So, You’re Thinking About Starting An Estate Sale Business…

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Hanging out a shingle with a start up Estate Sale Company

We recently had the opportunity to have an email-based conversation with MA resident who is considering starting their own Estate Sale Business.  The topic at hand was: “Please share with me how you became successful in the Estate Sale Business”. 

Pot Of Gold Estate Liquidations, LLC & Auctions has been in business for 16 years, and have learned a lot over the years, so it was fun and interesting to trip back down memory lane as I wrote my reply, which I share here: 

“Starting a new business is an exciting venture, and I am happy to help!  My first instinct is to ask you a series of questions: 

Do you have any practical experience in the area of organizing  / running
Estate Sales?   

Do you have an opportunity to apprentice under another company?  If so, try
to pick someone in another area, who you won’t be directly competing with in
the future – it’s awkward to the relationship when the time comes to break
out on your own. 

What logistical obstacles to you have in your area?  In our experience, in
rural areas the population density is too spread out to make Estate Sales
practical.  And conversely, in condensed urban areas the parking / hauling
is very problematic.   

What about Estate Sales makes this the type of business you are interested
in building, over other possibilities?  You will need a strong back,
excellent organizational skills, patient & empathetic people skills (you are
selling people’s memories & dealing with grieving families), salesmanship,
and knowledge of current values of any number of items.  You also will need
to understand that working within the inner sanctum of people’s homes
requires a special set of intangible qualities, such as being
non-judgmental, not gossiping / posting on Facebook about the occasionally
odd items or un-cleanliness of people’s homes.  Dignity and confidentiality
will help you get good referrals, because people will know you are

When we began our business we had a team of two (myself & my husband) for
all the set-up / pricing / advertising.  On the day(s) of the sale(s) we
would have a staff of 3-4 additional people who we were fortunate to have as
mostly volunteer labor.  Friends & family who would work for a free lunch or
for the chance to pre-shop the public.  I was lucky to have a very
knowledgeable and professional staff even though they were volunteering.
Sales would run from 7:am – 3:pm for 1-3 days – so even if we had been
paying labor costs it would have been less than you are estimating.   

Our commission rateis reasonable, but has grown over the decade + that we have
been in business.  Commission was not something we ever negotiated
on.  We have always offered an excellent service, included advertising expenses in that
rate with no hidden fees, completely emptied each house and vacuumed up
after ourselves – making the property realtor-ready when we were finished.   

Competition has grown significantly over time, with many people wanting to
‘do-it-yourself’, so we rarely even do Estate Sales these days.  We are
mostly geared toward encouraging people to bring their items to auction
where the public competes to drive the prices up, rather than negotiating
prices down as they would at an Estate Sale.  

We were very blessed to have had the good fortune that came our way early on, but we met those blessings with dedication and hard work.  As Thomas Jefferson so aptly said, ‘I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it'”. 

Our best wishes to anyone who decides to dive into this wonderful and exciting business!  I invite you to share your stories – tell us what went well, what didn’t turn out as planned, and a little bit about some memorable cilents!