Downsizing With Garage, Estate, and Auction Sales

Downsizing and selling our possessions is both a decision and an event for many of us at some point in life. If at some point you find yourself with a number of items you no longer want, it could be because you’re looking to move or selling a house for a passed family member. Or sometimes, you simply have more things than you’d like to have. Regardless of why you’re downsizing or getting rid of belongings, you may be left wondering what is the best way to do it?

The three methods people look towards in these situations are garage sales, estate sales, and auctions. Depending on the amount of involvement that a homeowner wants to have in the process, all three have pros and cons. Here’s our take on each method.

Downsizing Options - Garage Sale

Garage Sales

We’ve probably all been to at least one garage sale in our lives. Garage sales are typically run by the homeowner, with items that are either unused or unwanted. Typically, garage sales are very informal. The most successful garage sales usually have small items that are easily carried out rather than large items like couches or other bulky furniture. This particular type of sale is great if you want to maintain control over the pricing of all your merchandise. However, with the informality comes a measure of thriftiness. So be prepared for people who want to barter. If someone feels like they’re getting a good bargain, they will likely buy more, which is positive for the proceeds just as much as the downsizing.

The general responsibilities for running a garage sale are visibly pricing merchandise, helping people who come to the sale, and having ample cash as change for your shoppers. Garage sales are usually run on the weekends, and most buyers will expect this. It’s important to make sure that your community allows garage sales, or if they have designated weekends for neighborhood garage sales. In Long Beach, for example, you will need to get a  garage sale permit and there are restrictions regarding signs. 

  • The proceeds of a garage sale belong entirely to the homeowner. They require nothing but time and a bit of prep work (or possibly a permit).
  • Homeowners can control the pricing.
  • Great for selling small, easy to transport items.
  • Very minimal paperwork is required – if any.
  • The traffic experienced by a yard sale is entirely dependent on the convenience of the location for regular thrifters and neighbors.
  • Advertising is the responsibility of the yard sale planner.
  • The disposal of items left behind is the responsibility of the homeowner.
  • The amount of product a garage sale moves is small.

Downsizing Options - Estate Sale

Estate Sales

An estate sale is a great way to clear out a substantial amount of things in a house – if not all of them. This is a practical option for someone who’s downsizing significantly. Or, for family members inheriting a house from a loved one who passes who don’t know what to do with the sheer volume of product they’re now left with. It’s important to note that you do not have to experience a death in the family to have an estate sale.

An estate sale can be run by a company for the homeowners. Typically, using a company benefits the homeowners because they have more experience with selling prices. Much like with real estate, the idea is to price correctly from the beginning. The leader of the estate sale team will come in for an evaluation, set a date for the sale, and allot a particular amount of time to prepare the house according to the amount of work that needs to be done. Their work is paid by the proceeds of the sale, which is usually a percentage agreed on when contracted for the service. They will then price, stage, and conduct the sale for the homeowner. Established estate sale companies will have regular customers that come for collectibles, curiosity, and reselling purposes.

Estate sales are usually conducted on the weekends but commonly run from Friday to Saturday. The second day is usually used to discount items in the home that were not sold on the first day. An estate sale will clear the house entirely unless requested otherwise. Organizers often have “buyout” bids placed by resellers at the close of the estate sale to take anything that remains. Many estate sale companies will provide light cleaning services afterward if the house is for sale.

  • Estate sales can be arranged and conclude relatively quickly.
  • Managed estate sales have regular buyers that follow them from location to location.
  • The house will be empty at the sale’s ending if requested.
  • Multiple forms of payment are usually accepted.
  • Estate sales suffer when there are small amounts of merchandise to sell when downsizing. If it does not include several rooms worth of product, it will be difficult to drive traffic to it. In this case, it might make sense to include it in a combined estate sale.
  • Pricing is often lower than fair market value to encourage people to buy the product before a price reduction on the second or third day of the sale.
  • The final price of the remnant that is sold at buyout can be heavily affected if there are not multiple offers on the buyout.
  • Commission fees will cut the final profit to the household by a percentage that the estate sale company dictates.

Downsizing Options - Auction


Auctions are another great option for downsizing your possessions. In an auction, items are sorted and sold individually and in lots to move as much product in as few transactions as possible. The auction staff will set a starting bid (a good starting point is somewhere around 30 to 40% of the fair market value) and open the floor to buyers. Then they encourage buyers to increase their maximum bid in a competitive environment. Much like an estate sale company, the auction house will take a percentage of the sale’s proceeds.

Online auctions are another animal entirely. Generally, they are led by the homeowner themselves with tools like eBay. These too will have a portion of the proceeds pulled from the final sale. However, not as high as a traditional auction house. While eBay is a household name, additional marketing is helpful for selling items that aren’t necessarily collectible. After all, your items will be in competition with other sellers online in a much larger market. Additional marketing can be very useful if you live in a small town or neighborhood that doesn’t participate in auction culture. That way, bidding is open to the maximum possible buyers. In an online auction, the homeowner is responsible for shipping. Therefore, this method can be a little more difficult to use for downsizing large items.

  • In-person auctions are fast. It’s very rare that something will have no bids whatsoever.
  • Auctions are heavily marketed and have lots of regular customers.
  • Negotiations are in the open. The buyer who will pay the most for that item that day will get it with the appropriate bid.
  • The homeowner has no responsibility for the sale arrangements unless using an online platform.
  • The selling price of an item is subject to the audience. There is no guarantee of selling for a particular price unless the item is rare and heavily sought after.
  • Itemizing sales is difficult due to lots.
  • Some categories do very poorly at auction, particularly common household items.
  • The auction house will take a commission from the auction’s proceeds.

Downsizing Advice from Experts

In February, The Shannon Jones Team hosted a downsizing webinar. We spoke to a number of experts about the downsizing process, including Betsy Yeh. Betsy is a professional organizer who specializes in estate sales. If you’d like to hear her speak, please watch the video below and skip to 40:44. If you’d like to get in touch with Betsy, you can contact her at 562.221.4189 or via email at [email protected].

The Long and Short of Downsizing

Inevitably, buyers are usually looking for a deal in all three environments unless they are a collector. Therefore, it’s important to consider the clientele of each and what you intend to sell when downsizing. Each downsizing method has its pros and cons. So if you’re unsure of the choice between garage, estate, and auction sales, it’s not unwise to pay for a general appraisal and a professional opinion. Which one will make you more money is entirely dependent on who comes to buy from each. So if you choose an estate sale or auction company, keep a close eye on their marketing and following. Regular customers mean stable business and stable sales, as well as a good reputation in the community.

Need a suggestion on who to use for your own downsizing? The Shannon Jones Team is here to help. We have years of experience within the community and have working relationships with companies all over Southern California. Use the contact form below for advice on potential options in your area.

Contact Form

We would love to hear from you! Please fill out this form and we will get in touch with you shortly.
About the Author

Shannon Jones has been selling real estate since 1998 and specializes in listing and marketing homes. She has consistently been one of the top Realtors in the Long Beach area. Prior to her award-winning career in real estate with the Shannon jones Team, Shannon has had successful careers in journalism and public relations. She holds a bachelors degree from UC Irvine and a masters degree from UC Berkeley. Shannon holds E-Pro, CDPE (Certified Distressed Property Expert), and PSC (Pre-Foreclosure Specialist) certifications. Shannon is very personable and maintains a very strong moral compass, always putting the best interest of home buyers/sellers above monetary goals. A California native, Shannon enjoys gardening, travel, reading, cooking and poker when she’s not selling homes MY DESIGNATIONS Lic# 01247705 | CDPE (Certified Distressed Property Expert) | E-Pro | PSC (Pre-Foreclosure Specialist) MY SERVICE AREAS Anaheim Bellflower Buena Park Carson Cerritos Cypress Downey Fountain Valley Garden Grove Huntington Beach La Palma Lakewood Long Beach Los Alamitos Los Angeles County Norwalk Orange County Rossmoor San Pedro Seal Beach Signal Hill South Bay Westminster

One response to “Downsizing With Garage, Estate, and Auction Sales”

  1. Roberta Macler says:

    Downsizing. Need to sell a fair amount of things by Oct 1 or so.
    No phone calls please.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.