What about a Tag Sale?

What about a Tag Sale?

Date: September 20, 2020Author: National Auctioneers Association

While the general purpose of estate (tag) sales and estate auctions is the same—to sell all of someone’s belongings—the method of sale is different.
Estate sales

If you decide to have an estate sale, you are relying on the company and its employees to determine the value of every item you own. The estate sale company will charge you a commission, so they will want to get the most accurate estimate they can in order to get the most return for their work. But, there is always the risk that the company prices items too high and no one buys anything, or too low and you don’t get the full value for your estate. You also have to trust that your estate sale company can accurately value everything from pots and pans to antique artwork.

But be wary of estate sale companies that operate a side business selling leftover items, as they could purposefully price your things high so they don’t sell and end up in their storefront.

Additionally, estate sales typically work on a model that reduces prices as the sale goes on. And, even if you’re the first one in the door, you don’t always have time to fully evaluate the worth of an item before you purchase it for fear of losing it. Then there’s the risk of heading the wrong direction in the house and Karen finds the item you wanted before you.

Some estate sales allow bids on larger items. It is a risk to take if you really want an item but don’t want to pay the sticker price. Sometimes that risk pays off.

Marketing for estate sales is mostly online via a website and social media, and good companies build up loyal followers of their sales. They also rely on street signs and passersby.


Unlike estate sales, auctions give you the opportunity to find the true market value of any item you own because prices are set by the bidders. True market value is what someone is willing to pay at any time for any object. This is contingent largely on the crowd, so auctioneers are actually very good marketers who draw the right buyers to the right sellers. On top of that, the pace, excitement and competition aspects of an auction mean bidders are sometimes willing to pay more in the heat of the moment. The sky is literally the limit!

An auction is also beneficial to your pocketbook, as they may take a smaller commission from you and add a buyer’s premium to each item sold, which is paid by the buyer.

Auctions also give bidders time to assess value, condition and authenticity of any item up for auction before raising their hand or paddle. This gives buyers the ability to bid with confidence. And, everyone has the same chance to bid on any item.

By comparison

In both methods, your home will be empty at the end of the sale. Estate sales often donate unsold items to charity, which can easily be written off since your stuff was already valued by a third party. For auctions, sometimes items that have no interest are lumped into a package with a desirable item.

If you’re looking for a quick solution, estate sales might be your method, with a few days for pricing and a few days for the sale all on-site. If you’re looking to find the largest, most qualified buyer pool, auctions will find you those buyers. But, auctions may take a little longer to complete because of time for marketing, set up, and if the auction is online, the amount of time that auction is live.

Lastly, many auctioneers are required to be licensed in their state, requiring continuing education, and many others are members of their state association, or the National Auctioneers Association, which holds members to a high standard and educates them on best practices. There are no such requirements for estate sales.

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