What Happens After an Estate Sale? Post Estate Sale Procedures

By Pascale Saliba

With thousands of estate sales held on a weekly basis, one would wonder what happens after an estate sale?  Where do the items go, and what estate sale procedures are generally followed by estate sale companies?

We’ve reached out to our group of estate sale professionals to gather up as much information as we can to help you answer these common questions.

Common Estate Sale Procedures

What happens before, during and after an estate sale can change depending on the estate sale itself.  Some estate sale procedures will remain the same, but very often will change depending on the clients’ requests.

Those requests are agreed upon during an estate sale interview, and should always be documented in the estate sale contract.  A well written contract between the parties involved will insure no misunderstandings occur.

Here are some common things that happen after an estate sale:

End of Each Sale Day

Professional companies generally stage an estate sale. This means items are properly placed and displayed for potential buyers to purchase.

Throughout the day and at the end of each day, the staff will often re-arrange the items and have them ready for the next group of buyers on the second, or third day of the sale.

Depending on the geographical area, local jurisdictions may have estate sale sign restrictions.  Estate sale companies must remove all their directional estate sale signs placed throughout the area, and put them back up for display again the next day.

The fines for improper sign placement can be hefty.  It would be wise to check with the local city for their particular rules on sign restrictions in order to handle the signage properly after each sale.

Once everything is tidy and ready for the next day, the home is secured and locked up for the next sale day.

The goal of every estate sale company is to minimize the number of items left at the end of each sale.

By properly marketing their upcoming estate sale, they reach buyers to sell out the items, leaving them with less leftovers to get rid of.  However, most sales will have items left over.  It’s not set in stone, some items left over are valuable, others not so much.

Payment Procedures After an Estate Sale

In an unregulated industry, there’s no specific number of days required for payout to the client, however clients do expect to get paid as quickly as possible.

Depending on the method of payment accepted by estate sale companies, the final pay-out time could vary.

If a company only accepts cash payments, they will have final numbers quickly after the sale. For those that use merchant services and accept credit card payments at their sales, they will wait until all payments have cleared before calculating the final numbers.

How the final payment is sent to the client will also vary depending on their geographical location.

On many occasions, the client is in another state, sending a check by mail or wiring the funds are the best post estate sale payment procedures to follow.

If you’re sending the final payment to a client via mail or by wiring the funds, use registered mail with signature confirmation, and always keep good record of the transactions in order to protect yourself from any liabilities.

Itemized List of What Sold

Most estate sale companies will compile a list of items sold during the course of an estate sale near the cash register.  This list along with the final numbers are sent to the client with their final pay out.

Proper accounting can be done on a daily basis or at the end of the sale.  Some companies will tally the sales, and items sold at the end of each day to ease the process, others will wait until the entire sale is complete, payments have cleared, and the home is cleaned out before they finalize all the numbers.

In this industry, what works for you may not work for someone else.  There are no set estate sale rules to follow, however you will find that as you gain experience, you will set your own estate sale procedures to follow on a regular basis.

Clearing the Home After an Estate Sale

As an estate sale professional, your goal is to empty the contents of the home by having them sold.

Even if a company does everything it can to sell all the contents, there are always left-over items to dispose of at the end of the sale.

During the estate sale interview with the client, left-over items should be discussed.  Options given to the clients often involve:

  • Keeping left-over items
  • Disposing of left-over items
  • Donating left-over items
  • Consigning certain items after the estate sale

Whatever the decision is, it should be properly outlined in the estate sale contract.  Liquidators may or may not charge a fee to dispose the items, it will all depend on how much labor is involved in getting the task done.

If the client decides they want to keep all the items left, then your job is done, but this is rarely the case.  Most clients hire an estate sale company because the home needs to be sold and emptied as quickly as possible.

If the client decides to have you dispose all the left-over items, it’s up to you to make sure you’re well compensated for the task ahead.

Here are some common options you’ll find in the estate sale industry when it comes to clean-outs after an estate sale.

  • Offer clean-out services based on an hourly rate and a dump fee
  • Offer a clean-out service with a flat fee
  • Don’t offer clean out at all, but rather work with a local company that specializes in clean-outs.

When it comes to estate clean outs, you’ll have to decide what works best for you.  Most estate sale companies would rather focus on estate sales and leave the clean-out task to those that only do hall-away and clean-outs.

Let’s discover some options you have available to empty the home after an estate sale.

Hire a Clean-Out Vendor

There are many companies that specialize in hauling away junk or often referred to as “clean-out” companies.  Making contact with a few of these companies and adding them to your contact list will prove fruitful in the long run.

Always make sure they are a reputable, dependable company that is also insured to protect you and your client from any liabilities that may occur on the property during the clean-out process.

Once you have a cost established, you can easily make the option available for your clients during the estate sale interview.

Anyone involved in the estate sale process will reflect on your business and your performance, so always make sure you are subcontracting to reputable, dependable individuals.

Sell Remaining Items in Bulk

Many consignment store owners, thrift store owners, and swap meet resellers are interested in new inventory, and making a connection with a few that are willing to come out, pay a lump sum for what’s left and haul it away can be beneficial, but if they’re not well equipped and insured to handle the packing and hauling, you’ll need to consider that cost prior to presenting it to your clients.

There is a big controversy in the industry relating to estate sale professionals that also have a consignment shop or keep the items left over after the sale.  Do you think it’s a conflict of interest?  Many clients do!

Angele Fairchild is an elderly lady that recently moved into assisted living, before she was moved in, she had an estate sale at her home.

When asked why she chose the estate sale company she did, here’s what she said:

“I hired the estate sale company because that’s all they did.  I interviewed a few, and chose the one company because many of the others said they would keep the unsold items after the sale and I thought to myself, why would they even want to sell my stuff if they get to keep it in the end?”

For veteran estate sale professionals that are focused on the estate sale business itself, this is viewed as taboo practice.  Many would rather sell in bulk, dump, or donate the leftovers.

Donations After an Estate Sale

Many clients choose to donate the items left after a sale to an organization of their choice, or let the estate sale company choose.  It may be a good idea to list a few on your estate sale contract, and allow the client to choose one.

Here are a few of the most commonly used non-profit organizations:

Salvation Army / GOODWILL

You can help those in need by donating left over items to the Salvation Army or Goodwill.  They offer many drop-off locations or you can schedule a pick up online, which may save you some time and money.

Not all locations offer a pick up service.  Be sure to check the pick up policies in your local area.

If what’s left over after a sale can easily be placed in the driveway and a pick-up is scheduled, it may be a good idea, but if the estate sale is quite large and will require labor hours to pack, a drop-off may make more sense.

Local Shelters

Depending on your geographical location, there may be thrift stores or local shelters that will accept donations to help battered women, recovering individuals or homeless people.  A quick Google search should fetch a few resources in your local area.

Veterans Organizations

Another popular donation option is donating to veterans’ organizations.  Many clients are eager to donate to veterans’ organizations especially if the family member you’re holding an estate sale was also a veteran.

Proper Documentation

Estate sale liability should always be a concern if you’re in the estate sale business.  We’re not talking about someone falling or hurting themselves during an estate sale.

A good reputation leads to longevity in this industry.  Protect your company’s reputation by properly documenting everything.  Besides the estate sale contract, photography plays a big part and serves as proof and evidence.

  • Photograph before the sale to insure nothing is removed by the client
  • Photograph items to advertise the estate sale online
  • Photography during a sale is also used to sell specific items via social media groups or local community pages

We asked our private group of estate sale professionals if taking photographs and giving the client an opportunity to keep any items left after an estate is one of the common post estate sale procedures they follow.  Although the majority responded they don’t, the number of companies that do take photographs was very high.

Here’s what Katherine Silvey Bates with Silvey Estate Sales in Oklahoma said:

“We always offer the family the chance to reclaim their items that didn’t sell.  Most don’t want them as they’ve already chosen what they want to keep before we began our work.  Then we recommend charities and other companies to clear out what remains”

What NOT To Do After An Estate Sale

Don’t just leave a pile of junk in the driveway or on the street in front of a home hoping someone will just pick it up for free.  It’s an eye sore in the neighborhood and doesn’t have a positive reflection on your estate sale business.

As a professional estate sale company, you go out of your way to advertise and market your business, you can’t afford negative impressions, and leaving items on the street after an estate sale is not considered professional.  Any amateur can easily do that!

As I prepared this article, I was also preparing for very special guests that will visit my home for the first time in a few days.  I woke up on Friday morning to an estate sale across the street from my home.  As Saturday afternoon approached, and I was preparing the final touches on my beautiful dining room table to impress my guests visiting for the first time, I noticed the estate sale staff across the street began piling items in front of the home with a “FREE” sign on it.

post estate sale procedures on estate clean out
Items left on the street after the estate sale across from my home.

Three days later, the items were still there and quite an eye sore to say the least, not to mention have taken up at least two parking spots on the street.

Before the estate sale began, the lady who owns the business walked around and passed her business card out to all the neighbors, I also received one.  This is great advertising, but as a professional liquidator, it’s important to leave a professional impression long after an estate sale is over.

EstateSales.org is a central hub for all things “estate sale”.  We are dedicated to our community of estate sale professionals.  Bringing you a wide range of options to grow your business by featuring your company, generating estate sale leads, cross-advertising your estate sales online and even sell items via our online auction platform.

If there are additional post estate sale procedures you’d like to add or find as a great option for other estate sale professionals to consider, we’d love to hear from you!  Send us a quick note and we’ll be sure to get back to you right away.