Frequently Asked Questions


Q:  Why should  I have a professionally conducted estate sale rather than a garage sale or family-run sale? 

A:  It’s an incredibly difficult task for non-professionals to organize, price, and stage a sale, let alone run one as it should be.  Not only is the work itself grueling, but you also must factor in sentimentality, time, and possibly difficult family dynamics. As one would expect, most laymen (and this includes attorneys, CPAs, trustees, etc.) have no idea what most items are worth in the secondary market. We have found that laymen attempting to conduct their own sales either vastly over-price or ridiculously underprice the vast majority of their household possessions. We are knowledgeable regarding what will sell and how much to ask. (See Certifications, here.)

We can come into your home or place of business and price your sale merchandise at a fair market value. We market the items via this website, newspaper ads, word of mouth and online ads, and we display everything in a way that will net you the most money possible. Remember, too, that there’s greater perceived value when a professional estate firm conducts an estate sale. Customers who come through a sale conducted by Sterling Estate Sales see carefully-considered staging with traffic patterns in mind, tables filled with high-end merchandise, professional signage and price tags, and helpful staff members. 

Finally, bear in mind that, if your home is for sale, estate sales can bring one thousand-plus people through your home over any given weekend. (Exposure created by our estate sales has helped sell many a property for local realtors over the years.) Why pass up free marketing? 

Q: How exactly does an estate sale work? How does it differ from an auction? 

A: Estate sales (also known as “tag sales” in some parts of the United States and Canada) are orderly liquidations run much as a retail shop would be run. Every item has a price tag. (The liquidator determines the price, as opposed to auction settings, where the bidders determine the price.) Estate sales are vastly different from auctions in that customers need not wait hours for one item or another to “come up on the block.”  Also, with an estate sale, the estate itself is not at the mercy of an often uncomfortable customer base that dwindles as the day goes by. Offers may be placed on appreciably higher-priced items at our sales. Our sales are beautifully staged, professionally organized, and extensively advertised. The public is invited into the home and allowed to shop at leisure. Clerks are available to write customers’ tickets and answer questions. Cashiers are stationed near entrances or exits to “cash out” customers.  

Q: Do I even have enough for you to conduct an estate sale? I don’t really have fine art, great antiques or lots of expensive things.

A: You’d be amazed at just how well even an average estate can and does sell when offered to the public in one of our orderly liquidation sales. We liquidate entire estates, and certainly not all are filled to overflowing with 18th century furniture, period silver, rare automobiles, fine jewelry and the like. Ultimately, it’s the estimated sales gross that determines whether or not we take a sale or refer it to a smaller company. We sell furniture of all types, clothing, general residential contents, portable buildings, cars (see "Do you sell automobiles and motorcycles?" below), stereo equipment, tools, firearms, ammunition, motorcycles, farm equipment, musical instruments . . . a little bit of everything! Call or e-mail us to schedule a complimentary consultation in which we can advise you how to best handle a sale. 

Q: What should I do to get ready for a sale? 

A: First, get all your legal “ducks in a row.”  If there has been a death in the family, make sure that you have legal title and full authority to sell.  Make certain, too, that all disbursements have been made to any and all heirs before you call us for a consultation. If there’s a divorce or bankruptcy liquidation afoot, make sure that you talk to legal counsel before calling us.  (Remember, any liens or other encumbrances are solely your responsibility.)

Second, please step away from the dumpster and the thrift shop box — PLEASE.  (You’d be horrified to learn what some former clients have, in their zeal, thrown or given away before speaking to us!)

Third, show us any and all items you do not want us to sell before we sign a contract, as a) we base our commissions upon what we estimate the gross sales to be and b) items taken after the signing of the contract are subject to full commission.

Fourth, please remember that professional estate sale managers generally won’t work with clients who are still living in the home. It’s simply too taxing for both parties, and requires us to be in your living space while you’re in our working space. If you still reside in the sale venue itself, we typically require that you vacate the premises while we stage and conduct your sale. (Talk to us about the specific amount of time needed to prepare your sale.) 

Q:  How much do you charge to look at an estate? 

A: Our initial consultations are always free of charge.  Should we determine that an estate sale is not your best option, we’ll be glad to provide you with a set of reasonable alternatives during this complimentary consultation. Please remember, though, that we usually book our sales anywhere from one to six months in advance. 

Q:  How is your company paid for its services? 

A: We operate on a flat, all-inclusive commission that’s based upon the total gross sales. (Sometimes estates may want additional advertisements or security above and beyond what we deem necessary, but this is rare.) Remember that, because we operate on a percentage-based commission, we are doubly motivated to get you the most money possible for your household possessions. Commission can range from 25% to 40% of the gross sales depending upon a) the estimated final gross of the sale and b) the amount of labor to be expended. (For instance, we usually charge a higher percentage on hoarder homes')

Q: Do you have any special requirements of the estate itself before taking a sale? 

A: Yes, but only a few. If you are the representative of an estate, we will need to have a photocopy of the necessary legal documents which authorize you to dispose of the contents. We also require that the homeowner’s insurance on the home itself be current and in place throughout the sale process. The estate itself is responsible for disconnecting from gas or water any appliances which are to be sold. Furnaces and air conditioners must be functional before we begin work, and the water, gas and electricity must be turned on and kept on throughout the sale process. (No need for a phone line, though, as we run credit card sales through a cellular phone app.) 

Q:  The executor/executrix lives out of state.  Can we still proceed with a liquidation? 

A: Absolutely! We often work for out-of-state heirs, executors/executrixes, trustees, etc.  All necessary arrangements can be handled via telephone calls, faxes and e-mails. 

Q: How long should I expect my sale to run? 

A: Each sale is unique. However, approximately 98% of our sales are two-day sales, conducted on Fridays and Saturdays. From time to time (perhaps once a year), we may encounter an extremely full sale that merits multiple weekends. 

Q: What do you do with items that don’t sell? 

A: We strive to sell the contents of an estate “wall to wall”, but there are always some things left over in each estate. If items of appreciable value are left unsold, we can broker some of those items for you. Sometimes (in areas where permitted) we help you sell those items through an out-of-state auction house; sometimes we direct you to local buyers; we may use a few local “buy out” services, also where permitted. Often, just after sales finish we receive calls from customers who want to find whether particular items were sold. If they did not sell, we are happy to arrange that sale and meet those customers at the home to disburse the items on Monday after the sale has concluded.

Unsold items can either be left with you or, for an additional fee, we can bring in a company to collect them for donation, recycling, or disposal. (You will receive tax-deductible receipts for any donations made.) At our request this company will leave your home "broom-clean" and ready for paint, rental, or sale.  You may simply request this service, or we can supply you with an estimate for it.

Q:  What do you do to deter theft during the sale? 

A:  We limit access to one entrance/exit.  If there’s an attached garage or breezeway, it’s kept separate from the main house itself and manned by one or two employees. Furthermore, our staff is well-trained in watching for “sticky fingers.” We don’t allow drink cups in our sale venues, and we strongly discourage baby strollers. (They're often used as ploys by professional shoplifters, believe it or not!) Purchased handbags or luggage are carefully checked before they go out the door. Handguns, some knives, precious metals and stones, coins, some vintage toys, dolls, and stamps, all valuable objets d’art, precious gemstones etc. are kept in locked, lighted showcases. We only allow one piece to be shown at any given time, and nothing leaves our showcase(s) until paid for. 

Q:  Do you sell automobiles and motorcycles? 

A:  Absolutely!  We find that cars, trucks, vans and motorcycles all draw large numbers of new and different customers.  We typically charge only a 15% commission on automobiles and motorcycles with clear title. We also sell farm implements of all kinds, including tractors and tractor attachments, as well as combines, working chutes, feeders, and other large farm items. 

Q:  May I be present for the sale itself?

A: We find that many clients may get emotional when they’re on site during their own estate sales. (It can be hard to see things leave your home, and we understand that.) You are welcome to drop by and see how things are progressing, and see the size of the huge crowds drawn by our marketing! This is perfectly acceptable to us, as long as you don’t hinder business while you’re on site. If you do hinder business while we’re trying to make you money, we will politely ask you to leave so that we can do what we do best — MAKE YOU MONEY. Just remember that we’re here to make you the most money possible, and that your estate sale won’t be a social club, nor will it be a coffee klatch around your kitchen table. It will be a place of business. 

Q:  What about sales taxes? 

A:  The charging of state sales tax IS required on all purchases at estate sales in the Las Vegas Valley — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. We fully comply with Nevada state law in the collection and remission of all applicable sales taxes, for which we are responsible. (We strongly caution our clients against working with any purported Estate Sale Company who doesn’t issue or offer to give a cash register receipt for each and every purchase made. We offer EVERY paying customer a receipt, and our cash register keeps a running total of all purchases for every day of every sale. 

Q: Do you clean the home after a sale? 

A: We strive to pick up large debris, fill your trash receptacles, and haul them to the curb. If you wish, we can bring in a company to remove your unsold items (see "What do you do with items that don’t sell?" above.) At our request, they will see that your home is left "broom clean," ready for paint, rental, or sale.  You may simply request this service, or we can supply you with an estimate for it.

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