You might choose to have an estate sale before moving to Ecuador to lighten your moving load and reduce your cost of moving abroad. That’s exactly what we did and we highly recommend it.
Preparing for the Estate Sale
Estate sales can take 2 to 3 months to plan on average so you’ll want to get an early start on this process. You’ll want to contact 2 or 3 companies (based on positive reviews and references) and it can take a week or two for them to schedule a walk-through. Then you’ll need to get on their calendar, which is usually at least 2 months out.
Once you choose an estate sale company in your area, they will schedule a visit to assess the potential value of your sale. Their fee is based on a commission from the total sale, usually around 30% to 40%, so if their estimate comes in below a certain amount, they won’t take the job.
DO NOT GET RID OF ANYTHING. This is extremely important. You might be tempted to sell some high value items yourself on CraigsList or to a pawn shop or dealer. We highly recommend NOT doing that.
Speciality items can bring in larger crowds who will buy other things so you’ll make more money from those. And if you sell all the high value items before the estate sale, you won’t find a reputable estate sale company who will work with you.
Also, fight the urge to donate junk you think is worthless. You’ll be surprised what people will buy, and it all adds up. Get everything organized ahead of your estate sale walk-through so the assessor can better gauge the value of your possessions, but don’t get rid of anything.
The Week of the Estate Sale
Depending on the size of your estate sale, the preppers will need several days to a week to get your sale ready for the big weekend. Usually 2 or 3 people will come into your house with folding tables so everything can be labeled with a price and displayed like a garage sale.
Most estate sales occur inside the house so it’s a good time to list your house for sale for all the additional foot traffic. However, you can also have the sale company remove everything and host the sale in their warehouse for an additional fee. They can also sell cars, which usually have a lower commission structure.
If you opt to have the estate sale at your house, you’ll need a place to stay for the estate sale weekend so you’re not under foot. Plus, they will have rooms blocked off or totally prepped with items for sale so you won’t have any living space.
You can often find deals near your home on AirBnB. We stayed in a short-term stay hotel with a kitchenette that was close to home so we could check on the progress of the estate sale each day.
Most sales start on either Thursday or Friday and go until Sunday afternoon. Once it’s over, you can either have them haul away everything that is left for a fee, or get rid of it yourself. We had virtually nothing left and opted to take the remaining junk to Goodwill ourselves.
It took about 3 weeks to get our check for the 60% of the total sale amount.
Lessons Learned from Our Estate Sale
Surprisingly, the estate sale preppers weren’t very knowledgeable about high value or specialty items so you’ll want to educate them and help them set the price for those things.
If an item comes with multiple parts, be sure to tie them together with twine or a zip tie so the buyer and the estate sale company know they must be sold together.
Before my spinal surgeries, I was a SCUBA diver and had all the gadgets and gizmos for that extreme sport. One high-value item was a certified cold water regulator worth $800 with a wireless dive computer worth $2,000.
The regulator had a wireless transmitter attached to it that communicated with the dive computer. Unfortunately, no one bought the dive computer after the regulator was sold separately for $200 with the wireless transmitter attached rendering the dive computer almost worthless. The wireless transmitter was $175 to replace, almost wiping out the sale amount of the regulator, which should have been sold for no less than $600.
They did a great job pricing and selling furniture, clothes and household items, but they didn’t know how much my dive equipment was worth or that certain pieces had to be sold together. I told them ahead of time that the regulator and dive computer needed to be sold together, but I made the mistake of not tying them together. In the chaos that is an estate sale, I’m sure they just forgot.
Overall, it was a positive experience and we’re thankful we had an estate sale. It allowed us to travel to Ecuador with just 2 suitcases each rather than shipping a container costing more than the value of our possessions. It’s easy to find fully furnished rental and for sale properties in Ecuador so we only needed to replace a few items following our move.
Check out FAQ #20 – What SPECIAL ITEMS SHOULD I BRING To Ecuador? for some ideas about things to keep and bring with you.
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