liquidator and appraisal services

Estate Auction vs Estate Sale

Many people believe the terms “estate sale” and “estate auction” are interchangeable. However, there are significant differences to be aware of.

Estate auctions and estate sales are both common and viable ways to liquidate an estate. Perhaps a loved one has died, and the house needs to be emptied and sold, or maybe an aging baby boomer is simply downsizing into retirement. Whatever the reason for the sale, the person responsible for the liquidation has a choice to make: How do I get rid of all this stuff? 

The estate liquidation industry offers two solutions: the California estate sale, often called a ‘tag’ sale, and the estate auction. While both alternatives have the goal of selling the entirety of an estate, the methods differ significantly. Deciding between the two can be complicated and depend on the particular circumstance of the seller.

What is an Estate Sale?

An estate sale is a way to liquidate the possessions of an estate through a simple retail sale. All the items for sale are tagged with a price, and attendees can shop, usually in the home, very much like in a retail environment. While this might sound like a glorified yard sale, it is actually much more. Estate sales require a tremendous amount of work, including pricing items, advertising, organizing, and even crowd control and parking logistics. After just a little research, most people who choose to hold an estate sale will do so by hiring a professional by contacting a local licensed estate sales company.

What is an Estate Auction?

An estate auction is simply a way of liquidating the possessions of an estate by competitive bid. An auctioneer oversees the bidding, and each item offered at auction is sold to the highest bidder. Estate auctions can be held at the home or at an auction house and are always conducted by licensed auctioneers.

Why a home Estate Sale Work Better

One of the main benefits of an estate sale is that you do not have to move the items out of the home. This can save a lot of hassle and time, especially if you have a lot of items to sell, including heavy furniture. And because everything for sale is still in the home, there are no moving charges or other associated logistics of transporting belongings to an auction house. Also, there are no fees for photographing merchandise for an auction catalog.

Because an estate sale is usually held over a few days, it also increases the chances of selling your items. Professional estate sellers handle the process of the sale and negotiate with buyers on your behalf. 

This also allows the public to see items in their ‘natural’ environment—it’s much easier to visualize what a piece of furniture or artwork will look like in one’s home when it is seen in a home rather than on an auction block. 

All the items for sale in an estate sale are clearly marked, and the public can browse and shop in a way most are familiar with—much like shopping in a retail store. Estate sales tend to attract homeowners looking for items for their own homes, and as such, these types of buyers are likely to pay more than an antique dealer bidding at an auction.

Another advantage of an estate sale is that they usually take place over two to three days. This allows shoppers the luxury of lingering over a particular item if they choose to. And there is the advantage of natural crowd control—the ultimate number of attendees is spread out over a weekend. And shoppers don’t need to wait around for an item to come up for bidding. At estate sales, buyers simply take an item they want to the check-out area and pay as they leave.

California licensed estate sale professionals set the prices on individual items, and as each piece is sold separately, greater incomes can be realized. At auctions, smaller, less desirable items are often grouped together in ‘box lots’ and sold, often limiting the potential income.