Defining the Difference Between an Estate Sale and a Garage Sale

  View all articles



You have items that you want to sell for any number of reasons. You have worked hard to declutter. You redecorated. You’re moving. You’re handling the sale of a relative’s home due to death or illness. Whatever the reason, you want to get the most that you can out of the items you’re ready to part with and you are asking the question: Should I have a garage sale or an estate sale? What’s the difference? 

The answer as to whether you should have a garage sale or an estate sale can often be found in the answer to this question: Am I getting rid of things I no longer want, or am I parting with things that I can no longer keep?

Garage Sales

Garage sales are great for getting rid of unwanted items that do not have significant value. If you have things like unwanted household items, books, clothing, toys, and sporting gear, a garage sale makes sense. Old furniture and décor can also be sold, but if you have quality furniture or artwork, a garage sale is not the ideal choice for you.

A garage sale is held outside of your home, usually takes place over the weekend, and is advertised with signs posted all over the neighborhood directing you where to go. Some neighborhoods have an annual garage sale which is a great option to take advantage of because you’ll get free advertising and more guaranteed traffic. Often, there’s also an organized collection to donate what does not sell.

Be prepared to negotiate prices and not take it personally! Garage sale goers expect to be able to make offers that are lower than marked. Consider offering discounted prices when buyers group items together.

If you decide that a garage sale is the way to go, Better Homes and Gardens tells you How to Have a Garage Sale and Earn All the Cash

Estate Sales

An estate sale is much more formal. Estate sales, unlike garage sales, are held inside the home. Typically, an estate sale is held when the items and belongings of a recently deceased estate owner are sold to the public. This is not the only reason to hold an estate sale. You may want to consider holding an estate sale rather than a garage sale if you find yourself obligated to part with items that you know have value.

At an estate sale, the expectation is that you will find a much larger variety of items that have been collected over a lifetime. It is a much different experience than a garage sale. Estate sale goers are scouting out antique furniture, vintage clothing, fine China sets, and rare pieces of art. But keep in mind, to hold an estate sale, the value of the items on sale needs to be confirmed and priced over a certain amount of money for it to be approved. Martha Stewart tells you How to Value and Sell Your Antique or Vintage Collectables.

Estate sales typically run for three days over the weekend from Friday through Sunday and are advertised well in advance. Price tags are not up for negotiation and there is no haggling, although there will be bidding for items of higher price or value. You can hire someone to plan and handle your estate sale, but it is possible to do it yourself. 

If you decide that an estate sale is the way to go and you are up for the task, Martha Stewart has Our Expert Approved Guide to Planning Your Own Estate Sale in 8 Simple Steps.

Whether you decide to have a garage sale or an estate sale, if the reason you need to rid yourself of items is because you find yourself putting a home on the market, I am here to offer guidance and expertise.