Estate and Inheritance Sales

01 Apr 2011

Estate Sale is a term in the auction world that usually refers to one house or estate contents sale. It can also refer to an inheritance sale, and is usually a large event in terms of items offered for sale.

Because the items represent a content of one house, they often cover a very wide range, from furniture, art and antiques, collectables, paper ephemera and all the way down to the daily household items that fall into a broad category of decorative items.

When an owner of an estate or those who inherited the contents, come to the task of selling the property they are always confronted with a series of questions:

Where to sell the collection?

Should the collection be sold in one go or separated into groups of similar items?

Where to find an expert who can value all the items properly and not just merely apply a generic value to the groups of items.


The most straightforward way for a house contents sale is a local auction. Major international auctioneers of which we hear in the news only handle specialist collections of rare and good quality items, and because of that they are mostly divided into strict categories, such as: 19th Century Furniture, Old Master Oil Paintings, Watercolours, oriental Ceramics and Works of Art, Carpets and Rugs, Glass, Books and Manuscripts and many more.

A different department would usually conduct a specialist sale and the large auction houses have close to a hundred departments each. And because they have a vast number of specialist who have to be paid, they cannot afford taking on “small value” items and introduce a threshold, usually between £2,000-£5,000. Therefore, they are unable to handle or even to come and look at the contents of a “general” household.

When it comes to local auctions, most of them basically exist thanks to local estate sales. The busiest auction houses often conduct one or two estate sales every month. The good news is that they will be very eager to auction the contents, but the drawback is that they would like to do so quickly, almost always in a one or two day sale. Such auctions mostly attract dealers and “auction runners” who will buy the items at the cheapest possible rate and will re-sell them in a few days to more successful dealers. Therefore, it’s likely that the individual items in your collection will get very limited exposure to the valuable buyers and collectors who are actually prepared to pay for them their fair market value.

One can clearly see the dilemma arising from these two examples. And there are other drawbacks for selling at an auction. Seller’s commission with a VAT on it – these can be as high as 20% from the hammer price of each item; auction and cataloguing fees – as a rule one will have to pay a fee for every photographed item, and often for every item displayed in an online catalogue; payment terms – one should not expect receiving payment for their sold items any sooner than 4 and often 6 weeks after the sale.


So what other alternatives are there?

So, what are other alternatives to selling an inherited collection, and estate or household contents? Online auction sites, such as eBay, can be an option, but because of the quantity of items involved, the sale will consume a lot of efforts and the results are not guaranteed at all. Besides, one needs to have some knowledge of what is it that they have, otherwise they stand a good chance of underselling their possessions. A garage sale or a car-boot sale – one needs to be careful, as these venues are for bargain hunters, and buyers will not pay fair market value for most items.

A new breed of selling venue has emerged in the past year – online expert valuation with an option to sell and get paid within 2-3 days. They will often collect the items for free, thus saving on the postage fees. The sites operate with a large network of experts who can assess any item from personal jewellery and gold coins, through paintings, sculptures, art and antiques, collectables of any kind and furniture. We like to think that here at we provide just such a service.


Happy and profitable selling!

If you’re interested in getting an offer for your items or want to sell art or sell antiques then you can get a free, online quotation now. Click here to start straight away.