Estate sales — planning, compassion, and what to expect

By: Alyssa Ochss | Metro | Published September 5, 2023

 A house as seen before, during and after an estate sale in Redford.

A house as seen before, during and after an estate sale in Redford.

Photos provided by Christopher Deneau


METRO DETROIT — A lot goes into estate sales, and in addition to the planning and pricing, compassion and understanding are also important.

Ashley Rodgers, the owner of Green Eyes Estate Sales who runs the business with her husband, Christopher Rodgers, listed a number of steps to get an estate sale ready.

The first thing people can expect is a consultation with the estate sale company to gauge their needs. Then comes organizing and evaluating the items, staging and showcasing, announcing the estate sale, and, finally, hosting the sale.

Ashley Rodgers described the first few hours of an estate sale as a “madhouse.” For organizational purposes, her company, as well as other companies, hand out numbers to the customers first in line and only allow a certain number of people in at a time.

Chris Deneau, the owner of Clearview Estate Sales, said every estate sale they host is completely different. People can be out of town, in town, have multiple family members involved and host of other scenarios.

His company takes 35% of the profits, and he said they usually can get set up in a couple of days in a standard household.

“We have been running into less and less standard households in the last couple of years and more hoarding situations, it seems,” Deneau said.

How long it takes also depends on the estate. They’ve done estate sales that take a couple of days and also ones that take two to three weeks, Deneau said.

It takes a while, Rodgers said, to price the items in the estate. Her company uses professionals to appraise everything.

“Our pricing is based on careful research, years of experience and knowledge of the Detroit metro area market,” Rodgers said in an email. “Pricing is also a practice of knowing what current trends in home decor and decorating are popular.”

Both Rodgers and Deneau said it depends on the family when it comes to what happens to the items that aren’t sold.

“Our cleanout process includes selling items as a lot or bundle for deep discounts, donating leftover items to charity, utilizing refuse disposal services and sometimes even having free days,” Rodgers said in an email.

Deneau said his company works with Grace Centers of Hope to donate items not sold.

“There’s certain things that Grace Centers of Hope won’t take,” Deneau said. “So we really focus hard during the estate sale utilizing Facebook Marketplace, utilizing Craigslist, utilizing specialty groups to try and get rid of items that may not be donatable after the sale.”

Both Rodgers and Deneau said there does need to be empathy and compassion when getting ready for an estate sale.

Rodgers said an estate sale doesn’t necessarily happen because a loved one dies; it can be for any number of reasons. Deneau said he’s signed contracts with a 90-year-old going into assisted living and a 21-year-old who lost her parents.

“You have a lot of people that can deal with the situation, but you have a lot of people that you really need to be kind to and you need to walk them through the process very slowly or else they won’t make it through the process,” Deneau said.

They also both said they have dealt with difficult customers who come to estate sales. Rodgers has security at their sales.

“My company is run by myself and my husband, who is a retired U.S. Navy SEAL,” Rodgers said in the email. She said he “is in charge of security at every sale, and our dedicated staff members all work together to keep everyone safe and shopping happily.”

People looking to host estate sales should be diligent about looking at reviews for a company, and they have to be careful of who they hire.

“But you need to be very diligent about your Google and your Yelp reviews,” Deneau said. “Because you can very, very easily hire a company that can take advantage of you.”

To get an estate sale started, Deneau said, people should take out anything they want to keep and then call an estate sale company.

“You really don’t have to lift another finger other than taking the stuff out that you want,” Deneau said.