How to Start an Estate Sale Company

Estate sale companies are also sometimes known as estate liquidation or tag sale companies. The purpose of the business is to undertake all responsibilities for finding buyers, in a single or multi-day event, for most of the possessions in a home or business. Clients typically deal with estate sale companies when they want to quickly dispose of the contents of an estate, possibly due to the death of loved ones, divorce or simply to expedite a quick relocation.

Learn how to start your own Estate Sale Company and whether it is the right fit for you.

Ready to form your LLC? Check out the Top LLC Formation Services.

Start an estate sale company by following these 10 steps:

  1. Plan your Estate Sale Company
  2. Form your Estate Sale Company into a Legal Entity
  3. Register your Estate Sale Company for Taxes
  4. Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
  5. Set up Accounting for your Estate Sale Company
  6. Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Estate Sale Company
  7. Get Estate Sale Company Insurance
  8. Define your Estate Sale Company Brand
  9. Create your Estate Sale Company Website
  10. Set up your Business Phone System

We have put together this simple guide to starting your estate sale company. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.

Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.

STEP 1: Plan your business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:

Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.

What will you name your business?

Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Estate Sale Company Name Generator

If you operate a sole proprietorship, you might want to operate under a business name other than your own name. Visit our DBA guide to learn more.

When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:

  • Your state's business records
  • Federal and state trademark records
  • Social media platforms
  • Web domain availability.

It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.

Want some help naming your estate sale company?

Business Name Generator

What are the costs involved in opening an estate sale company?

It could take a while for your sales commissions to catch up with your startup costs. You might have to hire a part-time employee or two and run ads for your first estate sale before you start to see a payoff on that first event. There might also be costs associated with designing your logo, developing your website and renting work space if it’s not in your home. There are also licensing and permit requirements, which will vary depending on where you’re doing business, as well as bonding and insurance costs.

Still, estate sales is a business that you should be able to enter with well under a $10,000 investment.

What are the ongoing expenses for an estate sale company?

Your workforce and employee-related costs will probably be your largest expense. The more you can figure out how to do alone or with a barebones workforce, the better your bottom line.

Who is the target market?

Your clients will be individuals who wish to liquidate most or all of the contents of a home or business. One customer profile would be the heirs of the estate of a recently deceased parent. Another could be a homeowner who wishes to quickly downsize upon the death of a spouse or financial burdens. Or a couple going through a divorce.

In fact, the industry mantra is that the clientele comes from the four D’s: Death, Divorce, Debt, and Downsizing. As a result, at least some of your clients might be emotionally raw and need to be handled with sensitivity. So diplomacy is an important character trait. It should also be noted that, though the term “estate” sounds like most of your clients will be wealthy, that’s not necessarily the case. Estate sale companies can handle assignments of all sizes.

How does an estate sale company make money?

Your compensation will usually be derived as a percentage of total gross sales, ranging from about 25 to 50 percent. If the estate is small, your compensation might also be based on fees for marketing the sale, staging the event, cleanup or other elements of the assignment.

How much can you charge customers?

Most estate sales companies charge a percentage of gross sales—typically somewhere between 25 and 50 percent based on the size of the estate and the complexity of the event. This will usually cover all of your responsibilities—appraising, pricing, promoting the sale event, staging the sale, hosting buyers, managing the event and final cleanup. But some estate sale companies price some elements separately, such as cleanup.

One way of gauging what you can charge is to do a little research into what your competitors charge and how they structure their fees.

How much profit can an estate sale company make?

Your profits will be based on the size of the estates and volume of work you handle and your efficiency using your workforce.

How can you make your business more profitable?

There are ancillary services you can offer along with—or instead of—an estate sale. These can range from cleanup and donation services when the size of the estate doesn’t warrant a sale to packing and trash hauling. Some business owners provide liquidation consultative services to larger estates.

Furthermore, if you have the proper training to be able to appraise valuable art, antiques, fine jewelry and collectibles, you can specialize in handling only the largest estates, with the highest commissions. But this means extensive training and the ability to make valuable contacts among probate lawyers and other referring parties serving this clientele.

Want a more guided approach? Access TRUiC's free Small Business Startup Guide - a step-by-step course for turning your business idea into reality. Get started today!

STEP 2: Form a legal entity

The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your estate sale company is sued.

Form Your LLC

Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC

Have a Professional Service Form your LLC for You

Two such reliable services:

You can form an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.

Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.

STEP 3: Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!

You can acquire your EIN through the IRS website. If you would like to learn more about EINs, read our article, What is an EIN?

There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.

STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Open a business bank account

Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:

  • Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • Makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.

Get a business credit card

Getting a business credit card helps you:

  • Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.

Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from BILL and build your business credit quickly.

STEP 5: Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.

STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an estate sale business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

Service Agreement

Estate sale businesses should consider requiring clients to sign a service agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership. Here is an example service agreement.

Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your estate sale business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.

Consignment Agreement

An estate sale company sells items on behalf of their clients, and as such, should write an agreement to specify the details of the arrangement between the company and the clients. A sample consignment agreement for an estate sale can be found here.

STEP 7: Get business insurance

Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.

There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.

Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.

FInd out what types of insurance your Estate Sale Company needs and how much it will cost you by reading our guide Business Insurance for Estate Sale Company.

STEP 8: Define your brand

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.

Recommended: Get a logo using Truic's free logo Generator no email or sign up required, or use a Premium Logo Maker.

If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.

How to promote & market an estate sale company

Make sure that your website looks professional, clearly states what you do and where you do it, and encourages response. Here is an example of a well-executed estate sale company website. You must also have an active social media presence, including a business page on Facebook and a presence on LinkedIn, at a minimum.

How to keep customers coming back

In addition to trying to draw customers directly through your website and social media, pick up the phone and introduce yourself to probate attorneys and real estate agents who handle estates. You can find this information online.

STEP 9: Create your business website

After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.

While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.

Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:

  • All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
  • Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
  • Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.

Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.

Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.

STEP 10: Set up your business phone system

Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.

There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.

Recommended Business Phone Service: is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.

Is this Business Right For You?

You should be able to ascertain the true value of furniture, art, antiques, collectibles, electronics, books, household appliances, office equipment and other paraphernalia of an estate in transition. Sometimes this will mean taking time to research sale items for hidden value or proper pricing. You should also be able to sell yourself and your company to three separate market segments:

  • The clients whose estates you’ll liquidate
  • Referrers such as real estate agents and probate attorneys, who can recommend you to their clients who might become your clients
  • The buyers who’ll attend your estate sales

These are three very different audiences, and all must be approached in very different ways. You might find buyers by placing ads in local media and in connecting with individuals who regularly buy estate items, whereas you could meet your referrers while networking in more professional settings.

And finally, you must have the organizational and crowd control skills to create and manage the sale, lead a team, and work well under pressure.

Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?

Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!

Entrepreneurship Quiz

What happens during a typical day at an estate sale company?

No two days look alike, but here are some of your typical daily responsibilities:

  • Meet, stay in contact with and build good working relationships with the individuals who can recommend your services to potential clients. These referrers might include real estate agents, appraisers and probate or bankruptcy attorneys.
  • Write and run digital and/or print ads to alert the buying public about upcoming estate liquidation sales.
  • Hire and train employees to handle the various elements of the business, from appraising sale items and attracting clients to organizing and conducting sales events and moving large items, as needed.
  • Quote prices and get contracts signed for estate sale.
  • Conduct estate sales.

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful estate sale company?

Here are some of the leading skills and talents you should have in order to build your business.

  • Sales and relationship-building instincts to make and maintain contacts among referrers and sales and promotional talents to sell your services to estates in what can be a highly competitive environment
  • Sensitivity to the emotional state of your clients
  • Organizational skills to market and conduct an estate sale to maximum potential
  • Appraisal abilities to command the best prices possible and maximize commissions
  • Leadership skills to manage your people and control crowds during sales events

What is the growth potential for an estate sale company?

Since families are generally smaller and spread farther apart than they used to be, it is more difficult for people to pick up, transport, and claim ownership of their parents' belongings after their parents pass. Therefore, there is an increase in the number of unclaimed items that can be sold by estate sale companies.

That’s good news, as this New York Times articles shows. Unfortunately, the word has gotten out, and you’ll also find more competition for estates now than even a few years ago. Therefore, while there are more estates in search of companies like yours than ever before, you must be aggressive about getting the business. Make sure you website stands out and attracts clients and that you maintain excellent relationships with referrers.

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Take the Next Step

Find a business mentor

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

Learn from other business owners

Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.

Resources to Help Women in Business

There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:

  • Funding
  • Events
  • Guides
  • Support

If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.

What are some insider tips for jump starting an estate sale company?

The best way of jump-starting your business might be by buying a franchise of a successful company. After all, they can serve as your mentor, coach and partner, seeing that you avoid the mistakes they probably made at first. You’ll find one such opportunity through Blue Moon Estate Sales, and there are others.

If franchising isn’t for you, consider getting your start as a laborer in an existing estate sale company to learn about the industry from the inside. You’ll also find information and educational opportunities through the American Society of Estate Liquidators, an industry association.

How and when to build a team

You’ll probably need to build your team right from the start, as your estate sale company demands a multitude of talents. Unless your skill set includes the ability to network with business referrers, appraise consignments, contact estates, attract buyers through marketing and social media, price items, stage sales, lug heavy furniture and stuffed boxes from one place to another and cleanup after the sale, you need help. That need is multiplied if you have two or more estate sales in progress on the same day.

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