What is an Estate Sale and How does it work?

An Estate Sale, also called a Tag Sale in some parts of the country, is a way of liquidating the belongings of a family or estate. These are usually much more than garage or yard sales. They are used when someone is in need of a way to sell items due to downsizing, moving, divorce, bankruptcy, or death. The public is invited into the home and given the opportunity to purchase any item that is priced for sale. At times there are items that are not for sale because the family has decided to keep them or new owners of the house have made them part of a contract to buy the house. Estate Auctions are where everything is auctioned instead of being marked with a selling price.

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There are several ways that Estate Sales are run. Items are marked with a selling price, and if you want an item you usually pick it up and carry it with you until you are ready to check out. If an item is too large to carry, you can have it Marked Sold. If you do not want to pay the marked price, some companies accept Bids. However, you are taking a chance that someone else might be willing to pay the marked price before the end of the sale when bids are usually opened.

For lining up and entering the sale, most companies use the First Come, First Served policy. This is when a line is formed at the door of the home where the sale is taking place. Lines may start several hours before the sale opens. Most people know how to use this system. There are always those who feel they are entitled to a front spot, but this is not the case.


There is such a thing as Estate Sale Etiquette. Some companies use a Number System, and they usually have some sort of policy concerning this, so be sure to check with the individual companies for their rules. There are also companies that use the Self Start Number System. This type of system is vulnerable to many abuses, and companies that use this system usually do have a strict policy on how they are handled.

Sign-up Sheets are also used and are similar to self-start numbering. Again, there is a chance of abuse here too. Some companies allow everyone in line to enter the sale, and others have limited access.