How To Sell A Large Collection Of Furniture

For those of you who are selling a large collection such as an estate or for downsizing purposes ...my suggestion is to think about how much time you want to spend being involved in selling the furniture and whether you have the time to commit to the project. After all, time is money!!! I often have pieces that do not sell for a year or more. Take into consideration if what you are selling is a furniture style the general public is looking for or if it is more for a collector market. Unfortunately, the average furniture shopper today is interested in lower costs and portability and may not appreciate the more traditional designs of some older furniture brands.

From my experience, selling pieces individually seems to work better. I might sell a dining room table but offer the set of chairs separately (maybe with a discount to the table buyer). I don’t split units that are what I call upper and lowers (pieces that routinely go together). Also, I usually spend some time minimizing any scratches or marks. This can cut down on the haggling if the piece is seen as being in “very good” or “excellent” condition.

When you are ready to sell your furniture collection, here are a few options to consider:

1. Consignment.

The advantages are not having to meet with prospective buyers or hagglers. Also, oftentimes a consignment store will stage the pieces for marketing purposes which increases buyer interest and prices. Another plus is not having to physically handle the furniture and if a piece doesn’t sell then usually the piece can be donated as a tax deduction. Some stores will even handle making the donation for the consignor. Also, you get out from under storage fees this way. However, selling via consignment is going to cost you as far as commission.

2. Online, Craigslist, etc.

These types of websites mean you have to get involved with advertising and actual selling. I find Craigslist to be for the real bargain hunter so be prepared to negotiate. Also, take care with payment...only accept cash and keep your safety in mind when meeting with strangers! There are also a lot of what I call “looky-loos” wanting rock bottom prices. Be prepared to wait as this method can be time consuming!

3. Ebay.

Ebay offers more opportunities as you have a wider audience, but there is the issue of shipping vs. pickup. Pricing is usually higher, but I find the Ebay dollar amounts can be somewhat unrealistic and give sellers in other venues a false or inflated sense of value as far as what a piece is really worth.

4. Local online auction houses.

You might also consider some of the estate online auction houses in your local area. They come in and photograph everything, list online via their company, auction it off, and then handle pickup. I have seamlessly bought numerous collector pieces this way. Their percentage is also usually slightly lower than consignment and this cost is often passed onto the buyer as a buyer’s premium.

5. Buy and Sell Apps.

Forum member CBDallas mentioned trying “buy and sell” apps like offerUp and 5miles! On Craigslist you may waste time with people who want to haggle before making an offer, but on the “buy and sell” apps, you know what the buyer is willing to pay ahead of time. The apps are also a little more trustworthy than Craigslist as buyers and sellers receive ratings. They’re super easy to use, too!

Hope this helps!

Caroline

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment.

11 Comments:

  • CBDallas: Great post, Caroline!
  • Vale: Very good tips! Do you have to bring the furniture into a consignment store or do they pick it up? What about the auction houses?
  • ntpd4: Good information except the Auction section
    Auction houses will pick up your pieces for a fee and sell your pieces for you. You get the sale cost minus the seller premium and the buyer pays a buyers premium usually about 10 - 15% Example for 15% you sell a piece for $20 the house gets $3 from you and another $3 from the buyer you get $17 dollars. The house usually gets a straight sellers premium from you nothing is passed on to the buyer it just the house making their money
    regardless of sale price. Auction houses will often come and offer you a flat fee for the collection if they feel it is worth it. generally you will get less than the total auction but it gets rid of your stuff quickly. Auction houses also will want your pieces on hand for viewing prior to the auction and so buyers can take it with them when the auction is over. Personally I am not going to bid on items that the house does not have on hand
  • WNCCaroline: I think we are referring to two different types of auctions. My response was to a post where they had an entire house of furniture and I was suggesting an online auction or downsizing company come into the home and auction from there. They do usually offer a 1 or 2 day option to view on site but once the auction starts then the viewing period is closed and no one has access until the auction ends and the buyer makes arrangements to pick up their purchases. This is becoming very popular in my area and allows older individuals to downsize as they move into care facilities or apartments. The cost is shared by the furniture owner and via a buyers premium...which often is less than in house auctions as the furniture does not have to be moved prior to the sale. As a part owner of this type of business I can say it definitely cuts down on overhead and labor costs significantly.
    Your response seems to be geared for "in house auctions" where the items are transferred to an actual auction facility, the auction is held, and the buyer takes the purchase immediately after the auction ends.
  • Vale: Thanks for the info from both of you! WNCaroline, are you referring to more of a "estate sale" type auction where the people actually come to the house, see the furniture, etc. and then make the offers to buy there? Is there any risk to the owners of the house if people come in as if to buy, but are really there to check out what there is and then try to steal it?
  • WNCCaroline: No Vale there is no risk to the homeowner as they are not involved and have usually moved out (downsized to an apartment or care facility) or passed away. Also, the address is not made public except to registered bidders who must provide various forms of contact information. Some companies also have a buyer rating system. This is a popular new way to sell or downsize by having the auction company come into the home and photograph the items, place the photos online, then the auction company hosts a one or two day live viewing for registered bidders that is handled by the auction personnel. Once the viewing is closed the online auction commences. After the auction ends (usually over several days to a week) the purchaser makes payment via the website (or by making pre-arrangements to pay cash) then an appointment is set to pick up the items. Everything is handled by the auction company. Also, the seller/owner usually can elect to have any unsold items disposed of by the auction house as a tax deduction or sell to someone who will buy whatever is left or not sold...ie junk shop or some "in house" auction businesses. From a business standpoint this format cuts down on personnel who have to physically move the furniture to an auction house, the overhead of having an actual auction facility (building), and having to <email> auction events with an auctioneer. My most expensive business equipment is the digital camera for taking the online pictures! The lower overhead means more money in my pocket and in my client’s! Win-win for all!
  • WNCCaroline: Vale...let me also add that buyers get to know the local online auction houses and many are content to accept the photographs and descriptions of the items. Occasionally, someone will email for clarification but over time, a trust relationship develops and many don’t even bother with the on site visit. Some pick up days are almost "party like" as buyers come to pick up items and run into other buyers, auction personnel, and other collectors.
    With this type of auction setup, I have had 2 employees dispose of a 6000 square foot house full of belongings in a week and a half with less than $350 cost to the my company. The lower overhead means the seller and buyer percentages are lower...meaning more money for the seller and a savings for the buyer!
  • CBDallas:

    Check out Everything But The House’s explanation on how they work. I believe it is similar to the way local estate sale auctions work, except they start all auctions at $1: https://www.ebth.com/how-it-works (It just illustrates Caroline’s great explanation.)

  • WNCCaroline: Hi CBDallas! EBTH is a great example of what I was trying to explain. They are one of the "big boys" in this fairly new and growing auction format!
    Thanks,
    Caroline
  • ntpd4: nice to know thanks
  • Vale: Thank you for all of that information! I wish I had known all of this before my mother moved out :(

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