Professionals Make Estate Sales Easier & More Profitable

What is the difference between an 'Estate Sale', 'Tag Sale' and a 'Yard Sale'? In essence, not a lot. In practice it is a matter of display, advertising, security and pricing.

"Estate sales", in the literal sense of the phrase, are held to liquidate (sell) the contents of an "estate", or the personal property of an individual who has passed away. A "tag sale" might be used to sell off the remaining personal property after someone moves into assisted living or a nursing home. Either is held inside the house, while a "yard" or "garage" sale is held outside.

Estate and Tag Sales are more formal than Yard Sales, because generally the items for sale more valuable. It makes sense to hire an experienced professional to run an Estate or Tag Sale for a number of reasons, the most obvious being that it lets someone else handle what can be a very emotional undertaking.

This is a general idea of the services a professional might offer;

  • Two to four day sales conducted for larger estates.
  • Organizing & displaying household contents by category.
  • Providing display tables & locking cases for valuables as well as items placed at check out.
  • Researching, inspecting & evaluating each item in the estate for sale. Research is an integral part of a company's work in order to properly identify the value of an item.
  • Pricing items.
  • Professional interior signage: directional, informational & safety.
  • Providing security if necessary.
  • Advertising & promotion of the sale including local newspaper ads, personal emails sent to past customers, estate sale email services & professional outdoor signage.
  • Obtaining proper permits.
  • Staffing the sale with qualified, uniformed staff members including staff at the door. Staff should answer technical questions and test electronics when needed. Staff should "work" the floor, encouraging sales and write sales tickets for all items to be purchased.
  • A sign up number system that will be in place the day of the sale & will carefully limit the number of customers in the home at any given time.
  • Providing bags & wrapping paper for purchases.
  • No cash upfront. Commission comes out of proceeds.

Keep in mind that a great many items you regard as junk are valuable to others. When going through the house don't throw out items such as;

  • Old magazines & Newspapers
  • Children's games, dolls & toys
  • Logo-type ashtrays, matchbooks & glassware (such as from a restaurant or club that no longer exists)
  • Sports memorabilia (even a mishmash of college football glasses)
  • Gaudy costume jewelry
  • Vintage or dated clothing and accessories, such as shoes, hats, gloves, etc., including their boxes
  • Books, music albums and 8-tracks, CDs, DVDs & Videotapes
  • Photographs
  • Dated kitchen utensils, bowels, everyday dishes
  • Tools and toolboxes
  • Chipped, broken dishes or glassware (craft people love this stuff.)


Some general guidelines to follow in hiring a professional service would be to avoid signing any contracts until you have a complete understanding of what you are signing - what is being provided, what percentage is being paid, what happens to the remaining items, etc.

If the process is too stressful for you, have a friend or another family member with you when reviewing the details of the contract. Make sure to contact the local Better Business Bureau for complaints on any service you consider hiring, and only hire a service that offers proof of being insured and bonded and provides references.


Kathy Hopper at Early Birds Estate Sales has been doing this for about as long as I can remember. Her web site is Early Birds Estate Sales, you can e-mail her at, or call (508)385-4368 or her cell phone, (508)237-0524.

Two guys that I went to high school with run a company called Stem to Stern Estate Sales. Kerry Aylmer and Robert "Tex" Lavery are both good guys - their web site is Stem to Stern Estate Sales, you can call Kerry at (508)737-5032 or e-mail him at, or call Robert at (508) 737-3895, and his e-mail is

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