Estate Sale Timeline

If you need to hold an estate sale, chances are that you’ve thought about the timeline of how an estate sale even works. While every company will have their own way of doing things, there’s a general timeline that companies tend to follow.

Sign the Contract

Once you’ve chosen your company: get a contract. Don’t hold an estate sale without one. Commissions and fees will be set in stone, as will the expectations of both client and company. If there are any exceptions to what will be sold, they need to be made clear in the contract.

The length of the contract depends on the company you hire. But it’s liable to be a several pages long—there are a lot of moving parts, after all. Ask questions. If you don’t understand something, get clarification. If you don’t agree with an item in the contract, say something. If you’re ultimately not comfortable with the contract, don’t sign it, and move on. But when you do sign one, make sure to retain a copy for yourself.

Item Photography

Often the first thing that an estate sale company will do once a contract is signed is take photographs—often even the very same day. This creates an inventory of the property, so the company can know what will be in the sale (and if anything is removed from the sale ahead of time). This is also helpful to the client, to have photographic evidence of what was included in the sale.

Property Staging

The company will need time before the sale to stage the property. How long this will take depends on the condition of the house and the amount of merchandise. The home of a hoarder, for example, will take considerably longer to sift, sort, clean, and stage than the average home.

The Sale

It’s unlikely that you’ll be encouraged to attend the sale. In fact, you may be asked to stay off the property entirely during the sale. If you’re the client, it’s unlikely that you’ll be encouraged to attend the sale. Having the client on-site can negatively affect shoppers, and make it difficult for the estate sale company to do its job. It’s important for you to trust the company you hire, and feel comfortable letting the professionals do their job. Ask questions freely beforehand. Feel free to check in at the end of day as well.

Getting Your Payout

Every company has a different timeline when it comes to paying their client following the sale. How much information about the sale you receive also depends on the company—if you want or need in-depth reporting about the items sold and their cost, talk to the company before the contract is signed, to make sure they can deliver the information to you in the way you need it.


Remember, this timeline is a general overview of the typical steps estate companies take to hold their sales and help you sell all the items that you need to.