Exploring Estate Sales and Auctions

. March 2, 2016.

Which is best for you?

by Michael Siebenaler

Look in your house. What do you see? A collection of “stuff” that you no longer need… what should you do? An estate sale or an auction can help rid your house of those belongings that are no longer needed. But which sale option is the best choice for you?


Breaking it down

Estate sales and auctions have several differences that are important. Estate sales (a.k.a. liquidations, tag sales, etc.) are typically facilitated by a professional and involve large amounts of material for sale. Estate sales typically occur when a property is foreclosed or when the owner must quickly move, passes away or wants to downsize and there is no longer room for storage of nonessential items.

Auctions involve the sale and purchase of goods, facilitated by an auctioneer, where the highest bid wins. Facilitators are compensated with a percentage of the estate sale/auction revenues. Some auction variations include a “Dutch auction,” where activities begin with a high asking price that lowers to an acceptable price level determined by the seller, or a price determined by the auctioneer. Buyers can also preview the items for sale and leave an absentee bid with the auctioneer.

Estate sales typically occur over several days, during several hours per day, while auctions take place on one day at a specific time. Keep in mind: some condominiums and/or homeowners associations might not permit auctions or could have certain requirements, so be sure to check any contracts and related official paperwork.

Auctions and estate sales can be painful for family, friends, and survivors of the deceased, so look for compassionate people to help while safeguarding against predatory types looking to take advantage of this situation.


Planning for the sale

The process generally begins with a detailed cataloging process of all items. Pricing items for a sale can be a sensitive topic, especially when deciding whether to hire a reputable appraiser. Planning for the selling event should include some promotional advertising, listing in local media, and might also involve accommodating visitors (restrooms, parking, etc.) for on-site purchases that also keep people separated from anything being sold, including the house (e.g. getting an outside tent, etc.). The main activity involves set-up and fulfillment work by qualified staff for the payment, pick-up/delivery, efficient/secure banking of each item and finally, any needed cleanup and possible donation or disposal of leftover items.


Selling items online

Technology has predictably influenced estate sales and auctions by providing new opportunities including placing bids online and other web activities, avoiding the need to attend the actual live event, avoiding inclement weather and other difficulties (parking, locating the destination, etc). One of the disadvantages of selling items online is a typically extended sales/bidding time period, which can slow the momentum and attract lower final prices than the excitement of a live event can create.

“Over the years, we’ve built experience in selling all types of items,” says Kathy of NW Ohio estate sale company, Tag Team. “Always look for experience and references.” Most states with auctioneer licensing require a minimum of 80 hours of in-classroom education. Keep in mind there are no licensing requirements for estate sales professionals.


Statewide resources include:



Local experienced companies include:

Rose Auctions – bethroseauction.com

M&M Estate Sale – mandmestatesales.com

Tag Team – tagteamtoledo.com


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