarized her picker sale process to give us an idea of what it’s like.

“When we started performing picker sales, we did to meet a need in our local area. We have a well-established process we follow that is fair to all parties involved. The sales are very successful, but we have mastered the art of holding picker sales”.

Strategies that Work

We also spoke with Brad and Stacie Boerger with Best Sales by Boerger serving the Northwest Arkansas area.

They have several years of experience in providing estate sales in the Arkansas area. We asked them to further explain why an estate sale can be considered a picker sale?

They explained that an estate sale company will choose a sale strategy based on many variations. A sale can be a combination of an estate sale and a picker sale based on many factors.

The Boergers said, “We have used many strategies when helping our clients liquidate their personal assets. Depending on the items, location of the sale, and what makes the most sense for our clients’ bottom line”.

Stacie Boerger continued “A picker sale has nothing to do with minimizing the amount of labor, it sometimes requires more work, but happens to be more profitable for our clients based on many factors that require us not to price anything. We like to call indoor sales “discovery sales”, but we have used the term “picker sales” quite often for garage and barn areas on the property.”

Labor Costs

There’s a misconception in the public that these sales are easy to do, there’s no labor involved, but it’s quite the contrary.

Any successful sale will require a lot of labor and why you’re involved before, during, and after the sale has ended.

Depending on your estate sale contract, you might be responsible for also clearing the leftovers after the estate sale is done.

A company will still sift through the items to make sure nothing of high value or cash is hiding. It may be left messy and not set up like a traditional estate sale, but you still want to make sure you’re not simply opening the front door without having looked inside first.

Labor is also involved on the days the sale is held. Having enough employees there to supervise and help customers as they shop is essential.

Picker sales often require more labor due to the situation but will lead to more profit for the client in the end.

Inventory & Staging

The inventory process is different from traditional estate sales.  Your list will include categories instead of an itemized list.  For example, barn tools, clothes, toys, etc.

Staging will defeat the purpose of a discovery sale, the whole idea behind a picker sale is to dig, discover, and buy in bulk.

Barn and Garage Partial Picker Sale
A partial picker sale where inside the home is priced but the detached garage and barn items are not.  Photo credit: Brad and Stacie Boerger with Best Sales by Boerger

Partial Picker Sales

Even with traditional estate sales, the process can differ from one company to the other, but the general rule is items are inventoried, separated, well-staged, researched, individually priced, and the sale is marketed to shoppers that follow the company’s estate sales along with the general public.

An estate sale can also be a partial picker sale when items inside the home are priced, but in a barn or garage, they’re not.

No items are priced at a picker sale.  You’ll need to price items on the spot.

Erin Fredric-Barnett said, “I never open our picker sales to the public, only to select shoppers, they understand the process well, and they know what is involved.”

Erin also said that opening a picker sale to the public may cause a problem if new shoppers aren’t familiar with the way things are handled.

Dealing with regular shoppers during picker sales can be efficient and successful.

Advertising a Picker Sale

Marketing and advertising an upcoming sale is important no matter what type of sale it is. Make sure your advertisement includes all the details and company policies you want your shoppers to follow, for example:

  • No children allowed
  • Bring your own bags and boxes
  • Move your own items
  • Hazard warnings

No matter what the rules are, make sure they are clear, especially if you plan to advertise your picker sale to the public.

“I prefer to call them discovery sales,” Stacie Boerger said during our conversation, which is exactly what they are. Shoppers love discovering items that have not been touched.

She continued “No matter what type of sale it is, we always make it fun and fabulous for our shoppers. We have no set rules, we treat each sale differently by doing what it takes to have a successful outcome for our clients”.

Pricing on the Spot

One unique difference when comparing traditional estate sales to picker sales is the pricing of the items. Shoppers will not have the opportunity to purchase the item at a discount the next day like a traditional sale.

Only one person should be in charge of pricing the items on the day of the sale.

The price given is only good for that time only.

Shoppers buy one item or in bulk, you must be willing to price items on the spot and negotiate to close the deal on the spot.

Estate sale shoppers that frequent picker sales know this, and they sometimes pay just the same amount as they would at a traditional sale.

This strategy proves fruitful for all parties involved and the numbers add up quickly, turning a not so traditional estate sale into a very successful picker sale for the clients.

Private picker sale after hurricane Michael struck a home leaving the front of it leaning in the water.  Photo credit: Betton Place Antiques.


Some homes are simply not safe, especially if the sale is in a home after a natural disaster, or if the items are in a dark barn with machinery and tools.

You must identify and properly secure the area to minimize liability issues.

  • Highlight and mark off hazards
  • Ask attendees to sign a liability release
  • Use warning signs

Do whatever is necessary to help all attendees avoid hazards in the area.

Quick Tips From the Pros

We reached out to our experienced estate sale companies on our private Facebook group dedicated to liquidators and auctioneers and here are some tips they had to share with you if you plan on holding a picker sale.

  • Consider opening the sale to your existing shoppers only
  • Post and announce all rules on the day of the sale
  • One person in charge of pricing, to minimize pricing issues and confusion
  • Always have a holding area for shoppers to place their items
  • If the home has visible safety issues, ask your shoppers to sign waivers
  • If the sale includes the public, always advertise as early as possible

In Summary

An estate sale is a discovery for both estate sale companies and estate sale shoppers because there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to liquidating the personal contents of a home.

As an estate sale professional, you must be willing to adjust accordingly.

Because each home is different, locations vary, and the type of items also differ in each home is why a company must be willing to adjust.

Adjust for Success

Experienced liquidators understand that adjusting their methods to fit the needs of each client is a must.

Liquidators often turn down clients for not having enough items, and why many will also turn away clients that have a large quantity of not so valuable items.

Don’t be quick to turn down these types of sales. A picker sale is exciting for shoppers they look forward to finding a treasure in the rough.

Small-dollar amounts add up quickly, leading to a decent profit.  Shoppers are often willing to pay whatever you ask because they don’t want to lose the items to another shopper.

Why these shoppers purchase more? Because shoppers are happy during the discovery process

The fact that “happy shoppers spend more” is one of the most under-appreciated truths in sales. Shopper studies and statistics show a clear correlation between shoppers’ satisfaction and the amount that they spend.

How Can We Help?

Whether you choose to hold traditional estate sales or start accepting picker sales to serve a need in the community, we at EstateSales.org are here to support your marketing and advertising efforts.

List your estate sale company with us and get hired by clients looking for estate sale companies in your local area. If you have a sale and want to reach buyers, list your sale with us and it is automatically shared across multiple platforms to increase the foot traffic to your upcoming sale.

We offer users the ability to find local sales, locate and hire a liquidator to hold a sale.

Join Other Liquidators

If you’re in the liquidation business, join our Facebook private group dedicated to estate sale companies and auctioneers.

Our group is friendly, informative.  Join in the conversation with hundreds of other professionals in the industry.

Want to sell items online? List your items on our online estate sale auction and reach shoppers beyond your local area.

Do you have anything to add to our article?  Leave us a comment or send us a message and we’ll be happy to share your input with our audience.