The Personal Representative

Probate: Organizing an Estate Tag Sale

Organize a probate estate sale



What You'll Need to Throw a Estate Tag Sale

Clear signs. Mead makes a waterproof poster board that won't wither in the rain. You can find it at Staples, Wal-Mart, and Office Depot ($5 for two sheets). Use a permanent marker.

Money to make change. Have on hand $50 in ones, $30 in fives, $50 in 10s, $60 in 20s, and $10 in quarters (one roll).

Carpenter's aprons (one for each seller). Keep bills in one pocket, change in the other.

Calculator. For tallying sales.

Notebook and pen. For keeping track of sales and negotiated offers for later sales and pick-ups.

4 to 6 Tables. For displaying wares. Few homes have more than just a few tables. Ask neighbors if you could borrow their folding tables.

Measuring tape. So shoppers can measure pieces of furniture.

Garment rack and aFull-length mirror. So shoppers can see what clothes look like.

Extension cord. So shoppers can test lamps, radios, and other electrical appliances.

Packing supplies. Old newspapers, bubble wrap, plastic bags, boxes.

Make your items look as appealing as possible. "Use a hose to spray the dirt off of outdoor items. Display two pieces of clothing together as an outfit, or arrange china as a charming place setting instead of leaving it stacked in a dusty box. Also, be sure to keep breakables away from the outer edges of the table.

Display a show-stopper at the end of the driveway or in clear view. " A great piece of furniture, or a striking piece of art will attract attention.

Some shoppers will be looking for a specific item, so don't make them wade through all your merchandise. Clothes and accessories should have a section, as should electronics, tools, kitchenware, and so on.

Who Should Be Involved in Your Sale

 Don't go it alone. You can't keep an eye on every shopper or kindly explain that, no, your adorable Labrador retriever is not up for grabs while simultaneously making sales. The more people involved, the better. But keep in mind that having more sellers also requires more organizing and delegating. Decide ahead of time how you'll price items and tell them apart.

 Make sure you have someone on hand who can help move heavy objects or load items into buyers' cars. If a shopper is interested in a piece of furniture but has no idea how she's going to load it into her trunk, she might think twice about making the purchase.

Pricing and Selling Tag Sale Items

 Spend one Saturday comparing items similar to yours at other tag sales, or consult a reputable market-price guide, like Bob Huxford's Garage Sale & Flea Market Annual (Collector Books, $20, or Harry Rinker's Garage Sale: Manual and Price Guide. (For a list of popular tag-sale items and suggested starting prices, go to Tag Sale Price Guide.)

 Try to look at your merchandise objectively. For newer items, start at about 25 percent of retail. Rinker says most items usually end up selling for closer to 10 percent of retail.

 Keep in mind that early birds are inevitable — tag sales tend to have a very devoted following. If you have enough help on hand, you might consider charging a $10 early-bird fee so shoppers can get in and out quickly and you can make a little extra dough with hardly any effort.

 Expect shoppers to haggle — it's part of the experience. For buyers, this transforms a mere purchase into a sport. But if your price is firm, say so. (Some buyers don't know when to stop — luckily, you do.)

 If your items aren't selling by noon , drop the price to 20 percent of retail and go from there. Don't get greedy.

Tip: For large sales, don't sell anything for less than a quarter. If something is worth less, sell two for the price of one.

Spreading the Word About Your Estate Tag Sale

Tag-sale veterans say that attracting buyers to the sale should be your top priority. But first make a quick call to the town hall. Some towns require a permit to hold a tag sale. If yours does, get one — it will usually set you back $10 to $25. Others have strict rules about where you can post signs.

 Advertise in your daily newspaper (your ad should run on a Friday for a Saturday sale), as well as in a weekly newspaper or two in your area.

 Post flyers at gathering places around town (the supermarket bulletin board is a good place to start).

 Poor signage, can turn a blockbuster into a bust. Large, waterproof posters should use arrows to point shoppers to the sale. Place them at busy intersections on the morning of the sale. Keep the messages short and sweet: “Gigantic Tag Sale” should do the trick. Use a single color of paperboard for all your signs so potential shoppers aren't confused by inconsistent signage (black marker on a bright, light- colored background, such as yellow, will be highly visible).

 Designate someone to drive around the neighborhood about three hours into the sale to make sure the signs are still up. Sometimes the wind (or sneaky neighbors who are also having a sale) will have taken them down.

 A crop of websites offer free virtual bulletin boards for tag salers nationwide. You can place free ads for your sale at,, and

Tip: Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd, so "create an inviting party atmosphere by tying up balloons and playing music with mass appeal, like golden oldies. Tag sales, by their nature, are outdoor affairs, which means they're at the mercy of the elements. Include a rain date in all of your ad

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Alert: Again, before you start the process and you sell estate property make sure you have the proper authority to do so. Contact you county probate office to confirm. Better yet, discuss the matter with your estate settlement attorney before you conduct your estate sale. Remember...all sales are final...

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